Kona Trip Report day 13

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[day 10]
[days 11-12]

2023-11-14 05:00−6:

I woke up for Omaha and had the usual breakfast at 06:30.

We were right on time until Burlington, IA where we had to wait for a while.  I gathered that the station track wouldn’t be available, so we had to wait for a westbound freight to get out of the way and a switch to get lined for an adjacent track.  IIRC, the train had to make some fairly precise spots to allow passengers to get to and from the station.  I didn’t record when we finally departed Burlington because I was in the diner for an early lunch, but we were out of the next stop at Galesburg, IL four minutes early.  (The eastbound Zephyr is discharge-only from Galesburg to Chicago and so doesn’t have to wait for advertised departure times.)

There are some pictures of my room on the train below the fold if anybody is interested.


We arrived in Chicago 25 minutes early.  One couple and I had to wait a while for a redcap to show up, but we were eventually taken to the taxi stand.

I had made a reservation at the Hilton Garden Inn that’s just across the river and a couple of blocks further from Union Station.  I had expected to be able to walk to it, but I’ve become less mobile since then and so decided to take a taxi.

The driver didn’t know the address of the hotel and had to look it up on his cell phone.  We wound up going to a different Hilton Garden Inn that was a couple of miles away, which I knew was wrong almost as soon as we left the Union Station area; but the driver insisted.  It turns out that I should have asked for the “Hilton Garden Inn Chicago Central Loop”.  Oh, well.  I’m going to have to remember to write down hotel addresses for taxi drivers in the future.  This was the second time in a single trip that a taxi driver didn’t know how to get to a hotel from its name.  (The first was from SFO to the Hyatt House Emeryville.)

We finally got to the right place.  I had planned on giving the driver a twenty dollar bill to make up for the short fare; and so that’s what he got.  He seemed satisfied with that.

After checking in, I wrote the last three blog posts; and that was it for the day.

I finally got it together to take some pictures of my room on the train.  They’re mostly too dark, probably because of light coming in from the window.  I should have closed the window curtains.  (I’m still learning about this picture taking business.)

Here’s the Superliner bedroom from the door.
picture of the room
The sink/shower/toilet module is just inside the door on the right in rooms E and C.  The sofa module on the left converts to upper and lower berths at night which leaves maybe six inches at most to squeeze your legs between the lower berth and the sink.  There’s a small table that pulls out from under the window that I use to set up my computer.  Not visible to the right of the window is another chair that’s firmly attached to the wall.

Rooms D and B are basically reflections of that arrangement; and part of the wall between E and D, and between C and B, can be opened to make what Amtrak calls “bedroom suites”.  Room A is similar to E and C except that the sink/shower/toilet module is turned around with the door to the shower/toilet near the door to the room itself; and the whole thing is more to the center of the room leaving no space between it and the side chair.  I’ve heard that some folks who are claustrophobic won’t ride in room A because of the perception of less floor space, but it’s not floor space that can be used for anything and it doesn’t bother me.

Around the corner from the sink is the door to the shower and toilet.
the toilet/shower module
The best plan is to close the toilet cover and sit on it when taking a shower. 😎

My computer setup:
my computer setup
The round thing stuck in the window is my GPS receiver which plugs into a USB port on my laptop.  To the left is a scanner that I bought from Radio Shack ages ago, and which I have programmed to scan railroad frequencies so that I can hear conductors, engineers and dispatchers talking to each other.  Plugged into the earphone jack (which disables the speaker so that I don’t disturb other passengers) is a box that generates a bluetooth signal that feeds my hearing aids.

Some cables on the floor under the table:
cables on the floor
The black power strip has a spike eliminator to guard against the sometimes spikey current on the trains.  The white box is the plug for the power to my scanner.  The smaller boxy black plug next to it is the power cord for the “Oticon TV Adaptor”, the thing that feeds my hearing aids.

Not visible is another plain power strip with a six-foot cord for connecting to the AC outlet which is on the other side of the room.  The roll of duct tape is for taping that power strip’s cord to the carpet so that nobody trips over it.  As I said above, rooms E and D, and rooms C and B, are basically reflections, but the sofa/berth modules are rotations, so that the electrical outlet is on the “wrong” side of the room in E and C, but near the window in D and B.  That’s why I prefer D or B to E or C; but I wound up with E on this trip.  There’s also an outlet in the sink module which, because of the way room A is arranged, is near the center of the room; and your power cord doesn’t need to stretch all across the room and can be routed out of the way where nobody will step on it.

Here’s a screen shot of my GPS display:
Maptitude GPS display
The red arrow near the left of the screen shows my position and direction.

I’m using software called Maptitude which runs on Windows.  Back when I had a Mac, I used something called MacMap which also worked but had just a red spot with a circle around it to show the current position.  You can get MacMap maps for pretty much the whole world where there’s population; and I used it on an overnight train from Paris to Madrid where we finalized C++11, the first big revision of the standard after the original C++98.  I don’t know yet whether Maptitude offers maps of Europe.  I hope it does because, about a year from now, I might be riding some trains between England and Wroclaw, Poland.

I once used Delorme’s Street Atlas on Windows which I liked much more than what’s available now.  It had a somewhat bigger green arrow showing position and direction, left breadcrumbs behind to show where you’ve been, and had a feature that let you display just roads, city names, and the arrow and breakcrumbs on a black background so that the screen was much darker at night.  Unfortunately, Delorme went out of business, and the software quit working after Windows 7.


  1. SailorStar says

    I miss Windows 7. It just…worked.

    You’ve been spending time in hotels, maybe you can answer this for me: I’ve been invited to a conference being held at a hotel. I was browsing around the hotel; I haven’t been to one since the pandemic, and I’m just astounded at all the extra fees–for example, the hotel I’m looking at charges $15.99 as a “check-in fee”. There’s also a $25/day “resort fee”, and if you want to use the wi-fi or wired internet in your room, it’s an additional $25/day. The room has no mini-fridge or microwave, and the breakfast bar is $20/day per person. All this on top of the “hospitality fee”. Wondering if they’re all like this lately?

  2. billseymour says

    SailorStar:  does the conference have a group rate at the hotel?  If so, that might include all the “fees”; and you won’t be doing the conference organizers any favors by staying someplace else.  (I posted something about how such conferences work here.)

    Whatever hotel you’re looking at, since you know all the extra fees, you can just add them up to get the real cost.

    As for WiFi access, I have a Verizon hotspot that I use for travel; and since I’m paying for it anyway, it’s actually my only connection to the Internet. 😎  I also have a cell phone that can be used as a WiFi hotspot; and I’ve used it that way a few times when I overflowed the allowable data on my regular hotspot.  Would the cell phone work for you?

  3. billseymour says

    Oh, yes, PS:  tl:dr for my post that I linked to:  conferences typically reserve a block of rooms at a special group rate for attendees; and the conference is responsible for some large fraction of that.  For example, for the C++ committee meeting that I’ll be hosting in June, I reserved a block of 100 rooms Sunday through Friday and 50 rooms for Saturday.  That’s 650 room-nights, and I had to guarantee 80% of that.  If fewer than 520 room-nights get sold to attendees, I’ll need to make up the difference out of my own pocket.

  4. lochaber says

    SailorStar@1>Not the OP (obviously), but have done a bit of work travel that included staying at hotels a few times over the past couple years.

    I’m lucky in that if it’s work-related, I can get the hotel cost expensed, and as long as it isn’t ridiculous, we don’t really get anything questioned, plus we get a sorta per-diem food reimbursement. So we typically look at hotels that offer free wi-fi, some sort of breakfast thingy, so we can use more of our per-diem for lunch/dinner/snacks. Granted, what we end up getting may be more expensive than a place that piecemeals everything, but we aren’t rewarded/encouraged for finding the best bargain, and ultimately, we aren’t paying for it, so…

    I’ve seen things like resort fees and similar, that might be a government (state, county, city, etc.) imposed thing. Hasn’t been a problem for me, since it was just considered part of the cost of getting a room, much like tax, etc. But “check-in fees”, charges for wireless and breakfast bars sound like bullshit (what the hell kind of breakfast costs ~$20 anyways?

    If there is one hotel there, there is probably another one or more, so I’d look at nearby ones and see what complimentary ammenities they offer under the basic room rates. Might be worth it to get a hotel nearby, and walk a mile or two, or even take an Uber/Lyft or whatever.

    The cynic in me is suspecting the conference hosting-hotel is trying to milk the conference attendees for every drop, hoping they are in a situation where it’s all covered by work/non-personal-funds, or that they value the convenience of being in the same building more than the silly upcharges.

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