The 2017 West Coast Train Trip
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I have many fond memories of this once annual trip. None of them involve organizing it though. It was never really something I actually wanted to do. It was something that i felt I had to do. I wanted PAXTrain to keep happening. I needed it to happen. All of the joy and the fun of the train was always guaranteed to make it worth all the anxiety and aggravation of being in charge of it all.
Financial circumstances have prevented me from going to PAX for a few years now. If by some miracle I do get to go to PAX this year, I won't be able to take the train with you all.
What it is
The Successor to the West Coast Super Trip (the nerdy caravan that started it all) The West Coast Train Trip, or "PAXTrain" for short, is a coordinated effort for PAX-goers to ride the same train at the same time going up the western coast of the United States - both as an alternative to driving or flying, and to enjoy an intimate "mini-convention".
Why the train?
How to get on the PAXTrain
Stuff You Need
You will be riding Train #14 - Coast Starlight departing Wednesday, August 30, 2017
from Los Angeles, California and arriving at the Seattle King Street Station(SEA) on August 31st at 8:12 pm. If you are in Chico, CA or any stop further north you’ll be boarding on August 35th, 2017. You'll be returning on Train #11 - Coast Starlight departing Tuesday, September 5th at 9:35 am. Everyone from Eugene and all points north should be sure to select the Coast Starlight and not the Cascades when buying your tickets.
The following is a courtesy list of standard coach prices for a round trip, but they won’t stay like that. You should buy now because the prices go up as we near our departure date.
DEPARTS AUG 30th
STATIONS BELOW DEPART AUG 31st
- Los Angeles, CA (LAX) - $242 Departs 10:10 am, Arrives 9:00 pm Sep. 6th
- Van Nuys, CA (VNC) - $242 Departs 10:40 am, Arrives 8:22pm Sep. 6th
- Simi Valley, CA (SIM) - $238 Departs 11:11 am, Arrives 7:48 pm Sep. 6th No ticket office (has a credit card kiosk), No checked baggage
- Oxnard, CA (OXN) - $238 Departs 11:44 am, Arrives 7:05 pm Sep. 6th
- Santa Barbara, CA (SBA) - $238 Departs 12:40 pm, TRANSFER - (SLO) 5:55 pm Sep. 6th (4 hr, 3 min) 6237 Thruway Bus Departs 7:10 pm, Arrives 9:30 pm Sep. 6th
- Santa Barbara, CA (SBA+) - $347 Departs Same Time. For just an additional $109 you don’t have to transfer to a bus on the way back and you save 3 ½ hours of travel time. Such a Bargain!!!
- San Luis Obispo, CA (SLO) - $234 Departs 3:35 pm, Returns 3:07 pm Sep. 6th
- Paso Robles, CA (PRB) - $234 Departs 4:37 pm, Returns 1:38 pm Sep. 6th No ticket office, No checked baggage
- Salinas, CA (SNS) - $342 Departs 6:28 pm, Returns 11:48 am Sep. 6th Ouch! Sorry Salinas They really screw you on the return trip.
- San Jose, CA (SJC) - $220 Departs 8:23 pm, Returns 9:55 am Sep. 6th
- Oakland - Jack London Square, CA (OKJ) - $218 Departs 9:39 pm, Returns 8:35 am Sep. 6th
- Emeryville, CA (EMY) - $218 Departs 10:04 pm, Returns 8:10 am Sep. 6th
- Martinez, CA (MTZ) - $212 Departs 10:46 pm, Returns 7:34 am Sep. 6th
- Davis, CA (DAV) - $204 Departs 11:25 pm, Returns 6:50 am Sep. 6th
- Sacramento, CA (SAC) - $200 Departs 11:59 pm, Returns 6:15 am Sep. 6th
- Chico, CA (CIC) - $184 Departs 1:47 am, Returns 3:50 am Sep. 6th No ticket office, No checked baggage
- Redding, CA (RDD) - $168 Departs 3:06 am, Returns 2:21 am Sep. 6th No ticket office, No checked baggage
- Dunsmuir, CA (DUN) - $156 Departs 4:56 am, Returns 12:35 am Sep. 6th No ticket office, No checked baggage
- Klamath Falls, OR (KFS) - $134 Departs 8:17 am, Returns 9:50 pm Sep. 5th
- Chemult, OR (CMO) - $114 Departs 9:32 am, Returns 8:08 pm Sep. 5th No ticket office, No checked baggage
- Eugene, OR (EUG) - $114 Departs 12:36 pm, Returns 5:03 pm Sep. 5th
- Albany, OR (ALY) - $104 Departs 1:22 pm, Returns 4:10 pm Sep. 5th
- Salem, OR (SLM) - $92 Departs 1:55 pm, Returns 3:37 pm Sep. 5th
- Portland, OR (PDX) - $70 Departs 4:02 pm, Returns 1:50 pm Sep. 5th
- Vancouver, WA (VAN) - $70 Departs 4:21 pm, Returns 12:58 pm Sep. 5th
- Kelso, WA (KEL) - $58 Departs 4:54 pm, Returns 12:19 pm Sep. 5th No ticket office (has a credit card kiosk), No checked baggage
- Centralia, WA (CTL) - $48 Departs 5:49 pm, Returns 11:35 am Sep. 5th No checked baggage for trip up, you can check bags for return trip.
- Olympia-Lacey, WA (OLW) - $36 Departs 6:04 pm, Returns 11:11 am Sep. 5th No ticket office (has a credit card kiosk), No checked baggage
- Tacoma, WA (TAC) - $31 Departs 6:53 pm, Returns 10:21 am Sep. 5th
You'll need to be prepared to survive on PAXTrain. Following is a list of stuff you probably should bring if you want to have a livable experience on the rails.
- You are allowed to carry on two bags, and check three (if you board at a station that allows checked baggage). (Note: from what I understand, laptop bags and backpacks don’t count as carry-ons.) We suggest checking a suitcase for your PAX supplies and packing a separate carry- on bag / backpack. This pack should contain personal effects and clothing, as well as everything else you think you'll need on the train.
- Earplugs and an eye mask. It is considered PAXTrain courtesy to be quiet in all coach areas, where people may be sleeping - but still, be prepared. If you're upstairs people will be walking through at all hours.
- A toothbrush and toothpaste, mouthwash, a comb, and if you need them, shaving razors and cream. No showers are provided for coach passengers, so if you're on the train for two days bring wipes or a sponge or something to wash the stank off in the bathroom sink the second day. Ignoring basic hygiene highlights a disregard for your fellow gamers, who are great people who don't need to know what you smell like after two days without cleaning yourself in a cramped environment.
- Snacks. There is a snack cart and a dining car, but it's not cheap. You can save some money if you bring some food and water with you.
- Your meds. Nobody needs to see you off them.
We also recommend the following items:
- A handheld system - a 3DS is the preferred item for wireless gaming but no one is going to judge you for bringing something less mainstream, like the PSP Vita. On second thought, I can’t really guarantee that. : /
- A book for pleasure reading. We advise everyone to take a break from train festivities to "regroup", and read a book or listen to music.
- Headphones, preferably a pair of ear buds rather than studio headphones, but to each his own. It is considered rude to subject others to the noise of your personal entertainment device
- Cash. Dining with fellow PAXtrain goers is a good way to relax and get to know some people. Expect about one breakfast (from the snack cart), two lunches and two dinners with each trip (either from the snack cart or the dining car), each meal running about 10-20 dollars. The food in the private dining car isn't bad. Apart from that, bring spare cash for snacks or bring your own in your travel backpack.
People's willingness to bring their expensive toys to share is part of what makes PAXtrain such an awesome experience. Please understand that if you are joining up any later than San Jose, it may not be "worth it" for the train trip. We need supplies on the front as early as possible. If you are not sure what to bring here are some things we need.
- Power strips and extension cords. Power management becomes a problem on the train. If you can, grab something from home before you go, or go buy a cheapie power strip for 15-20 bucks. This seems small and unimportant, but it's the foundation of all of our operations!
- 2 15 Amp Twist-lock Adapters (1 for arcade, one for obs car) There are some outlets on the train that are very different and would be more convenient for us to use if we had the proper adapters. (Not every train has these outlets) Power management has become much better now that they put in outlets in most of the cars, though I can’t really guarantee that we’ll get cars with enough useful outlets.
- Card games. What’s your poison? Magic, Fluxx, Curses, WoWTCG, Pokemon, Cards Against Humanity etc. Doesn’t matter. Shit, bring the Sailor Moon TCG, I don't care. Bring it. If you have a silly game that's easy to learn, bring it. “We didn't Play test This” was a big train hit in the past.
- Fans. If you have room to spare, fans are an invaluable asset. There may be times when the train’s AC just isn’t cutting it, be it because it broke down, or the result of the high density of sweaty nerd bodies and medium to high powered laptops generating so much warmth. We will probably need at least two fans. An electric fan can reduce the temperature of a room by up to 10 degrees; the arcade cars will likely need them.
- Television sets (optional). Small, lightweight affairs. Don't bring anything you can't afford to replace if it breaks, but don't bring some ancient monolith because you were planning on giving it to Goodwill anyways. If you're BYOC and have a big monitor that can double as a TV, we'd appreciate you offering its use for the good of the Party. The arcade car has a (small) television if we need it. Extra TVs and monitors are optional, not a necessity.
- A Rock Band Setup. What would the train be without rockband? I’m guessing mostly the same. Just without rock band. If you are boarding early and can manage to bring all or part of a rock band setup it would be greatly appreciated. It may be easier to have multiple people coordinate bringing all the necessary equipment
- A WiiU with Super Smash bros a gamecube usb adaptor, 4 gamecube controllers and whatever other WiiU controllers you can manage. Again, coordination is a good idea. Other games are welcome, but people tend to just play Smash.
- You win 10,000 internets if you bring snacks to share with everyone during the trip. Whatever it is, we don't care, as long as it isn't hilariously messy or unsafe. Please do not bring home-cooked goods - we have no way of knowing what's in your killer brownies, duuuuuude. (Cookie Brigade excluded of course. People selling cookies for charity are surely trustworthy)
- Tape! We like to try and keep our power cables away from where other passengers can trip on them; which tends to mean taping them to the ceiling. (This is of course assuming we don’t get an observation car with outlets at every table.)
This is all the essentials - if you want to burden yourself with bringing more, that's fine, but it's also window dressing. If you're thinking about bringing more shit and saying "I'll hook it up in my hotel later after PAX closes", you're so wrong - you should either be sleeping or heading to a bar or party, not going back to the hotel to play some video games. You just did that all day.
We have some rules on PAXTrain. They're simple. Don't sweat it. But if you break them we will be miffed and we'll find appropriate punishment for you.(you can’t see it, but I have an evil grin on my face.) These rules mainly apply in Headquarters (the Arcade car or obs deck) as that's where most of the magic happens.
- Remember Wheaton’s Law: “Don't be a dick”. Just don't. Play nice, children. And if you don't like someone, don't start shit stirring and backtalk.
- Don’t crowd the aisle. There is but one aisle that the Amtrak staff and other passengers need to be able to use to get to other parts of the train. If you are blocking the aisle the train staff may request that you go back to your seat.
- Don't be an asshole to the Amtrak staff. Train staffers are generally pretty cool and will let us do what we want with little explanation. Be nice to them, and if they tell you to do something, you probably want to do it.
- Don't be a loud prick. Other people may be sleeping in other cars. Or whatever. We usually sack the arcade car and half of the observation car as our Headquarters and keep it there - that muffles the sound pretty well (it’s been tested thoroughly). Still, noise discipline. Be quiet in the coach areas and sleeper cars, be polite in the dining cars and don't try to overrun the observation deck during the day if other people are using it.
- Don't be a freak to kids. When kids are around, mind your tongue. Pretend Mommy's right behind you. Don't give anyone a reason to complain about PAXTrain.
- Don't get too hammered.
WE HAVE HAD NO PROBLEMS WITH THIS SO FAR AND WOULD LIKE TO KEEP IT THIS WAY. I'M NOT POINTING FINGERS, THERE'S NOBODY TO POINT THEM AT! Let's just keep it that way.
We've never had any real problems, but vigilance and diligence will insure it remains that way. These rules are also loose guidelines more than anything, so don't flaunt them or play the legalist. If you play the rules lawyer, we'll treat you like a rules lawyer. Anyone in gross violation of the rules or common decency won't be welcome at group festivities - you're now persona non grata and everyone hates your guts, and you're banned from PAXTrain events.
Again, we've never actually had to do that! Everyone's been cool and has watched each other's back, kept everyone else in check and been real champions, doing their duty to assist their fellow gamers when they are falling out of line. We work better as a loosely organized motley band than as a full regiment. We've done terrific! Just keep diligent - we have a legacy to consider, and we want to keep good relations with Amtrak.
The Hot Spots
Amtrak has a policy against outside alcohol on the train. They probably just want to sell more of the overpriced stuff in the snack bar. We won't tell you what to bring or not bring, but know that the risks / consequences of bringing alcohol are your own, as we aren't condoning private stashes. Openly drinking your own stuff in public areas is discouraged. If you choose to do so please do it discretely. If keeping it out of sight is a problem for you I would suggest that you check out these links
These sites offer a variety of inconspicuous covers for your beer cans
or if you would rather make a cover yourself
or . . . you could bring the brand of beer they sell on the train.
As for the other variety of beverage (aka hard stuff), just premix your drink of choice into a inconspicuous container before you board and you're set. We’re still not condoning it though. Think of it as teaching 6th graders about condoms. You don’t want them to need them, but if they’re going to do it, at least they know how to protect themselves.
We got some rookie drinkers on PAXTrain '07 (the only year Amtrak allowed outside booze). If you're new to drinking, we have some info for you right here to help you get in the swing of things - most vets already have some sort of system on how they handle the booze. Here are the four levels of inebriation as we will ID them:
- Not Drunk - You've had one, maybe two. You're not feeling it. Drink a little more, if you want, or not. Maybe you're just not a beer (or liquor) guy. You don't need to be drunk to enjoy PAXTrain. Most people weren't drunk at all in previous years. It's overblown how drunk we were. (Or I am cleaning our images up and rewriting history.)
- Buzzed - You've had a few and you're feeling pretty good. Bit of a headrush. Congrats - you're buzzed! Now slow down and enjoy it. Drink a bit after an hour to keep the buzz going. Don't feel like you need to drink a lot to look like a big man.
- Drunk - Congrats, you're drunk. Now sit your ass down. Being drunk is not a good thing. Lay off the booze and get some chips. A pro alcoholic can "maintain", cutting through his drunkenness and working with his lack of motor skills to help him calm down and get it out. Be careful - we'll try to help keep you quiet and unseen, but if the train guys spot you drunk, they can call the cops at the next stop and have you hauled off to the drunk tank. That means no Paxy Pax for you.
- Wasted - What the fuck is wrong with you? If you're clearly wasted we're throwing you out of PAXTrain events and the word will spread you're persona non grata. Go to the bathroom quietly and puke before the train personnel eject you from the train - and into the arms of the police, who will arrest you for being drunk in public.
Anyone who is really wasted will be asked to leave the festivities - sit in your coach seat for a while and maintain. You wanna drink on the PAXTrain? Fine. Just don't be a little newb about it.
- "You just want to be with that ugly bitch WHO ISN'T PRETTIER THAN ME!!!" (New Years party reference, this chick was a horrible drunk) If you've battled with depression before, you might wind up being an overly emotional drunk. So unless you're certain you can maintain, or if you feel weird about it, then don't get drunk so you don't embarrass yourself.
- Don't feel pressured to drink more to seem hardcore. A pro alcoholic will tell you that a low alcohol tolerance is actually very good thing, and look back to the time when a few beers would buzz them as their salad days.
- Beer before liquor, never been sicker. Liquor before beer? You're in the clear. Be sure that you remember this rhyme, or else you'll wind up doing time - puking up your guts all over the stall, in the bathroom straight down the hall.
- Since we won't have a PAXtrain alcohol stash we can't exactly cut you off. Just remember if you're out of hand you'll be asked to go somewhere else until you can maintain.
- I'm Going off the Rails on this Crazy PAXTrain
The majority of all PAXTrain activities happen in two locations: The coach car with the arcade room (which will likely be the home of Rock Band), and the Observation Deck (which will be designated as the Obs Deck or simply as Obs). These areas are beehives of activity and the "home" of most of our console systems. We'll have to play it by ear, balancing the use of the arcade cars and observation car between PAX goers and the rest of the passengers can take a little doing sometimes.
- The Arcade Car(s): These are private rooms, allowing us to speak freely with no cause for the concerns of other passengers and are fairly soundproof, allowing us to get a little loud (not too loud). Here you can find our primary console setups. It is on the first story of a coach car, with no other passengers to heed, and has a luggage rack for storing our critical gear, a water dispenser for more drinkable cold water, and doors to exit in case of a smoke break. When the door opens to the arcade car, get quiet for a second until it closes; otherwise, speak away. Amtrak closes the arcade cars at 11pm, though sometimes we can convince them to let us spend the night there.
- The Obs Deck: Obs is a public area for all passengers. We have to be conscious of the other passengers during the day, but we pretty much have it to ourselves at night. Obs has a large, spacious observation deck on the top floor with a number of private tables, benches and seats to view the countryside, use a laptop, play cards or do whatever, but due to the furniture it is not a good place to hold a mass congregation unless everyone sits down. The first floor of the obs deck has a commissary for buying snacks, drinks, booze and small meals. The prices are a little high, but not complete robbery - still, it's advisable to bring your own foodstuffs. Also on the first floor are more tables and furniture and more observation areas, we try to leave this area open while the snack bar is operational as we pretty much take up all the tables upstairs. At night, we appropriate obs for PAX-y uses, but it is still a public area, so don't be a total boor or drunkard. This is when we typically chill and watch movies.
- The Dining Car: The onboard restaurant of the train is pretty good. Or, at least it has been. Be sure to bring cash as the magic plastic cards seem to confound the servers here.
We will be having the following events on PAXTrain:
- RPGs : TBA: Thirty-four hours is a lot of time to spend on a train. Many people like to spend a good portion of that time playing Pen and Paper or Table top RPGs. We need Game Masters to run scheduled and/or spur of the moment Campaigns. Post details here in the thread if you plan on running a game or two on the train.
- Tournaments: TBD. At the very least there will be Super Smash Brothers Brawl, and Rock Band going on.
- Meals: Amtrak takes Lunch and Dinner reservations before meals happen. Find some people and make a reservation for four. It's a great way to commiserate with people in a more relaxed environment than the public areas.
- Movie Night: CURRENT FILM LIST: TBD. Do you have something you want to watch at night in the observation car? Bring it with you and / or let us know. Dr. Horrible was a big hit.
- Train Twister: This was arguably a success in 09. How do we feel about it making a return?
Feel free to PM me if I left anything out or need to make any changes.