Various questions about Portland (OR), plus some long-haul questions for Train 28 (EB PDX-MSP), as of this week

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Joined
Aug 20, 2015
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8
Location
MSP
Hi everyone,

I'm about to embark on an out & back trip to Portland (from Minneapolis-St. Paul) to celebrate my birthday. For context, I'm an able-bodied/athletic man in his mid-30s, traveling by myself, and I am also post-vaccination. I have a number of questions as I don't want any nasty surprises.

I'm flying Alaska first class MSP-PDX on Wednesday the 7th, spending the night at a nice hotel in Downtown PDX, then taking the Empire Builder 28 (8) back to St. Paul in a roomette. This is my first Amtrak trip of the pandemic and my first time in a roomette since 2010 (most of the time I'm just in coach MSP-CHI and back since that's a day train).

Questions about Portland:
- How are things currently in Downtown PDX? Have protests and occupations and such calmed down? I live right in the city of Minneapolis so I'm certainly no stranger to frequent protests but I'm wondering if there are any long-term occupation/protests to avoid, any impacts to local transit, etc. I'm staying at the Heathman at SW Broadway & Salmon and planning to get around via MAX, although other than coming in from the airport I'm generally planning to stay Downtown as I'm only there one night.
- Is the Metropolitan Lounge at PDX Union Station currently open? My hotel check-out is at noon but the train isn't until 4:45 so I was hoping for a place to kill some time, and if the Metropolitan Lounge is closed I'll have to find something else to do. If it's closed, I'm open to suggestions on something else to do, preferably not far from my hotel because I'll probably keep my luggage there until I need to go to the station.
- How are local COVID restrictions currently? I'm fine masking everywhere when not eating, but is indoor dining available? What about bars? I'm post-vaccination so I'm not scared of indoor places and it seems there's a chance for rain and it will be in the mid-50s so I probably don't want to spend all afternoon outdoors. Thursday itself is my actual birthday and since I know the train is just flex dining, it would be nice to treat myself to a good local lunch indoors if that's even possible.
- Anything else you think I should be aware of is also appreciated.

Questions about long-haul currently:
- Since I'm traveling solo, can I just have the attendant configure my room so as to always have the top bunk in the sleeping configuration so I can put my luggage up there (or even take a nap without disturbing the attendant)?
- How is tipping handled with flex dining? Does the sleeping car attendant handle all that? If so do you tip them extra for those services in addition to the normal room tip?
- How does dinner work on the first night when there is only the cafe car (diner is on the Seattle section)? Do they give you a voucher to go to the cafe yourself or do they bring that stuff to you as well? I'm not at all a picky eater, by the way, so I don't really mind that it's flex dining, oh well.
- If I want something from the cafe for the rest of the trip (such as beer/wine), is that done by room service as well or do I just go to the cafe myself?
- Anything else you think I should be aware of is also appreciated.
 

neroden

Conductor
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
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Ithaca, NY
No current protests in Portland. Yes, the attendant will configure your room as you desire. The "cafe car only" segment traditionally featured a box dinner which was WAY BETTER than "flexible dining" though I don't know what they're doing now
 

Bob Dylan

Conductor
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
22,206
Location
Austin Texas
Nice trip!:cool:

The Metro Lounge is Open, no food but there are drinks. There is a Convience/ Souvenir Shop in Union Station as well as a Good, but Pricey Cafe.

You shouldn't have any problems finding food and drink ( plenty of Brew Pubs)options in Portland, use Google for options.

As was said, the Demonstrations have died down, but you will find MANY,MANY Homeless Camps in downtown Portland, with Panhandling common, but it is Safe.

Since you have time to kill, after you check into the Lounge,leave your luggage and buy a Day Pass and Ride around on the Rails sightseeing in the Portland Area, it's a nice City

If the weather is nice, walking around by the River and through the Pearl District is good option also if you dont want to ride more Rails!

Powells Books is World Famous, you could spend days there browsing and can find a good read for your trip on the Builder!
 

Cal

Conductor
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
1,042
Location
Socal
Questions about long-haul currently:
- Since I'm traveling solo, can I just have the attendant configure my room so as to always have the top bunk in the sleeping configuration so I can put my luggage up there (or even take a nap without disturbing the attendant)?
- How is tipping handled with flex dining? Does the sleeping car attendant handle all that? If so do you tip them extra for those services in addition to the normal room tip?
- How does dinner work on the first night when there is only the cafe car (diner is on the Seattle section)? Do they give you a voucher to go to the cafe yourself or do they bring that stuff to you as well? I'm not at all a picky eater, by the way, so I don't really mind that it's flex dining, oh well.
- If I want something from the cafe for the rest of the trip (such as beer/wine), is that done by room service as well or do I just go to the cafe myself?
- Anything else you think I should be aware of is also appreciated.
Took the EB from PDX to CHI in October, hopefully it's still the same.

I would assume you can have the top bunk always down, don't see any reason why not.

I'll let the others talk about tipping.

You are given a small boxed meal, mine was a Caesar salad I believe. It was better than flex dining, no complaints there!

You can go to the cafe any time you wish on your own. It's the same, except cashless purchases only! The SSL is also open with tables sometimes being blocked off if the crew feel like it.
 

Rasputin

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 17, 2019
Messages
823
Don't forget that in order to use the upper berth (as far as I know) the bed has to be lowered. For those sitting in the lower berth seats this leaves very little headroom. We have done this before when our train (No. 6) was stopped for an extended period during a re-route through Wyoming in 2014 but I can't begin to tell you how many times I cracked my head on the upper berth when leaving my lower berth seat. Be careful.
 
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