Good news for my Varna trip…

… but it started out scary.

I thought of changing my Amtrak reservation on-line, but when I looked it up, Amtrak’s website said that it couldn’t be found. I was afraid that one of the St. Louis ticket agents had cancelled the whole trip, so I called 1-800-USA-RAIL.

It was about fifty minutes after I initiated the call before I finally got connected to a person at customer service, but I’m glad I stayed on the line. The person I talked to knew immediately what my problem was, retrieved the reservation, put it back in effect, and added trains 171 from Boston to New York, and 291 from New York to Albany-Rensselaer, business class on both new trains.  And there was no additional charge:  he said he had “taken care of it” for me. 😎

And while I had him on the line, he made another change to a trip to Kailua-Kona, HI that I’ll be taking in November, and which involves Amtrak trains in the continental US.  The westbound trip will now start one day earlier, which I wanted to do to give myself some buffer if something bad happens to train 5 that day.  That also gives me a whole day to get from Amtrak’s Emeryville station to SFO airport, so I should be able to do that on the Emery Go-Round and BART instead of taking a taxi.

That cost me an additional $450 or something since I’m now in a higher fare bucket, but the good news is that I got room D instead of room E, and the electrical outlet will be on the “correct” side of the room.  All I still have to do is get a reservation for one night at the hotel across the tracks from the Emeryville station.

So now I’m a happy camper again. 😎  My day-minus-one post should appear this coming Tuesday.


  1. moarscienceplz says

    Did you consider flying to Hawaii from OAK? It’s a very nice airport and it would have saved you a ton of BART travel from Emeryville. I would not be surprised if they have a direct shuttle from Amtrak to OAK.

  2. billseymour says

    moarscienceplz:  thanks for the suggestion.

    My choice was dictated by wanting a nonstop return flight that departs Kona on a Saturday in mid-afternoon.  That gave me United KOA-SFO, so I just stuck with the same airline westbound.

    My itinerary will be changing shortly (it’s out there as of 08:00 US central time) showing day zero as one day earlier and spending the night at the Hyatt House Emeryville.  That’ll give me all day Saturday to get from EMY to SFO; and since I like riding trains in general, BART will be my choice. 😎

    You’ll note that I splurge on these trips, not because I’m particularly wealthy, but because my service on the ISO standards committee for C++ is the only thing that I spend my fun money on.  (I’m fortunate that I had a pretty good day job as a work-a-day coder with the Postal Service, and I can afford to go first class on these trips if I don’t try to afford other stuff that I don’t really want all that much anyway.)

  3. lochaber says

    I think the Richmond Amtrak and BART station are pretty much right next to each other, If you wanted a more direct transfer. There are a bunch of shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, etc. right around the train station in Emeryville if you want to spend some time doing something other than riding trains, though.

  4. billseymour says

    lochaber @4:  I won’t be in Richmond, I’ll be in Emeryville; and I’ll be spending the first night in the Hyatt House just across the tracks.

    It looks like about a ten-minute taxi ride from the hotel to BART’s MacArthur station, and the Yellow Line departs every fifteen minutes and takes about fifty minutes to get to SFO.  That seems like the simplest option.

    I decided not to use the Emery Go-Round to get to the BART station…I won’t have to lug my luggage onto and off of the bus.

  5. lochaber says

    Sorry, I should have clarified, I have no idea how familiar you are with the Bay Area, BART, etc.

    The Richmond BART station and the Richmond Amtrak station are right next to each other, and are (I think?), like two stops earlier than the Emeryville one (If coming from the North/East). If you weren’t planning on overnighting in Emeryville, I thought Richmond might be an easier transfer twixt Amtrak and BART. Another good thing about taking a taxi/uber/lyft from Emeryville to the 40thst/Macarthur BART station, is you should be able to get a train going directly to SFO, since it’s one of the major transfer stations. starting from the Richmond station, you might have ended up having to switch BART trains at MacArthur anyways.

    Emeryville has made a lot of improvements, and is much more pedestrian/cyclist friendly than it was ~10-15 years ago. And they recently (maybe 2-3 years back?) put up a new pedestrian/cyclist bridge from the Bay St shopping area over the tracks.

    Also, if you haven’t used BART recently, they have a bunch of new cars the past couple years or so, look out for the ones labeled “3 door” on the message boards. I think the seats are modular/moveable, and look like they are easier to clean under/around, and the trains also have LCD screens by the doors, with a little map showing the trains route and location, time, etc.

    Enjoy your trip! 🙂

  6. billseymour says

    lochaber:  thanks for the “3 door” tip.

    I was told on an Amtrak-related e-mail list that BART trains are fully accessible, so I won’t have to worry about lugging my luggage aboard…I’ll have just two rather small bags that I can put on a seat on my walker and just wheel them on and off the train.

    I’m not all that familiar with the Bay Area.  I know what it looks like on a map, but I don’t know much about it at street level.  I once had a meeting in San Francisco and rode on a cable car to get some Ghirardelli chocolates 😎 , but that’s about it.  I’ve been through Emeryville several times, but never really got out of the station.

    I had originally planned on taking a taxi from Emeryville to SFO; and all the reservations were made and everything was bought and paid for; so when I decided to start out a day earlier, the easiest thing to do was just to switch to earlier trains westbound with no changes except the dates and spend one night at the hotel across the tracks from the station.

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