Late last Thursday night Chris and I returned from our thirty-one day roadtrip.
We intended for the first leg of our trip to occur via train, Amtrak to be specific. Something that you may realize if you read this blog on a frequent basis is that Chris and I usually plan our trips at the last minute, sometimes even just the night before an event such as Farm Chicks. This time around the reason for our trip was Chris' sister's wedding. We knew for sure that we were going to go so we purchased our train tickets half a year in advance.
In preparation for what we were looking forward to as a pleasant, relaxing and romantic trip on the train in our own private cabin we packed our favorite sparkling wine, chocolate truffles, travel Scrabble, travel magazines, books, and Napoleon Dynamite Mad Libs.
My parents drove us to the train station and dropped us off. We walked into the First Class lounge to check in for the train. The attendant then informed us that our room had a malfunction and that we would have to ride in the other part of the train for the duration of the forty-five hour trip. I thought that the attendant meant that this malfunction had to do with the whole car of cabins (it wasn't until later that I discovered that all of the other sleeping cabins on the entire train were fine except for ours). Chris and I immediately agreed that there was no way we were spending all of our time, forty-five hours of waking and sleeping time in uncomfortable 1970's train seats. At this point I had to run through the train station to catch my parents before they drove away back out to the suburbs. Fortunately I caught them just before they were about to leave. They parked and waited while Chris and I tried to figure out what to do. We had the attendant check to see if there were any sleeper cars that were open leaving from anywhere on the West coast to the Midwest, there were none. We decided that we had to get out to the wedding some other way. We went to the ticket counter and got our tickets refunded. We went home and decided that we were going to rent a car (because Chris' sister was giving us her old car that we were going to drive back). The prices for the rental cars were astronomical so we decided to drive our own car. We loaded it up and hit the road. That night we only made it about four hours down the road because it was so late.
When we woke in the morning Chris called and complained to Amtrak. They said that normally they don't give vouchers out unless someone has been seriously inconvenienced. Luckily, Chris was able to maintain his composure at that point and explain that we had been "seriously inconvenienced". The man on the phone informed Chris that they would send us a voucher.
This was the way our trip began.
Poor Amtrak it's a wonder that they are able to function at all with the lack of funding that they receive. My first exposure to Amtrak's troubles occurred back in the late nineties when I would frequently take the train up to Seattle. Once while on the train I was talking with an Amtrak employee who told me that freight trains have precedence over Amtrak trains so this can lead to Amtrak running hours behind schedule because of having to wait for freight trains to pass by.
Our other Amtrak story to share is one that occurred when we were on our honeymoon. Chris and I had been in Europe traveling with our EuroRail pass from Germany to Switzerland to Austria to Belgium and back to Germany. While in those countries we rode on fast, modern trains that left the station on time and arrived at the station on time. We loved our experience riding the trains over there. At the end of our honeymoon in Europe we flew from Germany to Chicago where we took Amtrak down to St. Louis to visit Chris' family. At the end of our visit with his family we got back on Amtrak to head back up to Chicago where we were going to hop on the train from there to Portland. While on the train we couldn't believe our ears when we heard the train conductor come over the intercom and say "We missed our last stop so we have to back up". We were like- What?!? Really!?! There was no way that we could imagine that happening in the European countries that we had been traveling in. Fortunately our train ride from Chicago to Portland went smoothly and was wonderful.
Let's raise a glass of sparkling wine and wish Amtrak good luck with funding.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for train car loads of photos from our roadtrip adventures!
This post was originally published on September 1, 2010.