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Old 10-01-06, 12:06 AM   #1
14R
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Any decent destination using Amtrak in the USA?

I have a short vacation after December first and before Jan3rd 2007 I was considering doing a train trip, in the USA, starting from Florida somewhere up north where we could take our folding bikes and enjoy some scenery. Anyone here wth (good or bad) experiences traveling using amtrak?

Thank you.
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Old 10-01-06, 12:45 AM   #2
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While I know this is on the other side of the continent, I did the Coastal Starlight trip from Los Angeles to Seattle last year. The train was way, way late. The problem across the US is that Amtrak doesn't own the railway lines (they are owned by the goods rail companies), and their trains can slot into spaces on the lines as arranged with the owners. If a spot is missed, then there can be delays as the Amtrak trains sits on a spur line waiting for the next scheduled goods train to pass through. So build in a bit of leeway.

I like train travel, but the Starlight wasn't exactly airline comfort. Because of this and the privacy factor, I would seriously consider a sleeper compartment if I were to travel any distance on an Amtrak again and the wallet would allow. Meals are included in the sleeper fare. But, taking a sleeper then makes the fare comparable to a cheap airfare.

I had no problems transporting a bike box with me. Hope this is of some help.
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Old 10-01-06, 01:14 AM   #3
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I travelled from Sacramento, CA to Eugene, Oregon on Amtrak. I suspect I could have cycled that distance faster than the train if you time it from when the train was supposed to leave the station in Sacramento to when the train finally arrived in Eugene!! It was a mere 8 hours late leaving Sacramento ... and then lost time on the journey, arriving in Eugene about 12 hours late.

Apparently that's "normal". So ... be prepared for some delay!!

However, once I finally boarded the train, the actual trip wasn't bad at all, and they were very good about allowing me to check and store my luggage while I was waiting for the train so I could wander around Sacramento.

Another thing to watch out for is that not all stations have bicycle check-in, and luggage storage facilities. Also some stations are designated as passenger-only stations (no luggage). Check the Amtrak website to identify these stations, and call the numbers provided to confirm before you travel!
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Old 10-01-06, 01:19 AM   #4
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In other words, to get a nice cabin and enjoy a nice train ride so at the very end I can unfold our bromptons and bike...better go to europe, uh? Pretty sad since our budget is limited for this year.
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Old 10-01-06, 01:34 AM   #5
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I didn't have any problem with my fold up on Amtrak. I've been through Penn Station in Philladelphia and New York, plus a few of the smaller stations up toward Boston. I don't think you are going to run into any problem at all. I recommend getting a bag for the bike. I purchased one made for the bike, but any nylon laundry bag would work just fine. In a pinch a plastic garbage bag will work too. My bike bag has a shoulder strap which is really nice for carrying it through crowded terminals and checking it into luggage.

How far north are you planning on going? Georgia north or New York north? New York City is not impossible in December for cycling, but I might check the weather report first. I always love watching the food delivery guys cycling through the streets during a blizzard. There aren't even any cars on the road and they are still delivering pizzas and take-out.
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Old 10-01-06, 01:39 AM   #6
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it's not about the bike or problems with it, is about how effective trains are in europe compared to the US. I may just drive to Savannah, GA and try to have a good time around down here instead.
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Old 10-01-06, 02:11 AM   #7
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The sleeper fare is a great deal more than cheap airfare for cross country travel. I've investigated sleeper accomadations between Chicago and Southern California and I was shocked by the price.
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Old 10-01-06, 09:01 AM   #8
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Well, in my experience, Amtrak has good routes and bad routes. I've never had a real problem on the lines from San Diego through Santa Barbara, or Albuquerque through LA. Well that's not quite true -- one time a mudslide covered the tracks near LA, and we had to take a short bus ride into LA, and a second time there was a problem with the coach car I was on, so they had to remove it from the train. But they dropped us all in sleeper cars for the ride, so I consider that a plus (and brotherdan is right, sleepers are far more expensive than air fare). I have, however, had problems heading up to San Francisco.
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Old 10-01-06, 11:58 AM   #9
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I agree that it all depends on the route you take. I took a train from San Diego to LA and from LA to chicago and from Chicago to my home in Ann Arbor. The whole trip was about two days, and the trains were on time every step of the way (well we might have been a bit delayed departing the LA station, but we were on time by the time we reached Chicago).
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Old 10-01-06, 12:52 PM   #10
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Another thing to consider is this ... how far north are you thinking of going? While Florida might have beautiful weather in December, as you travel north, your likelihood of encountering snow increases. Just something to keep in mind.

The seat option, rather than the sleeper option with the train wasn't too bad when I rode the train (either that or I was just so happy to finally board the train!!), but the biggest difficulty was the delay. If you've only got a short vacation, you could spend one entire day just sitting in the station.

Yes, European trains are MUCH more efficient and MUCH less expensive!! Even British trains, which the British complain about all the time, are more efficient and less expensive.
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Old 10-01-06, 05:57 PM   #11
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I rode the train from LA to Cleveland and back in May. The prettiest scenery was in New Mexico and Missouri.
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Old 10-01-06, 06:06 PM   #12
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I've gone from chicago to emeryvill california about 5 times. Very nice route. Plus northern california is as good as it gets for bicyclists.
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Old 10-02-06, 10:18 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 14R
I have a short vacation after December first and before Jan3rd 2007 I was considering doing a train trip, in the USA, starting from Florida somewhere up north where we could take our folding bikes and enjoy some scenery. Anyone here wth (good or bad) experiences traveling using amtrak?

Thank you.
If you have Bromptons, why not just take the bus. Make sure you sit up front on a Greyhound and protect the bike.

I love Amtrak but only the North East Corridor where the trains speed along at 90 mph! You should stand on a platform in New Brunswick and watch the sight of a a two story train blast past the station at such an amazing speed. It's breath taking.
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Old 10-02-06, 12:18 PM   #14
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Slamtrak

In theory, train travel with a bike is really cool. Until that theory meets Amtrak.

To comment on a couple of posts here:
-Sleeper cabins: I used Amtrak's sleeper cabins a couple of times in the 1990s and it was great. Not too expensive ($75 / night) We actually hauled a boxed Burley tandem to Lincoln Nebraska on one trip. Now, it's about $300 / night for a sleeper, which is totally unaffordable for me. And that doesn't include ticket price.

-If you are travelling by folding bike, you will probably have no problem getting on and off Amtrak with your bike. If you are travelling with a boxed bike, *WATCH OUT*. Slamtrak has eliminated many of it's bike-friendly accomodations. Many stations have no baggage service (which means no baggage car to haul a boxed bike). None, zilch, nada, zero. To use an example: Lancaster Pennsylvania, here in the Northeast, is a very pretty and popular destination. It is close to New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC by train. And Lancaster is a large town (or small city). I was going there for an LAB training last year, and thought I would enjoy a train trip with my bike. Good thing I checked ahead. There was absolutely no way to take my bike to Lancaster on Amtrak. I had to take a bus (which took the bike for free) If they cut basic service like a baggage car to a place like Lancaster, then they will do it for all but the largest cities as well. I'm sure it's because hauling that baggage car uses more fuel, which is hard to justify for a cash-strapped rail service like Amtrak, but they are losing customers this way also.

Rich
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Old 10-02-06, 12:27 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Richbiker
-If you are travelling by folding bike, you will probably have no problem getting on and off Amtrak with your bike. If you are travelling with a boxed bike, *WATCH OUT*. Slamtrak has eliminated many of it's bike-friendly accomodations. Many stations have no baggage service (which means no baggage car to haul a boxed bike). None, zilch, nada, zero. To use an example: Lancaster Pennsylvania, here in the Northeast, is a very pretty and popular destination. It is close to New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC by train. And Lancaster is a large town (or small city). I was going there for an LAB training last year, and thought I would enjoy a train trip with my bike. Good thing I checked ahead. There was absolutely no way to take my bike to Lancaster on Amtrak. I had to take a bus (which took the bike for free) If they cut basic service like a baggage car to a place like Lancaster, then they will do it for all but the largest cities as well. I'm sure it's because hauling that baggage car uses more fuel, which is hard to justify for a cash-strapped rail service like Amtrak, but they are losing customers this way also.

Rich
I was looking at taking the train from somewhere around Des Moines to Denver last year ... and discovered that there are NO stations anywhere within about a 500 mile radius of Des Moines that will take bicycles. So much for that idea! I rented a car instead.

One other thing ... if you do happen to find a station that takes bicycles, and if you happen to find a station where you can unload your bicycle (fortunately Sacramento and Eugene still allowed me to do that last year), do not greet anyone who might be picking you up at the station, do not have a look around the station when you disembark ... instead, as quickly as possible, locate the (personal) baggage cart (sort of like a shopping cart), and grab it!! When I got off the train at Eugene, I had spotted the one and only baggage cart in the entire station as we were rolling up, and while everyone else was hugging relatives, I grabbed the cart so that I could comfortably haul my bicycle (which was in a cardboard box without wheels) around the station. Several people weren't too happy with me when they realized I was the only one with a cart and I wasn't about to give it up!
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Old 10-02-06, 02:47 PM   #16
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Another "nay" vote for Amtrak. The food sucks and sleeper cars are expensive. And since it's December / January, I'd say just go to Florida, hop on the bikes and head West.

Check into the Adventure Cycling "Southern Tier" route, that will probably do the job.
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Old 10-03-06, 06:43 PM   #17
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I'm guessing that train stations at ski resorts must haul baggage cars in winter to load all the skis. Years ago Union Pacific sure did at Sun Valley, but I have no idea about Amtrack nowadays.
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Old 10-03-06, 07:42 PM   #18
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Another "nay" vote for Amtrak. The food sucks and sleeper cars are expensive. And since it's December / January, I'd say just go to Florida, hop on the bikes and head West.

Check into the Adventure Cycling "Southern Tier" route, that will probably do the job.
I don't know about the sleeper car food which is inclusive in the price (and had better be silver-service class for the price), but I agree with you that the pleb food sucked and was expensive on my trip.
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Old 10-04-06, 09:23 AM   #19
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14R: It took me about 10 years but I finally did a bike trip in the panhandle of Florida. I actually planned the trip when I lived in Tampa, Florida. We drove to Tallahassee and left the car at the Amtrak station and took the train to Pensacola. We then rode back to our car utilizing Adventure Cycling's Southern Tier map. Having grown up in South Florida and after several years in Tampa I wanted to see the panhandle. The trip was definitely worth it but the train aspect was a disaster - and we didn't travel with the bikes on the train. We shipped our bikes to a destination in Pensacola. The train was about 4 hours late and from what we understand that was pretty common. The conductor knew we were going to Pensacola but he woke us up as we were pulling out of Pensacola! It's great to travel with a female because the crying got us off the train at an intersection not too distant where we took a cab to our hotel. Of course we were too late and they claimed not to have a room and a little more crying eventually got us a room. Believe me the trip was worth all of this!!!
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Old 10-05-06, 10:07 PM   #20
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Just had a great Amtrack from Eugene to Seattle which completed a ride down the coast. Perfect in every way with wonderful assistance by the Amtrack personnel. The bike was put in racks in the baggage car, and the BOB with it. We made a reservation well in advance and received both discounts and script for use in the Bistro car. Left on time, arrived on time. Dropped us off in the middle of downtown. It was a lot cheaper than just the parking at most airports. If you have folding bikes it should even be easier. Go on the website or visit the ticket counter. Pick an area that looks interesting, research the possible rides in the area and follow Willy Wier's advice about attitude. The best thing about touring is the adventure. Take the train and go play. Remember that even if you did have to box the bike,(which you do not) so what? It isn't hard. Panniers, if they join together, is one piece of luggage and you are allowed 5 plus your bike if you have the reservation. Airplanes do not make a five minute stop in Whistlestop New Mexico, and you cannot sleep if you are driving. Some people would complain if they were hung with old rope. Take some food with you on the train (try that at the airport). Have a great vacation and do not sweat the small stuff (or people).
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Old 10-05-06, 10:51 PM   #21
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Just had a great Amtrack from Eugene to Seattle which completed a ride down the coast. Perfect in every way...
With that kind of luck, you better buy a lottery ticket! Amtrak sucks.
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Old 10-06-06, 09:06 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Abbey
Just had a great Amtrack from Eugene to Seattle which completed a ride down the coast. Perfect in every way with wonderful assistance by the Amtrack personnel. The bike was put in racks in the baggage car, and the BOB with it. We made a reservation well in advance and received both discounts and script for use in the Bistro car. Left on time, arrived on time. Dropped us off in the middle of downtown. It was a lot cheaper than just the parking at most airports. If you have folding bikes it should even be easier. Go on the website or visit the ticket counter. Pick an area that looks interesting, research the possible rides in the area and follow Willy Wier's advice about attitude. The best thing about touring is the adventure. Take the train and go play. Remember that even if you did have to box the bike,(which you do not) so what? It isn't hard. Panniers, if they join together, is one piece of luggage and you are allowed 5 plus your bike if you have the reservation. Airplanes do not make a five minute stop in Whistlestop New Mexico, and you cannot sleep if you are driving. Some people would complain if they were hung with old rope. Take some food with you on the train (try that at the airport). Have a great vacation and do not sweat the small stuff (or people).
This is the type of experience you would probably have taking Amtrak along the North East Corridor. Good for you.
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Old 10-06-06, 05:27 PM   #23
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I rode from Seattle to SF and took a train back but (this is gross) someone stepped in front of the train in oakland so (they announced this in the station) they had to stop to clean the train off. the train was totally 15 hours late by the time I got into my destination and that was added on to the already 24 hour trip.
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Old 10-07-06, 12:26 AM   #24
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I rode from Seattle to SF and took a train back but (this is gross) someone stepped in front of the train in oakland so (they announced this in the station) they had to stop to clean the train off. the train was totally 15 hours late by the time I got into my destination and that was added on to the already 24 hour trip.
Must have been an Amtrak customer who got sick of waiting...
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Old 10-07-06, 02:34 AM   #25
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I love the trains. Just because the US underfunds them, is no reason not to use them. Better than flying .Yes, sleeper cars are expensive. But, did you know in Crossing the US, a passenger is allowed to get off at nite in any pre-determined town and get back on the next day; all considered on one onward passage. I think you are allowed on/off three times in crossing the US. Last I knew. You could spend the night in Dodge City , Kn with your bike to explore with.
I hate flying. Can't do that on a plane.
A winter vacation from Florida to the north? with a bike. ? I think I'd head west. Do some riding in New Mexico, Arizona, California. Some of the best cycling in the US.
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