Varna Trip Report, day minus one

Tomorrow I’ll be on my way to Varna, Bulgaria for a meeting of the ISO standards committee for the C++ programming language.  This will be my first trip to Eastern Europe, and I’m looking forward to it.


I’ve decided to start out on the Texas Eagle, even though that will give me an extremely long layover in Chicago, because I don’t think I can trust Lincoln Service train 318 to make the connection to the Lake Shore Limited.  Also, riding on the Eagle, I can check a bag all the way to New York; but the Lincoln Service trains don’t carry checked baggage.

I’ll have an accessible bedroom on the Lake Shore, likely my first ride in one of the newer Viewliner II cars.  Several years ago I had a Viewliner I accessible bedroom* which has a separate room for the sink, toilet and shower; but from the diagrams that I’ve found on the Web, it looks like the Viewliner IIs have all the plumbing out in the room.  We’ll see…

I’m going via New York eastbound, and spending the night there, because I can’t count on the Boston section of the Lake Shore arriving in time to catch my flight out of Logan.

I don’t like flying very much, not because I’m afraid of it — it’s just as safe as riding on a train, and very much safer than blasting down a highway; but I couldn’t find good train connections between Western and Eastern Europe; so I’ll be flying all the way east of North America.  (There’s an overnight train between Sofia and Varna which I would have liked to take, but even getting to Sofia by train was a problem.)

I like to fly Icelandair across the Pond for a couple of reasons:  I actually like getting off the plane and stretching my legs in Keflavík; and I’m fortunate to be able to afford Icelandair’s Saga class if I don’t try to afford other stuff that I don’t really want that much anyway.  Trans-Atlantic business class on other airlines would probably be out of my price range.  I like to fly out of Boston because that’s the shortest flight between the U.S. and Keflavík.

The trip home will be basically the reverse of the eastbound itinerary.  I had originally booked an accessible bedroom on the Boston section of the Lake Shore; but I got a robocall from Amtrak saying that there would be a schedule change.  It turns out that there’ll be trackwork going on that day, which is not unusual in the summer, so I’d be on a bus from Boston to the Albany-Rensselaer station and board my sleeper there.  I decided instead to get business class tickets on a Northeast Regional train 171 to New York, and then on the Ethan Allen Express train 291 to Rensselaer.  (I had trouble making that change initially, but it finally worked out.)  I’m hoping that, once I get to New York, I’ll be able to check a bag on the New York section of the Lake Shore all the way to St. Louis.

The only drawback is that I’ll miss a few baseball games.  (I’m not the sort of fan who knows all the players’ WARs and where they went to high school, but I enjoy watching the games.)

[Timetables for the Texas Eagle, Lake Shore Limited, and trains 86, 171, and 291]

*I had booked a roomette from Boston to Chicago; but the Boston sleeper didn’t run on that day.  Passengers with sleeper tickets got special seating in the business class car and a complimentary meal in the dinette; and then in Albany-Rensselaer where the two sections of the train are combined, the plan was to move us to one of the New York sleepers.  When we got to Rensselaer, it turned out that they were one roomette short; and since I was a single guy traveling alone, and I was young and able in those days, I was, quite reasonably, the odd man out.  They put me in coach and refunded the sleeper fare.

I wasn’t happy about that, but there was no point in screaming at the ticket agents in Rensselaer…it wasn’t their doing, and indeed they probably found out about it shortly before I did.  I guess word about my behavior got passed along because the crew out of Rensselaer were unusually gracious to me. 😎

One of the accessible bedrooms was vacated in either Elyria or Sandusky, so during the stop in Toledo, one of the crew moved me from coach to that room; and I rode there for the last few hours of the trip at no additional charge.  I also got a free breakfast in the diner.


  1. Jazzlet says

    Being the person that makes the lives of staff easier or more pleasant always pays off in my experience. Even just always saying “thank you” if you use the same route regularly gets noticed, at university I made the first lecture of the morning several times only because the bus drivers saw me running for the stop, and stopped there (only for a minute or so) until I could board, which I know they didn’t do for other students.

    Anyway I hope all of the travel goes smoothly and you have a productive conference.

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