07 July 2015

Train day 2 & CA arrival

I slept MUCH better last night. I figured out how to sleep "flatter" so that I didn't get jostled so much with the train's motion. Or maybe I was just exhausted from not sleeping the night before...

We crossed to Pacific time in the night so it was 6am when we woke and headed to breakfast. We sat with a couple of guys (Rick and Arnold) who got on in Albany, New York. Rick is originally from Australia and something of a train buff. Arnie was born in Florida, grew up in northern Ontario and been in NYC for the past 15 years.

Rick showed me how to track the train on my phone. I saw someone doing that yesterday and intended to figure that out but him showing me was a lot easier! Now I don't have to wonder where we are or what that highway is.
Our train is the gray circle in the upper right quadrant.

The 4 of us sat and chatted for a long time. We were really enjoying the company and scenery.

After breakfast, we got our cribbage board and went to the lounge car to play and watch Railroad TV out the window. We ended up sitting at a table with Barb and Jax. We all chatted while Jax drew maps, Barb cleaned pictures off her phone and we played cards.

At Reno, we got off the train to stretch our legs. The conductor refers to these as "fresh air" breaks but since there's no smoking on the train, all the smokers get off whenever they can to light up. The air around the platform is anything but fresh. We use them as "leg stretch" breaks. It's wonderful to be able to swing arms and take full-size strides for a change.There's an awful lot of sitting on a train ride...

When we got back on the train, I went to use a restroom in our car just as Craig announced that all the bathrooms in the car were non-functional and that they have people working on it. I went to the next car.

We stopped in Truckee, CA...which just begged for a limerick, so Al obliged:
     There once was a train stop called Truckee
     Where mallards would go to get lucky
          One drake always dates
          And frequently mates
     'Cause he is a really good ducky

Truckee reminds me a lot of Lanesboro, with all the quaint little shops and a lot of small-town Main St feel.
Truckee, CA

After lunch, we heard an announcement with the ETAs to Sacramento and Emeryville...both with connections to San Jose. There was a commuter train leaving Sacramento for San Jose within minutes of our train's arrival at Sacramento. We got to wondering if we could get on that train and get to San Jose a couple hours earlier than scheduled.

We went in search of someone who could tell us how that works. In the dining car, we talked to Craig, who suggested we ask the conductor. He gave us directions to the conductor (including going through the door that says "Staff only" on it). We laid out the situation for the conductor and he said he thought it should be fine, it didn't matter to Amtrak how we arrived at the destination, as long as we had tickets for that destination.

We went back to our room to discuss. It seemed both reasonable and odd. You certainly would never be able to just hop on a different plane to a destination... So we called Amtrak and talked with an agent who said, "I don't see why you couldn't do that." and "It should be ok." and other wishy-washy things.

What it boiled down to was, we couldn't confirm anything, we just had to try it and see if it worked. If it did, we'd get to San Jose 2 hours sooner. Worst case scenario, if we got off the train and couldn't just get on the other train, we could go to the ticket booth and get reticketed on the next train to San Jose, which is the one we would arrive on if we didn't do anything.

We decided to try it. We gathered our bags and got off the train in Sacramento. Craig told us to get on the people mover that was sitting there and it would take us to our train (sitting on the other tracks up ahead of our train). We did and the driver proceeded to dawdle along, trying to find a single passenger to fill out his car. All the while the train we wanted on was due to leave in 1 minute.

We finally (!) go up by the train and I called out, "Is that the 543 train?" The driver said it was and I said, "That's our train!" He said, "But it's leaving in 1 minute..." and I said, "We can make it!"

So he pulled up to an open door and told the attendant that there were 2 more for him. We pulled our bags off the cart and jumped on the train as it started rolling. We found coach seats upstairs and high-fived each other with whoops for making it. What a rush!

A while later, the conductor came down the aisle to check tickets. We showed him ours, he scanned them, and without batting an eye hung up the check papers over our seats.

We spent the trip watching Netflix and called the kids to let them know we'd be early. They picked us up, and drove to the Elephant Bar for supper, then to our AirBnB lodging where we met Linda (our hostess) and her beagle Odie.