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Checked Baggage (Cleveland to Portland and return: Capitol Ltd, Empire Builder, Coast Starlight, CZ, CL)?

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tgstubbs1

Service Attendant
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Mar 3, 2020
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Lots of people on the forum will be curious to find out how the food compares with Applebee's. Usually there's a thread going on with comments (complaints).
 

cnpeters

Train Attendant
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Akron, Ohio
Well, I passed on it as I know exactly what these taste like, but breakfast options were a Jimmy Dean sausage muffin and a Jimmy Dean breakfast bowl. The boxes were there to pick from, so it wasn’t “like” a jimmy dean microwave breakfast, they were exactly that.

I don’t hate those things, but I certainly don’t want too many of them. I’ll have many chances to eat them again in the next eight days, so I was content to grab a coffee and orange juice.
 

tgstubbs1

Service Attendant
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Well, I passed on it as I know exactly what these taste like, but breakfast options were a Jimmy Dean sausage muffin and a Jimmy Dean breakfast bowl. The boxes were there to pick from, so it wasn’t “like” a jimmy dean microwave breakfast, they were exactly that.

I don’t hate those things, but I certainly don’t want too many of them. I’ll have many chances to eat them again in the next eight days, so I was content to grab a coffee and orange juice.
When I traveled Amtrak I was always on the lookout for decent food/snacks. I would hop off at every stop. Sometimes I could get a newspaper.

I recall there was a natural foods grocery not far from the Davis Amtrak, for example. Many stops are too brief so you have to check the schedule and maybe the Conductor, too.
 

bratkinson

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Back in the late '70s and early '80s when I regularly flew a couple of times per month I learned the hard way...if I can't carry it onboard, it goes UPS or Fedex the day before!

I ultimately found an extra large garment bag with wheels, no less, that I could put a weeks worth of business clothing in...2 suits, 5 shirts, 3-4 ties, underwear, bathroom ditty bag, and when needed, overflow from what was in my briefcase. That was all I traveled with.

In the last 15 years or so of riding Amtrak thousands of miles per year, I've narrowed it down to a rolling airline-size carry on bag designed for carrying a laptop and a large 'gym bag' with everything else. I routinely 'make it' for 10-12 days of travel during warmer months (no heavyweight clothing). The key to that is having an overnight in a hotel with a self-serve laundromat about 1/2 way through the trip.
 

Qapla

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I found using some sort of rolling bag/case that fits Amtrak size restrictions for carry on and a duffle I can strap to the rolling case handle works for me.
 

Bob Dylan

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Austin Texas
When I traveled Amtrak I was always on the lookout for decent food/snacks. I would hop off at every stop. Sometimes I could get a newspaper.

I recall there was a natural foods grocery not far from the Davis Amtrak, for example. Many stops are too brief so you have to check the schedule and maybe the Conductor, too.
Theres a really good Bakery across the street from the Davis Station( Beautiful Ex-SP Depot Design), if it's still open???
 

Willbridge

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Denver
Theres a really good Bakery across the street from the Davis Station( Beautiful Ex-SP Depot Design), if it's still open???
It was in 2018. Most of their business while I was spilling frosted crumbs on my overcoat was take-out so maybe they've hung on. It takes some convincing with the web site but transfers Train 5 > 14 or 11 > 6 are more enjoyable in Davis than in Sacramento. Lots to do within walking distance.
 

Bob Dylan

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It was in 2018. Most of their business while I was spilling frosted crumbs on my overcoat was take-out so maybe they've hung on. It takes some convincing with the web site but transfers Train 5 > 14 or 11 > 6 are more enjoyable in Davis than in Sacramento. Lots to do within walking distance.
Yep, Davis is one of my favorite small Cities!
 

cnpeters

Train Attendant
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Oct 15, 2020
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Location
Akron, Ohio
So, we leave our day in Portland to return via the Coast Starlight to Sacramento, then the California Zephyr to Chicago, then the Lake Shore Limited to Cleveland.

Some observations from a first time Amtrak-traveler.

1) the rooms are small. I mean, I KNEW they were small going in, and I underpacked accordingly but I still overpacked. You need clean underwear for every day. Everything else, and I mean EVERYTHING, can be reused and worn 2-3-4 times.

2) I was not prepared for how little room there was between the bottom bunk and the sink. 3 inches tops. If you’re a middle of the night bathroomer, buy some flushable wipes and use those to clean your hands at 2 AM because the sink is a non starter.

3) somehow while the bathroom is tight for bathrooming, it’s actually reasonably roomy for showering. I described the shower to my wife as delightfully, surprisingly adequate. And I meant it as a compliment. For what it is, the water pressure is good, the water is hot and the shower is nice. Better than hotel showers I’ve had.

4) the food. It’s microwaved. And over microwaved. Here’s my ranking through 3 meals.
3) Alfredo chicken. Blah. Tastes like they used milk instead of Alfredo sauce. Chicken is bland, overcooked and awful. One out of ten.
2) pasta and meatballs - generic but not awful. Needs a little more flavor. Four out of ten.
1) beef tips with polenta. Easily the best. Salty. Really salty. But when cut with the polenta, it works well. Solid 6 out of ten.

so the food is fine. It’s not good, but for a few days it’s fine.

All that being said... this is the only way to travel. I mean, if you’re not in a hurry - this is wonderful. The scenery is breathtaking, the people you meet are interesting and varied, and the hours you spend are the most relaxing you’ll find.

I said to my wife “This is the only vacation I’ve ever taken where I enjoyed it this much, and the days went slowly.” It’s SO amazing. Usually when you’re vacationing, the hours seem short and you find it’s over before you know it. But on the train, the pace is slow enough that you get to really relax and find peace. It’s a wonderful time and the days are long and relaxing.

Living in a world where everything is happening so fast and frantically, this is the change of pace I’ve needed for years.

A quick final note - without fail - every Amtrak employee I met either loves their job or fakes it better than anyone I’ve ever met. To a customer this difference doesn’t matter. These people are the nicest, most informative, pleasant people I’ve met in 20 years of traveling. They are just amazing. From the ticket lady in Cleveland to Jay the cabin attendant on the Empire Builder to the wonderful people working on the 7 and 27 to the guy who ran the lounge in Portland - these people are exceptional.
 

tgstubbs1

Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Messages
226
Great report. I hope you had a decent meal in Portland.
Do you have enough layover in Sacramento get something there?
I wonder if you will encounter snow between Eugene and Klamath Falls.
 

cnpeters

Train Attendant
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Oct 15, 2020
Messages
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Location
Akron, Ohio
Great report. I hope you had a decent meal in Portland.
Do you have enough layover in Sacramento get something there?
I wonder if you will encounter snow between Eugene and Klamath Falls.
We’ve got about five hours in Sacramento, of course with the caveat that delays can eat up into that. It’s 6 to 11 am roughly, so I’m not sure what options will be there.

That, along with the shutdowns make things difficult. The shutdown in Oregon, compared to what I’m used to in Ohio, is extreme. We had s as long stop in Illinois, and there were outdoor restaurants and food courts well spaced out. Nothing like that in Oregon. Everything is closed here. Oregon has take out and delivery, which is tough when you’re here for one day without a car. We walked a ton, and we ordered Uber Eats a lot. I assume California will be similar based on what I’m reading, but with no place to stay except the train station, it could be slim pickings
 

tgstubbs1

Service Attendant
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Mar 3, 2020
Messages
226
We’ve got about five hours in Sacramento, of course with the caveat that delays can eat up into that. It’s 6 to 11 am roughly, so I’m not sure what options will be there.

That, along with the shutdowns make things difficult. The shutdown in Oregon, compared to what I’m used to in Ohio, is extreme. We had s as long stop in Illinois, and there were outdoor restaurants and food courts well spaced out. Nothing like that in Oregon. Everything is closed here. Oregon has take out and delivery, which is tough when you’re here for one day without a car. We walked a ton, and we ordered Uber Eats a lot. I assume California will be similar based on what I’m reading, but with no place to stay except the train station, it could be slim pickings
When I took the Coast Starlight I changed my transfer to Davis. I don't remember much about the Sacramento stop.
I thought since Davis is a little smaller plus a shorter layover.
I was using a pass, though.
 

niemi24s

Conductor
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Feb 11, 2015
Messages
2,390
If I ever get the chance to transfer between the CS and the CZ again I'd like to do it in Martinez instead of Sacramento. If timed right, spending the night in MTZ between trains would allow a visit to the nearby site of the Port Chicago disaster of 1944. Prolly seems strange to most, but a career in munitions can often lead to strange interests.

Besides that, the town and station look to be worth a visit.
 

tgstubbs1

Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Messages
226
If I ever get the chance to transfer between the CS and the CZ again I'd like to do it in Martinez instead of Sacramento. If timed right, spending the night in MTZ between trains would allow a visit to the nearby site of the Port Chicago disaster of 1944. Prolly seems strange to most, but a career in munitions can often lead to strange interests.

Besides that, the town and station look to be worth a visit.
I've heard it's pretty nice, and I think it's a crew change base.

I was looking at my 2015 CZ schedule and see Denver is a dinnertime stop.
Many of the other bigger stops are on the night shift.
 

Alice

OBS Chief
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Mar 6, 2007
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California
The Martinez station is close enough to downtown to be easily walkable. It includes numerous pretty good restaurants including a micro brewery, a shoreline park (containing SP #1258 switch engine in deplorable condition), and a small museum. The motels are not nearby, they are all up by the highway.

Sacramento restaurants are open for outside dining and take-out. The city is cooperating with some creative solutions like issuing permits to restaurants to occupy public space such as parking spots and alleys.
 

Willbridge

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Mar 30, 2019
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Denver
Great report. I hope you had a decent meal in Portland.
Do you have enough layover in Sacramento get something there?
I wonder if you will encounter snow between Eugene and Klamath Falls.
It's hard to see much snow southbound at this time of year other than where there are streetlights.

Here's a picture northbound.

2011 West Coast Thanksgiving 100.jpg

Crescent Lake, Oregon below.

Winter2004-05 138 (2).jpg
 
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cnpeters

Train Attendant
Joined
Oct 15, 2020
Messages
29
Location
Akron, Ohio
First - I’m happy to that Denver is still a dinner time stop and that the Denver station offers lots of good options.

Second - getting in at Portland and going to Sacramento at this time of year is mostly dark and black. There’s not much to see.

Third - Sacramento. Wow. That’s a long, dull stop on Thanksgiving morning. Not much to see or do. Easy walk to Starbucks, but that’s about it. early morning, most everything closed, plus a holiday. Yawn.

Booking from Cleveland was a problem because of the 3 trains a week schedule?

Some foods survive freezing better than others, but quality frozen food can be pretty tasty.
Sorry - from another thread I wanted to un-derail (I’ll derail and sacrifice my own thread)

booking from Cleveland is AWFUL. First, the trains leave between 1:30 and 5:00 AM. It works okay and makes connections going west just fine... but going east? Nightmare.
Say you had to go to Delray Beach Florida for work (I do).

now, Six trains a week go to Boston or Washington DC, where you can pick up the Silver something or other to go south. But they only run three days a week Eastbound - Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday....

BUT

Only the silver something that goes Mon-Thurs actually leaves in time to make that connection. The silver other something that goes Fri-Sun misses the connection.

which means, if I want to go to Florida, I can only go on a Tuesday.
 

caravanman

Conductor
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Mar 22, 2004
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Nottingham, England.
Thanks for all the positive staff feedback and the sensible comments on the food. Glad you had a relaxing time.
I don't know if there was an baggage holding facility open at Sacramento, I always enjoy a walk to the "Old Town" riverside area in Sacramento, but not when carrying luggage of course...
Don't worry too much about "hijacking" threads, it happens on AU all the time, like a wide ranging real world conversation!
 

cnpeters

Train Attendant
Joined
Oct 15, 2020
Messages
29
Location
Akron, Ohio
Thanks for all the positive staff feedback and the sensible comments on the food. Glad you had a relaxing time.
I don't know if there was an baggage holding facility open at Sacramento, I always enjoy a walk to the "Old Town" riverside area in Sacramento, but not when carrying luggage of course...
Don't worry too much about "hijacking" threads, it happens on AU all the time, like a wide ranging real world conversation!
Oh, I'll ramble off topic certainly, I just felt bad for the poor fellow who just wanted to know how much better a Room was than a Roomette!

Yeah, the food. It's not great, and you're certainly not going to want to pay a high premium for it, but it's fine, you find the one or two things you like best, and you make due. I liked the Braised Beef (which was salty, but I found a little hot water in there cut the salt and made something nice to dip the roll in), and I liked the Shrimp/Lobster pasta. I hated the Chicken Fettuccini (bland) and the Chicken Marsala (off-tasting) - in general the chicken in chicken dishes was rubbery out of the microwave. I didn't care for the pasta with meatballs, but I'm a snobby Italian on such things. If I asked nicely they'd give me a second or third salad, and that worked too. But as far as liking some things and not others, I mean, that's kinda normal.

There is free baggage holding for bedroom passengers in Sacramento, but you have to ask for it and it's behind the counter. There's no nice metropolitan Lounge like in some other cities with larger terminals.

Walking around in some larger US cities is very different right now. They're almost all closed down. You can't stop and grab a bite to eat - no restaurants allow indoor seating - and although there is much in the media about destinations like New York having made accommodations like outdoor bubbles and tents for dining - the reality is that very few places have them. Your options end up being getting take out and walking around eating, or try and get something delivered to a train station, which is its own special level of difficult in many places.

There's also an underreported homeless/mental illness problem in many cities. Many cities have systems and programs to direct homeless to shelters and indoor sites for warmth and food - they operate with varied levels of success in the best of times, but in COVID times, shelters go from having 200 beds to 36.... and indoor sites with lunch counters and soup lines and bench table seating just can't operate that way safely. So when it's cold outside (like now, it's 28F/-1C here in Ohio, it was something like 38/4 in Sacramento, 42/5 in Chicago, and 49/9 in Portland) there's an awkward stasis outdoors in many cities where people flock to warmer places like under awnings, in stairwells and near buildings on sidewalks. But there's not much of anyone else, because people are working/staying at home. It ends up being an awkward and uncomfortable situation for all. It's a huge problem in San Francisco and Portland right now, but also to some extent Sacramento, as it's the capital of California.

But even ignoring those two things, things are weird. We were in Chicago on a Saturday afternoon from like Noon to 6, and it was a ghost town. You might see another person once every two blocks. The world is very different right now.
 

caravanman

Conductor
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Mar 22, 2004
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Location
Nottingham, England.
Don't worry, us folk watching America from afar, are well aware of the "unreported mental illness" in the US, but lets not get into politics... ;) :D

Indeed, the world is very different, it seems unbelievable how amazing our world was just a year ago, when we took everything for granted without realising what we had... Fingers crossed for an efficacious vaccine double quick!
 
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