Kona Trip Report day 14

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[days 11-12]
[day 13]

2023-11-15 05:00−6:

As is often the case these days, I woke up well before the sun showed its face.  After the breakfast buffet, which was mediocre, I wrote most of the day 13 report.


I checked out of the hotel and got a taxi to Union Station.  I gave the driver a twenty in the hope that that would make up for the short fare.  He seemed pleased with that and understood my mobility issues.  Canal Street was blocked off, so we stopped at the corner of Canal and Jackson, and the driver was happy to take my bags to the elevator down to the concourse.

I checked one bag on the Texas Eagle to St. Louis, then checked in at the Met. Lounge where I put the final touches on the day 13 report and published it.


We started boarding train 21.  A redcap showed up right away and drove me and another couple to the gate where we had to wait about ten minutes, I guess because the crew weren’t really ready for us yet.

I had room 2 in the sleeper, a “roomette”, a pair of facing seats that convert to upper and lower berths at night.  It’s not like the roomettes of old, but more like the old ”open sections” except with walls and a door instead of curtains.

It was a pretty sorry excuse for a long distance train:  one engine unit, a sleeper, a diner/lounge, a coach-baggage, and an accessible coach.  Some of us train-riding geeks are worried that Amtrak is actually trying to discourage overnight travel so that they can discontinue the long distance trains.


We pulled from Union Station right on time and, as expected, had some slow going on the Canadian National tracks to Joliet where it seemed to me we had a rather long dwell time; but we departed Joliet only six minutes late.


The LSA called for passengers in the sleeper to head to the diner/lounge.  She had taken our orders for dinner earlier; and when we got to the not-a-diner, we found all the food already set out for us (and getting cold).  The food offered on the “flexible dining menu” isn’t worth talking about.

ca. 18:55:

Aside for some pretty rough track between Springfield and Carlinville, the trip from Chicago to St. Louis was largely uneventful.  We were never more than ten minutes late departing any station along the way; and thanks to schedule padding, we arrived in St. Louis early only to stop for a while just short of the station.  The conductor announced on the PA that we had to “disconnect the cars” — I guess we droped off a third coach that I hadn’t noticed and that would be added to train 22 in the morning.  They do that sometimes when they have lots of coach passengers between Chicago and St. Louis.  We made our final stop at 18:59, twelve minutes early.  We had shoved back onto the usual track, but at the far end of the platform, so passengers had quite a hike to the station.

After claiming my check bag, I still had one concern:  the credit card I had lost in Hawaiʻi was the one that I had used to get into the long term parking lot two weeks ago.  The station agent assured me that all I had to do was push the intercom button at the lot exit and somebody would “work with me” to get me out.  I was expecting to give my name and the last four digits of the card number or something like that; but as soon as I said that the card had been lost, they opened the gate and I was on my way.

As usual after returning on Amtrak after not driving for a couple of weeks or more, I drove home on city streets instead of blasting down I-55 and got home safe and sound around 20:30 or thereabouts.

Actually, “sound” might be something of an overstatement because it was a bit of a struggle to lug my luggage up from the basement (where my garage is) to my second floor apartment.  I even had to stop about half way and sit on the steps for a bit to catch my breath.  That was new to me and makes me worry about how my lungs are doing.  I’ll ask the oncologist about that on Wednesday when I finish my last chemotherapy session.  I might have to rethink my travel to Wroclaw, Poland next October or November.  We’ll see …

Follow-up, Thursday the 16th:

I went to the bank to report the lost credit card.  The agent printed out the last few weeks of transactions, and there were no bogus charges, so that’s a relief.  She cancelled that card and ordered me a new one which I should get in the mail some day between now and December 4th, at which time I’ll need to change the card I use for all of my automatic bill payments.  That’ll be a hassle; but it’s only a storage space, Verizon, and three utilities; and I have no one but myself to blame for that.


  1. SailorStar says

    I have always wanted to take a long-distance train trip, but your experiences are making me question it. I’m glad you’re getting the assistance you need, but it sounds like the food is mostly horrible and the accommodations aren’t great, either.

  2. billseymour says

    Amtrak took a nosedive when COVID hit and hasn’t recovered, mostly because they no longer have the staff to provide on-board service, and have no interest in much of anything outside the northeast corridor between Boston and D.C.  In particular, they’re neither ordering new rolling stock nor returning older cars to service, so the trains are typically short and are often sold out.

    You’ll get freshly cooked food at least on the Empire Builder (Chicago to Seattle/Portland), the California Zephyr (Chicago to the Bay Area), the Southwest Chief (Chicago to Los Angeles), and the Sunset Limited (New Orleans to Los Angeles).  I think that’s also the case on the Coast Starlight (Seattle to Los Angeles), but I’m not sure of that.  On all the other overnight trains, you’ll get prepackaged microwaved stuff, better than the “TV dinners” that I remember from when I was growing up, but still not like a restaurant meal.  All the food is bland, but otherwise tasty.  Service is…well…YMMV.

    I still prefer Amtrak long distance trains to flying; but it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me now that I need to use a walker, particularly if the train I’m riding on, or the station I’m going to or from, doesn’t provide checked baggage service, or the station doesn’t provide redcap assistance.  If you don’t have mobility problems, that shouldn’t be an issue.

    Plan on any long distance train being late, sometimes hours late.  If your plan doesn’t allow a late train to destroy the whole trip (e.g., missing a connection from one train to another), then you shouldn’t be disappointed.  This could require spending a night in a hotel along the way.

    BTW, passenger trains in Europe are generally day trains, although there are a few overnight trains returning to service; and there’s typically no assistance with luggage nor even an Amtrak level of food service on board.

  3. SailorStar says

    News I think will interest you: The US is planning to link major cities with high-speed trains. The reporter is sitting in a streamlined single seat with wi-fi and laptop plug-in spot, talking about food service. One of the anchors back at the desk mentioned it going from NYC to DC in 3.5 hours without stopping, which is quicker than someone could drive it. It was a quick 2-minute throwaway story so they didn’t really get into details, but it left me hopeful.

    I would love to take a few long train rides when I have the time. I’ve lived in Germany, Japan, and England and took trains all those places, but I understand the train service in England has gone downhill. Japan in particular has put a lot of thought, time, and effort into their trains and it’s a pleasure to travel that way. Germany’s trains are also very good; I’ve traveled that way on longer trips to France and Switzerland and within Germany. In all three places there was a food cart that was a step up from microwaved food.

  4. billseymour says

    Any talk about high speed trains almost certainly means just the northeast corridor.  If that’s all that gets improved, which lots of frequent Amtrak riders are afraid of, I’ll have no reason to ride any more.

    Also, increasing top speed does little to shorten rides.  You get a much bigger bang for the buck by straightening, or generally improving, slower sections of existing track.

  5. SailorStar says

    Ah, so just the northeast? That’s disappointing.

    Back in the 1980s, one of my high school classmates rode the train from Baltimore to NYC to college; she had a 3-day/week schedule of long days, and weekly trainfare was cheaper than staying in the dorms. She said the ride was about 3 hours each way and she got a lot of studying and paper-writing done on the train. (this was back in the day when people hand-wrote or typed their papers on typewriters, no electricity needed)

    I have no idea if this is still feasible.

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