I thought I would concentrate today's post on the nuts and bolts of the train trip. The only reason for doing this and not making a "people post" is that I want to share fursuiting pics. *grins*
The trip started last Friday afternoon with an on-time departure of the Southwest Chief from ABQ. We tried to upgrade to 1st class, but there were no compartments available. *shrugs* We were lucky to get a seat near the back of the train which cut down significantly on traffic. We also lucked out in that our car was relatively quiet. While walking to breakfast the next morning we heard in another car a loud cowboy/redneck spouting off in a loud voice why Walmart will fail in China. We imagined that he had probably been going like that for most of the night. Since we were in coach we had to pay for breakfast. No biggie. We got to hear from the staff that they had been cut back over the past few months and will be cut back even more in a month. Soon it will be microwaved meals served by one person.
After spending a day with albear and dexter_fox in LA, we boarded the Coast Starlight and headed north. I asked the conductor if I could fursuit sometime during the trip. She was a bit puzzled but gave me the green light. Whoot! There was one downer on this leg of the trip. Normally 1st class passengers on this train have their own lounge car. Due to maintenance problems, the car was not available for this trip. *cries* We still had the attendant, however, and she was always asking us if we wanted anything. She also put together a couple of wine tastings in the dining car just before dinner was started. Our roomette faced west and so we were rewarded with spectacular views of the ocean from Ventura to San Luis Obispo. I should also mention that I geeked out the entire trip with my GPS unit attached to my laptop. I was constantly watching our speed and progress as well as testing the accuracy of the database that listed restaurants and other places of interest.
We arrived at San Luis Obispo early and so I quickly changed into Sabot and fursuited the station. what fun! I had a lot of requests for pics. I then suited the train after we departed. I made a lot of people smile which is what it's all about. We arrived on-time at Oakland and were met at the platform by djmermaid and jovino who were at FC this year representing their company Bunny Warez. I had wanted a pink fuzzy bunny hat but my head was too big. They whipped up a custom hat for me and delivered it to the station. Now THAT'S service! I got some great "WTF?!?" looks standing on the platform with my new hat. Unfortunately our good fortune of on-time performance was dashed at Sacramento when our new conductor decided to show up for work 2 hours late. But to every cloud there is a silver lining. We were able to enjoy views of Mt Shasta which we would have passed in the early morning darkness.
We ended up getting into Portland about 3 hours late. A million thanks to rockopup and bennetfox for picking us up and spending the evening with us.
The next day we boarded The Empire Builder and headed for Chicago. This train is actually 2 trains that leave simultaneously from Seattle and Portland. They meet up in Spokane and form one long train to Chicago. The only bad part is that the Seattle train gets the diner and we get the lounge. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the boxed meal that was provided to us 1st class passengers. It was tasty and filling! We also got a couple of small bottles of champagne to go along with it. No complaints from us! The next morning we had the diner hooked up for breakfast. The only downside was that we were in the very last car and the diner was 6 cars forward. We got a nice workout every time we went to eat.
I had wanted to fursuit as we went along the southern boundary of Glacier National Park, but it was right during breakfast. I decided to wait a couple of stops where I could have more time. I ended up suiting in Shelby, Montana about 70 miles to the east of the park. Once again I was mobbed for pictures and had a ton of fun. There were kids. There were college kids. There were senior citizens. Everyone loved the bear. *smiles* And yes, I had once again asked permission ahead of time so there would be no problems.
The trip was relatively uneventful for the rest of the way. We hit a bunch of snow near Minneapolis which was beautiful to see. I also picked up a fanboi along the way. He was a computer science major who would fit in at any furcon in that he was totally geeky and had limited social skills. *laughs* I guess he singled me out because I actually started to have a conversation with him. *glomp!* Friend!
After a couple of days in Chicago we concluded our trip with another trip on the Southwest Chief. Many thanks to linnaeus for giving us a ride to the station. The train was delayed about an hour getting out of the station which meant shorter stops along the way to get out and stretch legs. No fursuiting this time. About the only memorable thing was the creepy old guy in the diner who talked about the Bible and how it's impossible for men not to love women. *rolls eyes and smirks* There was also the electrical outlet in our room that didn't work, so I had to run a line from the outlet out in the hall. We could have taken the room across the hall from us, but I accidentally pulled the table out of the wall when I lifted up on it. Ooops. That wasn't supposed to happen.
So overall it was a great trip. It was wonderfully relaxing although it takes a couple of days to get rid of the swaying feeling. All of the Amtrak personnel were confident that they would survive the latest round of cost-cutting. They feel that there will be enough complaints when service gets cut below a critical level that things will get better again. Our staff were all friendly and very nice. The food was always tasty and in ample proportions. Train travel might not be for you if you are hard-pressed to get from Point A to Point B, but if the journey is part of your vacation, it is the perfect way to go.
Bear and engine
Relaxing with the folks in coach
Enjoying the view in the lounge car
Back in the privacy of the roomette
I think I'll have the salmon
Looks like a scene from "Bearback Mountain"