I’m starting to think about my November trip to Kailua-Kona on the leeward side of the Big Island. I can’t take Amtrak to Hawaii, of course; but I can ride the train to the west coast and fly from there.
There are five options that I can think of, and I’m strongly gravitating toward my current fantasy.
[another edit on 2023-02-21]
Thanks to commenter, sjdorst, and several folks on the AllAboardRailDiscussion@groups.io list, I’ve found out what the Emery Go-Round is and how it connects the Amtrak station to BART; so I now plan to use that westbound; and if the Zephyr is late enough that I’d miss the last Emery Go-Round bus of the day, I’d still have the taxi as Plan B so it wouldn’t mess up the whole trip.
Eastbound, it doesn’t really work because of the time of day and reduced service on Sundays, so I’m still stuck with a taxi fare of (probably) $120 to $150.
I’ve also decided to spend the night eastbound at the Hyatt House across the tracks from EMY. It could be close to midnight, or maybe even after, by the time that I can even claim my checked bag and get a taxi; but my body clock will still be on UTC-10, so when I get to the hotel, I’ll probably still have enough presence of mind to get undressed and crawl into bed, and I’ll have more time for a leisurly breakfast in the morning.
I’ll still let it stew for a few weeks just in case I think of anything else I should consider.
I hope this is of interest to folks who might want to plan a trip involving Amtrak and I’m not just boring people with my personal problems. If there are folks who do find it interesting, all my current travel plans, both actual and tentative, can be found here.
Honestly? They’re all in the news for various issues. I think it’d be hard to tell in advance who might be having a meltdown at any future point in time, and the airports themselves…are the airports. So, relax and enjoy your upcoming train trip and try to enjoy the flight! You might be pleasantly surprised!
I can’t comment on ANY airline – it’s been a long time since I flew anywhere!
But looking at your various brainstorms, I DO have some SF Bay Area knowledge you might be interested in!
Looking at ALL your plans, it seems you’re considering only two airlines for the West Coast Hawaii leg – Alaska To/From San Diego or United To/From San Francisco. And since you asked for people if they would warn you AWAY from United, I’m assuming you prefer Alaska. To this point I say: Did you explore options for Alaska To/From San Jose, CA (SJC)?
Connecting between SFO (airport) and EMY (Zephyr):
BART – our local regional transit system – operates directly from SFO to Mac Arthur station in Oakland, then take the FREE Emery-Go-Round bus to either the train station – or the hotel directly across the tracks from EMY – with a pedestrian overpass crossing the tracks VERY close which includes elevators at both ends – specifically designed for people with luggage!
On the way back, you might want to consider a hotel near EMY – because your internal clock will be 2 hours AHEAD of local time! Take BART on arrival at SFO to an EMY hotel. It will still feel early when you wake up, check out, and cross the tracks to EMY, but not AS early as waking up at a hotel near SFO, checking out, spending a lot of time AND money on a taxi to EMY.
Check the schedules carefully! I notice that your Bay Area experience will be entirely on weekends – and BART has shorter operating hours on weekends – the BART option might not be available to you!
As for the SJC/Alaska option, SJC has a shuttle to the Caltrain/Amtrak Santa Clara/University station. From there, you can take an Amtrak Capitol Corridor service directly to MANY stations where you can transfer to the Zephyr (Emeryville – which can be your overnight option as well – and all the OTHER Zephyr stops from Richmond to Sacramento). If you have to wait AT an Amtrak station, I’d choose Martinez as the most pleasant for a wait of 1-3 hours.
I just checked the Capital Corridor WEEKEND schedule – and realize that it probably won’t work for your return trip! – On Sundays, the FIRST Santa Clara –> Emeryville train doesn’t arrive in Emeryville until 10 minutes AFTER the Zephyr departs! And on Saturdays, the LAST Santa Clara –> Emeryville train leaves long before the KOA->SJC Alaska flight arrives!
For the OUTBOUND trip, timing MIGHT work for SJC as follows:
Arrive EMY 11/4. Stay overnight at the aforementioned hotel across the tracks from the station.
On 11/5, take Capital Corridor Train 723 at 7:44 AM arriving Santa Clara/University at 8:45 AM – then shuttle to SJC for the 10:25 AM Alaska SJC->KOA flight. I have NO experience with the bus shuttle to SJC, nor the typical waiting times for Alaska check in and TSA related delays AT SJC – which is why I say “MIGHT” above!
Here are some links:
Capital Corridor Schedule: https://www.capitolcorridor.org/trainschedule/Train_Schedules.pdf
BART Trip Planner: https://www.bart.gov/planner
Emery-Go-Round Service Maps/Schedules: https://emerygoround.com/standard-service/
Hotels near EMY Amtrak – I’m going to NAME them – with the caveat that all three are properties that seem to frequently change their brand affiliations! They might change at any time, but they’re likely to remain as hotels!
Hyatt House Emeryville/San Francisco Bay Area – 5800 Shellmound St, Emeryville – This is the “Across the Tracks” hotel.
Four Points by Sheraton San Francisco Bay Bridge – 1603 Powell St, Emeryville – a bit farther away, but still easily walkable!
Hyatt Place Emeryville/San Francisco Bay Area – 5700 Bay St, Emeryville – a bit farther away than the Four Points, but still easily walkable.
There are other Emeryville hotels that aren’t that much further than the 3 above, but they’re West of the station AND West of I-80 – and the walk isn’t nearly as pleasant as the shorter walk to the three I’ve named!
sjdorst: thanks for all the info.
I was looking for direct flights to Kona so that I wouldn’t have to change planes in Honolulu. I’ve had good luck with Alaska Airlines in the past, but their flight departs Kona too early these days. The departure time is why I picked the United flight eastbound; and when I decided to consider taking the California Zephyr in both directions to the coast (I haven’t ridden that train in ages), I picked United for what I suspect is a better fare round-trip.
I knew about the Hyatt House near the train station, my only concern being how reliable the elevators to/from the pedestrian overpass are. That will definitely be one of my options, most likely westbound. Eastbound, the plane is scheduled to land when my body clock will say that it’s 21:35 UTC−10:00, so I’ll be ready for bed since I’ve become an early-to-bed-early-to-rise guy in my dotage. 😎
I’ll probably let it stew for a month or two before making any final decisions. It’s still pretty early.
I can’t guess the reliability of the elevators – it’s been a LONG time since I’ve used them. I’d GUESS it’s fairly good – only because one end LANDS on the platform at EMY that is used by the long haul trains – Zephyr and Coast Starlight! Amtrak thus has a vested interest in making sure they’re working.
If you’re, indeed, an Early to Bed/Rise person, then, perhaps, the stay near SFO plus the cost of the taxi is worth it to you on your Eastbound leg.
Drat, having said I can’t guess, I proceed to do so! Perhaps that sentence should have started: “I have no recent experience with the reliability of the elevators ….”
As you can see from my edit of the OP, I’ve pretty well decided on the Zephyr to Emeryville and United from SFO; but I’ll let it stew a little while longer. There’s no need to make any reservations this early.
Regarding your “current fantasy”, I don’t see anything fantastical about it! It’s a good plan and fits your constraints.
Accepting your constraints, the one thing I think I might do differently is to drive to Galesburg instead of going through Chicago. On the first day, you’d be able to leave a bit later. And on the Eastbound Zephyr leg, despite the pleasures of the train, you’re going to be weary of travelling. Getting off the train earlier and proceeding driving directly home would strike me as a good thing – avoiding another single night in a hotel.
Admittedly, I’m assuming you’ve used the Lincoln service between St. Louis and Chicago often enough that NOT using it on this trip wouldn’t be a negative for you.
For my 2005 trip to Europe, I did something similar. I didn’t want to fly all the way from SFO – AND I had plenty of time. My home is in Richmond, CA (East SF Bay), so I took the Zephyr to Chicago, flew RT to/from Europe, then returned via the Empire Builder to Seattle, Cascades to Portland (stopping to visit friends in Portland), then the Coast Starlight back home.
Why not take the Portland leg of the Empire Builder? I also had friends in Seattle I wanted to visit!
The only minor hitch with these plans was that, while I was able to board the Zephyr in Richmond by taking a local bus stop 100ft from my front door directly to the station, on the return, I wasn’t able to reverse that because the Starlight doesn’t stop in Richmond! So I took it to Emeryville. Was prepared to then take Emery-Go-Round to MacArthur BART, BART to Richmond, then the local bus home – or transferring to a Capital Corridor train (which DOES stop in Richmond) in Sacramento, but my sister (who lives in Berkeley) insisted on picking me up in Emeryville and driving me home!
sjdorst @7: I’ve used Galesburg as my eastern terminus twice; and returning home the last time, precisely because of the weariness you mentioned, I almost fell asleep at the wheel and had to pull of at the next exit and sit for a while to get a grip on myself. At my age, I fear that I’d be a danger to myself and others.
Yes, I’ve ridden Amtrak between St. Louis and Chicago numerous times in the last thirty years or so, and it’s no big deal, so the Galesburg option would indeed be a good one if I could trust myself.
Great American Satan says
i like your content, even if i don’t have much to say about it. By the way, something that will improve your post visibility on FtB is if, when you are composing it on the dashboard, to the right and below the post button, you pick a tag for it. the train / travel posts can be “Miscellaneous and Meta.” they remind me of reading “around the world in 80 days” when i was a kid.