Amtrak Experience – Houston to San Francisco (Emeryville) Day 2 of 3

First Night

My first night’s sleep on the train was decent. I woke up more times than I normally would a night because along with my middle-aged bladder, I also woke up whenever the train rocked excessively or was stopped. It was fairly warm at first and I slept with no sheets or cover, but at one point in the night, the air conditioning got very cold and I climbed under the sheet. That was the most comfortable part of the night for me. The room climate controls are very limited. There is a temperature control knob just above the outlet that only controls the heat. And there is also a vent at the top of the room that has a lever than controls the cold air flow into the room. Even with the control knob all the way to cooler and the vent all the way open, I was warm most of the night and day. I’ve read that there are trains and cars that are extremely cold and I wish this was one of them. The climate control on the Amtrak trains probably need some updating, but it’s not a deal breaking for travel.

First Full Day

John is the crew member that speaks over the intercom. He announces meal times, points out interesting parts of the country we pass through and is in charge of the snack bar that is located below the observation lounge.

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John at the Snack Bar

The observation lounge is 4 cars away and is where you can relax and enjoy the scenery. There are chairs and tables and you can enjoy a drink, meet people and work in the car which is mostly windows.

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Observation Car. Tables and Lounge Seats. Open for anyone and a greta place to work or relax.

Breakfast is the only meal that is first come first serve and once the dining car is full, you are put on a wait list and placed in the observation car until you are called. I woke up at 7am and after brushing my teeth and getting dressed, I headed to the dining car for coffee and food. I was sat with Bob, a retired metallurgist that worked in the oil and gas industry. He was headed to San Diego (I forget why) and has traveled by train many times. While we got to know each other, the waitress brought us coffee and then sat Eric next to me.

[Oh, I got in trouble because I started filling out my sheet with food choices, but apparently, I am only to fill out my car number, room number and signature. She was nice about it, but I won’t make that mistake again. I guess I stepped on her toes with her job.]

Eric was also retired and was heading home to Seattle from visiting family from Houston. He used to work for Microsoft but was forced to retire after some kids beat him up. They found bleeding in his brain and he had surgery over a year ago and has been retired since. He has some issues with equilibrium and memory, but was super nice. Across from Eric was the final person sat with us, Charles. Charles was a professor at Arkansas University and teaches accounting. He was also headed to San Diego but for a conference. He had the same idea as me, no rush to get to his destination, so might as well have a new experience and adventure. I was easily 10 years younger than all of them, but we had some good conversations, some laughs and I got some great information about train travel.

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Breakfast of Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Potatoes and a Croissant Roll

After breakfast, I headed back to me roomette and put it in daytime configuration. It took a minute to figure it out, but it was almost as easy as putting it in bed mode. Then I sat down to relax and enjoy the ride. I spent most of my morning writing and learning about my new camera. I plan to spend the rest of the day doing the same.

Around 10am, I decided to take a shower. I’ve been sweating on and off, so I felt kind of gross and needed to refresh, so I grabbed my toiletry bag and shampoo and headed downstairs. I grabbed a towel from the luggage rack and found the shower room available. The bathrooms are smaller than airplane bathrooms, but are set up almost exactly the same. The shower is the same bathroom with an additional room added. The shower is larger than what I’m used to offshore when I go to work, but the bathroom is a tight squeeze. I used the baby changing shelf to store my clothes, towel and toiletry bag. The shower water stayed hot my whole shower and the water stream is good. The towels are not fluffy or soft. They are very hard and very flat and aren’t the most absorbent. I almost brought my own towel and now I wish I had. I could have dried it in my roomette on the hanger. Aside from the crappy towels, the hardest part was getting dressed after the shower in the bathroom.

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Luggage Rack with Towels
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Downstair Bathrooms and Shower
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Bathroom with the Shower
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Steve came by before noon to show me the available times for lunch and dinner and made my meal reservations.

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The rest of the morning was pretty uneventful with a couple of stops in small towns. There’s not much in the area of scenery in west Texas.

Lunch was a burger with a retired couple from England. They weren’t impressed with the American train system and I have to agree. I’ve been overseas and have ridden the British rail system. Their trains are nicer, more up to date and include free wifi. They are riding Amtrak for 2 weeks with multiple stops on the way. They started in NYC, then hit Washington DC and New Orleans. They will spend 2 days in Los Angeles and then off to Chicago before going back to NYC where they will take The Queen Mary cruise ship back to England. My 3rd lunch companion was Rick. He’s a pastor from San Antonio on the way to California to see his daughter and granddaughter.

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I ended up having the same companions for dinner, grabbed an extra bottle of wine for the roomette and settled down to bed early. The train was scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles at 5:30am and I wanted to get a bit of rest. The final travel day was another 12 hours of waiting, layovers, buses and trains and I didn’t want to be exhausted for it. The attendant woke everyone up 30 minutes before arrival and handed us bags with snacks and water.


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