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Planning a trip, part of it's a damn long train ride.

SkeithSkeith Registered User regular
edited May 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
Okay, so I'm playing with the idea of heading out to San Francisco at the end of August for a few days, and then heading to Seattle for PAX, and flying back home from there. Thing of it is, the cost of flying out from Oakland and taking a train from the same area are within $10 of each other. Train takes about 22 hours, a plane maybe a few hours. I've never been further north than Arcata before, but it was beautiful, and if the scenery is like that the whole way up that'd be awesome. Has anyone taken a train in that direction or for that duration before that can provide me with some insight with what I'd be in for?

Alternatively, who's driving from San Fran to PAX? I can't drive a stick but I'd be fine for a six hour stretch and covering a fair amount of the gas. Nothing's set in stone yet however.

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Skeith on

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    MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Amtrak is bad. No where near Grayhound bad, but still, you know? Not so hot.

    In my several trips from MN to IL, there was; being kicked out of my seat (which I had paid for) so a couple could sit together, a 6 hour delay because there were fire hoses across the tracks, many unexplained hour-long delays.

    Was it cool to see the land zipping by? Yes, but only if you don't have a schedule to keep.

    MichaelLC on
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    EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Why not try and hook up with the West Coast Train Trip or whatever it's called? Check in the PAX forum.

    Esh on
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    admanbadmanb unionize your workplace Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    MichaelLC wrote: »
    Amtrak is bad. No where near Grayhound bad, but still, you know? Not so hot.

    In my several trips from MN to IL, there was; being kicked out of my seat (which I had paid for) so a couple could sit together, a 6 hour delay because there were fire hoses across the tracks, many unexplained hour-long delays.

    Was it cool to see the land zipping by? Yes, but only if you don't have a schedule to keep.

    Huh. I've taken maybe a half-dozen Amtrak trips from WA to MN or back and never had any major issues.

    admanb on
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    EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    MichaelLC wrote: »
    Amtrak is bad. No where near Grayhound bad, but still, you know? Not so hot.

    In my several trips from MN to IL, there was; being kicked out of my seat (which I had paid for) so a couple could sit together, a 6 hour delay because there were fire hoses across the tracks, many unexplained hour-long delays.

    Was it cool to see the land zipping by? Yes, but only if you don't have a schedule to keep.

    I've taken the Amtrak from Portland to Seattle dozens of times and never had an issue.

    Why was it such an problem to move so a couple could sit together?

    Esh on
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    Buddy LeeBuddy Lee Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I took an Amtrak trip over spring break from MN to WA, OR, CA, CO, IL, and back to MN. It was absolutely fantastic and I would highly recommend it.

    If you do decide to take the train, I recommend packing your own food. The stuff on the train is pretty spendy and pretty low in quality.

    Buddy Lee on
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    naporeonnaporeon Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Yet another vote for Amtrak. I've had both seats and "roomettes", and all of my experiences have been great.

    I've taken several dozen trips, and have only experienced a couple delays. Certainly nothing on par with rampant flight cancellations.

    naporeon on
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    admanbadmanb unionize your workplace Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Yeah. Amtrak is great. The food is meh and overpriced, but what do you expect? And you are completely allowed to bring your own food on board... and liquor. Seriously. You can bring your own liquor.

    admanb on
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    dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I take Amtrak several times a year. It's awesome. Most trains have 120v AC outlets you can plug your shit into in the lounge car and even if you don't get a sleeper room, there's a ton of space to lay back and sleep in the seat, it's not like an airplane.

    You're also free to roam up and down the train and look around. The observation/lounge cars are the best. Bring a laptop and relax. Each car has a pair of restrooms and water fountains with little cups, so bring a jug with you and just fill it and you'll be perfectly comfortable.

    The ONLY problem I'd say you might have with Amtrak depending on the route, is delays. My experience tells me to not expect to be where I'm going at an exact time and make sure anyone waiting for you calls 1800USARAILS or whatever and checks the arrival time often.

    edit: I catch the train in Martinez and go to Chico, so I take the train you'd be looking at.

    Take the Coast Starlight, make sure it's 100% a train ride and not the bus that drives from Oakland to Sacramento or whatever first. The nonstop leaves Martinez at 1040pm. It's all very casual like and unlike taking a plane where people are usually bitter and grumpy as fuck, you can run into some really really cool people on the train.


    edit: The Oakland Amtrak station is at Jack London Square, kind of a cool place if you want to go out and hang out a bit before you hop on. Can have a decent meal and a beer or something then walk a couple blocks and catch the train. It's also only about 1/2 a mile from the closest BART station so you can get to it pretty easily without having to drive.

    dispatch.o on
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    BelruelBelruel NARUTO FUCKS Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    admanb wrote: »
    Yeah. Amtrak is great. The food is meh and overpriced, but what do you expect? And you are completely allowed to bring your own food on board... and liquor. Seriously. You can bring your own liquor.

    no you can't. or at least we weren't allowed to drink our liquor on paxtrain 2008.

    the train can be fun, but the air conditioning can go out, the food is bland and expensive, and the seats uncomfortable for sleeping/napping. you'd only be on it for 22 hours though, not 40 like I was, so it may be better that way too.

    the delays when I went were HORRIBLE too. added something like 7 extra hours on at least. personally I'd take the flight and spend the extra day in wherever you are heading/leaving.

    Belruel on
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    dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Belruel wrote: »
    admanb wrote: »
    Yeah. Amtrak is great. The food is meh and overpriced, but what do you expect? And you are completely allowed to bring your own food on board... and liquor. Seriously. You can bring your own liquor.

    no you can't. or at least we weren't allowed to drink our liquor on paxtrain 2008.

    the train can be fun, but the air conditioning can go out, the food is bland and expensive, and the seats uncomfortable for sleeping/napping. you'd only be on it for 22 hours though, not 40 like I was, so it may be better that way too.

    the delays when I went were HORRIBLE too. added something like 7 extra hours on at least. personally I'd take the flight and spend the extra day in wherever you are heading/leaving.

    The coast starlight doesn't have many stops or anything, I wouldn't go that far with delays. The seats are comfortable as all hell if you learn to work with em. There's a recliner position and a kick bar for a footrest. Half the time on the coast starlight you can find a pair of unoccupied seats and just lay down on them like a couch and sleep and no one minds. Just don't be a dick if someone wakes you up because they got assigned that seat when they got on and they need to sit now.

    Everyone is very polite about it.

    dispatch.o on
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    BelruelBelruel NARUTO FUCKS Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    It was a huge delay, the trip was supposed to take around 32 hours I think, and took 40. The chairs were all right for the first 20 hours or so, then I got rather frustrated with them. They may have a recliner position, but it wasn't back all that far, and there are usually people behind you trying to do things and they don't appreciate a chair in their face.

    Take the train by all means, it is an experience and if the trip had been less long I probably would not have minded so much, I am just listing the problems I had with the coast starlight, they aren't major, but I am just saying I would recommend the plane.

    Belruel on
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    MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Esh wrote: »
    MichaelLC wrote: »
    Amtrak is bad. No where near Grayhound bad, but still, you know? Not so hot.

    In my several trips from MN to IL, there was; being kicked out of my seat (which I had paid for) so a couple could sit together, a 6 hour delay because there were fire hoses across the tracks, many unexplained hour-long delays.

    Was it cool to see the land zipping by? Yes, but only if you don't have a schedule to keep.

    I've taken the Amtrak from Portland to Seattle dozens of times and never had an issue.

    Why was it such an problem to move so a couple could sit together?

    Because there were no other seats and I ended up having to sit in the observation lounge the rest of the trip. Did it kill me? No, but when someone else comes on the train after me, I don't think they should get priority (unless they're pregnant/handicapped/etc. ).

    Just sharing my experiences, sounds like the start of the Empire Builder (Seattle?) or the other west coast runs might be better.

    MichaelLC on
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    prfntbtrprfntbtr Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I am surprised to see so many people with favorable experiences on Amtrak, where the expereience I had was two days of surreal near-hell. A one day trip up the western coast should actually be much better, but I took a train from Austin, TX to Los Angeles, CA and had a pretty rough time. First off, train was late by about six or seven hours because the police were investigating a rape which apparently takes a little while and the train was stuck at one of the stops just before picking me up so they could do interviews and forensics and all that. So waiting at the station those extra hours was not that great. Got on the train, it was pretty crowded, not many seats available. This drunken guy decided that his assigned seat was not enough to accomodate him, so he laid down on the floor behind my seat since I was the last in the car, and he stretched out down there and across the aisle, snoring, muttering drunkenly, and periodically waking up and trying to hit on a woman sitting nearby. Lets see, what else... Oh yes, neo-nazi woman. Yeah, she had a swastika tatted on her shaved head, and two screaming brats that woke me up about every twenty minutes crying at all hours of the night, and when they were not waking me up, she was waking me up with her constant yelling at them to shut up. I am pretty sure I remember a fight nearly breaking out between her and a black patron after her making some remarks to him. Aside from the other crazies riding the train, the staff were all basically pretty apathetic if not somewhat rude, the floors were always filthy, and I was afraid to eat anything because the bathrooms were disgusting. It was quite an odd experience and not one I would be jumping to recommend to anybody particularly. It might have been more fun if I were travelling with some friends or something, but I just thought I should throw out my experience in contrast with all the positive ones.

    prfntbtr on
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    Seattle ThreadSeattle Thread Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Whoa there champ, how about some line breaks

    Also the issue with delays is inevitable. Amtrak doesn't have their own set of rail, so they have to lease a few shipping lanes. Naturally, freight takes priority on these things, so it's just something you have to live with.

    Seattle Thread on
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    ducknerdducknerd Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Amtrak delays are pretty inconsistent; I've gone on a 33-hour trip that was 100% smooth sailing and a 7-hour one that turned into 11 hours. The bathrooms can be kind of unpleasant, but eh. You can bring your own food aboard, and I highly recommend doing so.

    ducknerd on
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    BelruelBelruel NARUTO FUCKS Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Yeah if you go, bring snacks. beef jerky was a godsend, and I had some jolly ranchers and gummybears that made me happy too.

    Belruel on
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    matt has a problemmatt has a problem Points to 'off' Points to 'on'Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    If you take Amtrak and get a roomette or an actual room, your meals on the train are included. I went from South Carolina to NYC and back, it was about 14 hours each way, we got breakfast and lunch on the way there, and dinner and breakfast on the way back. The only drawback is that the roomettes are more expensive than a plane ticket, but if you take into account the fact that it's both transportation + one night hotel stay, it's actually cheaper than were you to drive and stay in a hotel over night.

    matt has a problem on
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    EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    prfntbtr wrote: »
    I am surprised to see so many people with favorable experiences on Amtrak, where the expereience I had was two days of surreal near-hell. A one day trip up the western coast should actually be much better, but I took a train from Austin, TX to Los Angeles, CA and had a pretty rough time. First off, train was late by about six or seven hours because the police were investigating a rape which apparently takes a little while and the train was stuck at one of the stops just before picking me up so they could do interviews and forensics and all that. So waiting at the station those extra hours was not that great. Got on the train, it was pretty crowded, not many seats available. This drunken guy decided that his assigned seat was not enough to accomodate him, so he laid down on the floor behind my seat since I was the last in the car, and he stretched out down there and across the aisle, snoring, muttering drunkenly, and periodically waking up and trying to hit on a woman sitting nearby. Lets see, what else... Oh yes, neo-nazi woman. Yeah, she had a swastika tatted on her shaved head, and two screaming brats that woke me up about every twenty minutes crying at all hours of the night, and when they were not waking me up, she was waking me up with her constant yelling at them to shut up. I am pretty sure I remember a fight nearly breaking out between her and a black patron after her making some remarks to him. Aside from the other crazies riding the train, the staff were all basically pretty apathetic if not somewhat rude, the floors were always filthy, and I was afraid to eat anything because the bathrooms were disgusting. It was quite an odd experience and not one I would be jumping to recommend to anybody particularly. It might have been more fun if I were travelling with some friends or something, but I just thought I should throw out my experience in contrast with all the positive ones.

    And this was Amtrak's fault how? You just had a run of bad luck.

    Esh on
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    proXimityproXimity Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I came to love riding the train, going between Albany (OR) and Seattle. I always found it such a relaxing, laid back ride. I've never had any problems beyond a few small delays.

    I do, however, have a friend who was making basically the same trip (from Salem), but had the 5 or so hour trip turn into a 24+ hour fiasco when parts of tracks were flooded or something like that.

    proXimity on
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    tehmarkentehmarken BrooklynRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Weather can absolutely ruin a nice train ride; trip from New Jersey to Rochester,NY for my gf turned into a shitty experience because the tracks were snowed over and not cleared, so they had a 4 hour wait sitting about 50 miles from the station and they couldn't let people off the train.

    Now that I live in Japan, fuck yeah trains. As long as you get a nice train and seat, you can treat it like a cruise. Take pictures, sketch the scenery, take naps, read a book, do some writing, play some video games.

    But randomness can bite you in the ass, because a long train ride next to a sick kid coughing everywhere is a lot worse than a short flight next to the same kid.

    tehmarken on
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    MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Esh wrote: »
    prfntbtr wrote: »
    I am surprised to see so many people with favorable experiences on Amtrak, where the expereience I had was two days of surreal near-hell.

    And this was Amtrak's fault how? You just had a run of bad luck.

    Because no airline would tolerate that.

    Airlines = Help & Adivce; with it's highly structured order and fake politeness, a seething current of hate towards the rest of humanity lies just below the glossy veneer of order.

    Amtrak = Social Entropy; having very little moderation or authority system in place, you must fend for yourself. While there are beautiful sights (national parks/SabreMau edits), you may get a few bumps on the way.

    Greyhound = Artists Corner; where no sane man dare tread, your innocence will be taken from you by a hobo with a pretty mouth or a well constructed critique.

    MichaelLC on
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    prfntbtrprfntbtr Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Esh wrote: »

    And this was Amtrak's fault how? You just had a run of bad luck.

    Would it be reasonable to expect an Amtrak exmployee to prevent a rape from taking place on their train? No, probably not. Reasonable then, to expect them to expedite the way police would handle the matter, investigate it, etc, in order to minmize delays and keep the train running on schedule? No, not so much.

    But how about keeping filthy, intoxicated vagrant-types from harassing other passengers? Yes, that would be nice. How about upkeep of the facilities such that you do not have to dread the use of the bathroom? General upkeep of the train itself such as not having the floor of the entire cabin covered in crumbs? That would be nice as well. On my trip back for about a day straight, there was a lady who let her two young daughters run around the cabin, climb over every empty and seat, yell, and cause general havoc. There were not thirty seconds that went by that I did was not subjected to their whining, yelling, falling over, crying, etc. Now you can't expect silence out of an infant or anything so absurd, but to basically allow your children to run amok with no regard for their safety or the sanity of the other passengers is quite rude and you would think that an Amtrak employee would make mention of it over the course of many hours. But none was made.

    Obviously not every train is going to get delayed hours and hours, and not for such terrible reasons. Not every train will have openly racist passengers picking fights. I just wanted to share my strange train experience as another possibility to all the nice times everybody else seems to have had.

    prfntbtr on
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    Buddy LeeBuddy Lee Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    prfntbtr wrote: »
    Esh wrote: »

    And this was Amtrak's fault how? You just had a run of bad luck.

    ...

    But how about keeping filthy, intoxicated vagrant-types from harassing other passengers? Yes, that would be nice. How about upkeep of the facilities such that you do not have to dread the use of the bathroom? General upkeep of the train itself such as not having the floor of the entire cabin covered in crumbs? That would be nice as well. On my trip back for about a day straight, there was a lady who let her two young daughters run around the cabin, climb over every empty and seat, yell, and cause general havoc. There were not thirty seconds that went by that I did was not subjected to their whining, yelling, falling over, crying, etc. Now you can't expect silence out of an infant or anything so absurd, but to basically allow your children to run amok with no regard for their safety or the sanity of the other passengers is quite rude and you would think that an Amtrak employee would make mention of it over the course of many hours. But none was made.

    Obviously not every train is going to get delayed hours and hours, and not for such terrible reasons. Not every train will have openly racist passengers picking fights. I just wanted to share my strange train experience as another possibility to all the nice times everybody else seems to have had.

    In every train that I rode last March, the cabin was very clean. In most trains, the crew brought garbages around the cars and politely asked if anyone had trash.

    On one train ride, someone got cut off from buying alcohol from the snack car; the crew notified one another about it and kept an eye on him to make sure that he didn't do anything too crazy.

    From what I saw, the way that trains are organized with seating and with cleaning depended on how the train conductors wanted to do business. Most were very organized with seating; people departing in the same city generally sat together and two people traveling together were allowed to sit together.

    I never saw any really crazy antics and most of it was all very organized.

    Buddy Lee on
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