Chicago to Portland in May

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Joined
Apr 10, 2021
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Kentucky
We've had a couple of Amtrak experiences on both coasts, but nothing extensive. Always had a long train trip on the back burner, but have been doing ocean cruises first. Of course we've been in lockdown like everyone else.

One of my wife's sisters and her family moved to Bend, OR and invited us out there. What better reason to give it a shot, especially since we've had our shots? So we'll be in a roomette for a couple of nights in mid-May. We're looking forward to it as a new adventure. With all the information here, Youtube videos and such there's a lot of information about what to expect. The beds are very similar, other than being upper/lower instead of side by side, to the beds we had when we went on an Antarctic expedition. I'll give our impressions of the trip when it happens.

We'll fly back afterwards, BTW.
 

Bob Dylan

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Welcome to Amtrak Unlimited, DiamondEd!

Enjoy your trip. Looking forward to your report.

I'm sure we will all get back to cruising eventually, too.
I wont be cruising, but a few flights ( to from New York to check out the New Train Hall and take advantage of " Bargain" Acela Fares on the NEC ) and Amtrak Get-a-ways for sure!( Dallas,Alpine,California this Summer and Chicago for the Gathering!)
 
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Cal

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Welcome to AU! Hope you enjoy your trip. Hopefully your not late and will be able to enjoy seeing Glacier National Park, it's beautiful. And make sure to see the Columbia River Gorge on your last morning into Portland, it's very pretty.
 

Willbridge

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We've had a couple of Amtrak experiences on both coasts, but nothing extensive. Always had a long train trip on the back burner, but have been doing ocean cruises first. Of course we've been in lockdown like everyone else.

One of my wife's sisters and her family moved to Bend, OR and invited us out there. What better reason to give it a shot, especially since we've had our shots? So we'll be in a roomette for a couple of nights in mid-May. We're looking forward to it as a new adventure. With all the information here, Youtube videos and such there's a lot of information about what to expect. The beds are very similar, other than being upper/lower instead of side by side, to the beds we had when we went on an Antarctic expedition. I'll give our impressions of the trip when it happens.

We'll fly back afterwards, BTW.
There are several ways of riding Amtrak and Amtrak Thruway from Kentucky to Bend so we'll be interested in your choice.
 

tomfuller

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Welcome DiamondEd! While you are in Bend, make sure to visit the High Desert Museum about 6 miles south of Bend.
FYI: For your next trip to Bend, the easier way via Amtrak is to take the California Zephyr from Chicago to Sacramento then take the Coast Starlight out of SAC at midnight. Take the CS north to Chemult and then the connector bus all the way to Bend.
If you didn't want to rent a car in Portland, there is a daily bus service to/from Bend to PDX airport and PDX Amtrak.
If you are a train buff, the California Railroad Museum is within walking distance of the Sacramento station.
 
Joined
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Kentucky
Welcome DiamondEd! While you are in Bend, make sure to visit the High Desert Museum about 6 miles south of Bend.
FYI: For your next trip to Bend, the easier way via Amtrak is to take the California Zephyr from Chicago to Sacramento then take the Coast Starlight out of SAC at midnight. Take the CS north to Chemult and then the connector bus all the way to Bend.
If you didn't want to rent a car in Portland, there is a daily bus service to/from Bend to PDX airport and PDX Amtrak.
If you are a train buff, the California Railroad Museum is within walking distance of the Sacramento station.
Great information, thanks.

We looked into taking the train all the way to Bend, and decided getting a car in Portland and driving was best. It's a scenic drive and we haven't been there before.

We're visiting in laws and it appears my brother in law will refuse vaccine. A year ago he was pointing to Sweden using herd immunity instead of controls. The King and Prime Minister of Sweden have since apologized to the Swedes for killing thousands of them, but that hasn't fazed him, or the lunatic junior Senator of my state. So anyway we're going to have to have separate vehicles if we go on a trip somewhere for mutual protection.
 

tomfuller

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My wife and I drove through Bend to get to the fairgrounds in Redmond (66 miles each way) to get our vaccines (twice). Sorry to hear of vaccine deniers in Bend. Our governor sent 140 ventilators to New York at the start of the pandemic.
If you drive over 22 from Salem, you will see a lot of fire damage around Detroit. There is still some snow at HooDoo on the Santiam Pass.
 

oregon pioneer

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Like tomfuller, I'm an Oregonian. Sounds like you will have a wonderful trip. I agree with you that getting a car at Portland and driving to Bend is your best option, for all the reasons you listed! I'm vaccinated, but would strongly prefer not to be enclosed in a car with a vaccine skeptic. And the car will allow you to make to most of your scenic drive.

There are two efficient ways over the mountains from PDX to Bend. One is (as Tom suggested) to take Oregon 22 over Santiam Pass. If you have spare time, a visit to Silver Falls State Park to stretch your legs is worth is. It's probably quicker to take I-84 east from downtown Portland, take the cut-off from Wood Village to US 26 at Gresham (just follow signs for Mt. Hood), and then US 26 to Madras & US 97 to Bend. Can't beat the scenery this way, either, and if the weather is gloomy it will get you over on the sunny side faster.

I hope your exploring will include a little John Day River country, including the John Day Fossil Beds NM. I'm looking forward to hearing what you and the relatives end up doing! Not sure if it would help with your Bro-in-law, but here's a resource a friend posted: The COVID Choice - NDs For Vaccines
 
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To ease the state pride of you Oregonians, my in laws just moved from California, so they're not natives. My bro in law is a decent man and has devoted his life to his family. It's just whenever something like this happens he instinctively goes the wrong direction. Too many conversations with Bigfoot. Oh well, we're vaccinated, will get our boosters going forward as necessary, and will do what we have to to enjoy our lives.

Back on topic: what's the current state of dining on the Empire Builder? I know the dining car is not serving full meals. Do you have to eat in your room? And if you do, what does that mean about the speed of getting out of bed in the morning so the attendant can get the beds put away and the table set up again for breakfast?
 

Cal

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Back on topic: what's the current state of dining on the Empire Builder? I know the dining car is not serving full meals. Do you have to eat in your room? And if you do, what does that mean about the speed of getting out of bed in the morning so the attendant can get the beds put away and the table set up again for breakfast?
Microwavable TV dinners in the diner. No community seating. You do not have to eat in your room, but you can choose to.

You can order breakfast anytime between 6 and 11 AM I believe, so getting out of bed at an early time shouldn't be a problem.
 

Bob Dylan

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Microwavable TV dinners in the diner. No community seating. You do not have to eat in your room, but you can choose to.

You can order breakfast anytime between 6 and 11 AM I believe, so getting out of bed at an early time shouldn't be a problem.
630-9am are the Breakfast Hours on most LD Trains.
 

tomfuller

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Oct 24, 2012
Messages
875
Location
Crescent Oregon (17 miles from Chemult)
To ease the state pride of you Oregonians, my in laws just moved from California, so they're not natives. My bro in law is a decent man and has devoted his life to his family. It's just whenever something like this happens he instinctively goes the wrong direction. Too many conversations with Bigfoot. Oh well, we're vaccinated, will get our boosters going forward as necessary, and will do what we have to to enjoy our lives.

Back on topic: what's the current state of dining on the Empire Builder? I know the dining car is not serving full meals. Do you have to eat in your room? And if you do, what does that mean about the speed of getting out of bed in the morning so the attendant can get the beds put away and the table set up again for breakfast?
Bumper sticker see in parts of Oregon for the past 10 years "don't CALIFORNICATE Oregon". If you are ready to get out of your Roomette in the morning, you can walk all the way through the dining car and sit for awhile in the Sightseer Lounge if you are not ready to order breakfast. You can see how full the dining car is while you walk through. In the 2020 census, Bend did go over 100K people and less than half of them were born in Oregon.
 

Willbridge

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Bumper sticker see in parts of Oregon for the past 10 years "don't CALIFORNICATE Oregon". If you are ready to get out of your Roomette in the morning, you can walk all the way through the dining car and sit for awhile in the Sightseer Lounge if you are not ready to order breakfast. You can see how full the dining car is while you walk through. In the 2020 census, Bend did go over 100K people and less than half of them were born in Oregon.
Actually that bumper sticker goes back a lot longer.

There is a myth that near Green River, Wyoming there was a fork in the trail west and a hand-crafted directional sign. To the left it had a picture of a gold nugget. To the right it said "Oregon". The people who wanted to get rich quick went to the left and those who could read went to the right. [The first American college west of the Rockies is in Salem and the first American court house west of the Rockies was in Oregon City.]
 

Bob Dylan

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Actually that bumper sticker goes back a lot longer.

There is a myth that near Green River, Wyoming there was a fork in the trail west and a hand-crafted directional sign. To the left it had a picture of a gold nugget. To the right it said "Oregon". The people who wanted to get rich quick went to the left and those who could read went to the right. [The first American college west of the Rockies is in Salem and the first American court house west of the Rockies was in Oregon City.]
When I lived in Portland in the 80s, there were signs that said: "Welcome to Beautiful Oregon!
Enjoy Your Visit, But Please Don't Move Here!"
 
Joined
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Location
Kentucky
Our trip started by driving from the southwest suburbs of Chicago to Midway Airport where we are storing our car. Then onto the Orange Line train to the Loop getting off at Quincy and walking the 4 or so blocks to Union Station. The drizzle made that less than optimal.

Union Station is grand and impressive. The Metropolitan Lounge which comes with a sleeper ticket is a very nice place to wait, though the food service is suspended due to Covid. Just coffee and tea.

Route 27 to Portland was on time and we got into our roommette quickly. We are in the last car since the train splits in Spokane and the front half goes to Seattle. Pleasant trip westward, nice weather. The airplane food dinner wasn't bad, wife had lobster dish, I had cod.

Sleeping.... well, I didn't sleep well under any circumstance so my tossing was to be expected. Wife's was better, but for both the mattresses were thin and hard and it wasn't too much fun. Worst was getting into and out of sleeping clothes.

We survived, had breakfast omelettes and got out and walked up and down at Minot, a sunny morning.

All in all we're enjoying the experience. We've already made plans to improve bedtime. Portland tomorrow, driving to Bend, flying back to Chicago Midway on Sunday. Planes, trains and automobiles.
 
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