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Bikes on Amtrak

Old 02-11-24, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by adventurepdx
This. It's nice that Amtrak offers Thruway bus service from their East Bay stations into SF, but if you have a bike it's more of a hassle then a convenience. You can take the BART across the Bay, then it's about a two mile ride from MacArthur BART to Emeryville Amtrak (the station where most of the Thruway buses use). Oakland-Jack London Square Amtrak is less than a mile from either 12th Ave or Lake Merritt Stations. And as mentioned above, the Richmond BART station is directly across from the Richmond Amtrak. Though I will point out that only the California Service trains (Capitol Corridor and San Joaquins) stop in Richmond. If you are taking the California Zephyr, you'll need to use Emeryville. (You can use either Emeryville or Jack London for the Starlight.)

And yes, the ferry is another option. You can take a ferry from SF Ferry Building to Jack London Square and the Amtrak station is right there. And the ride is a lot more scenic then the Transbay Tube.
good correction! i knew richmond wasnít ideal - on foot itís the transfer to the capital corridor, on a bike emeryville for sure.

the ride up and over yerba buena island and down the bridge is fun, and the ferry to TI is comically short, maybe 5 minutes, as an alternative to jack london.
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Old 02-11-24, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
Side note, the website listed several different bus times for that trip, some were Flixbus and some were Greyhound, so there is some partnering going on here since both were listed on the same website.
Flixbus owns Greyhound.
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Old 02-11-24, 08:38 PM
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Originally Posted by mschwett
good correction! i knew richmond wasnít ideal - on foot itís the transfer to the capital corridor, on a bike emeryville for sure.

the ride up and over yerba buena island and down the bridge is fun, and the ferry to TI is comically short, maybe 5 minutes, as an alternative to jack london.
It would be nice if Amtrak added a Richmond stop to the Starlight and the Zephyr, but I do not hold my breath.

I forgot to mention the Berkeley/University Ave station. It really has no advantage over what I mentioned before--about a two mile ride from downtown Berkeley BART (though downhill!), currently no ferry service, only Capitol Corridor trains stop here (not even San Joaquins!)--except the fact that it's the only stop to still have a classic Southern Pacific station. The catch is the station is now a restaurant, so you have to wait on the platform.

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Old 02-11-24, 08:39 PM
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Originally Posted by mschwett
if you do this again, would recommend taking BART (very easy for bikes outside of rush hour) to Richmond, assuming your Amtrak train stops there. It probably does. there are some elevators or stairs to deal with, but much better for your bike IMO! or if you feel like riding, the 5 min ferry to treasure island and you can ride across the rest of the bay bridge and then to Richmond!



The options are quite different now, I was there in 2014. But thanks for mentioning that in case others are interested.
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Old 02-16-24, 10:23 AM
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Thanks so much for sharing your trip report - I really enjoyed the photos and descriptions, and I feel much more comfortable about that option of riding from El Paso Amtrak to Hachita. I'll check out your reports on El Paso - Austin too!
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Old 02-16-24, 07:40 PM
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I have been planning a trip that uses Amtrak. Outbound from Chicago, 18 hours on the train, including all night.

On the return to home, train scheduled to leave the station at 6:33am, so should get to the station by 5:30am and since I will need to put my panniers into a single checkable sized bag, probably should get to the station earlier than that to repack my luggage. Ugggghhhhhhh.

Plus a multi-hour bus ride to Chicago to start it off and returning home on the bus later.

This will be my first time doing the Trainside Carry On bike option, thus do not need to box it. I will finally find out how that system works.
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Old 02-16-24, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
I will need to put my panniers into a single checkable sized bag, probably should get to the station earlier than that to repack my luggage. Ugggghhhhhhh.
My front panniers, and rear panniers, snap together, but even so, I used a long cam-buckle strap around each. So like stringing a square package, around once and then crossing the two strap ends to wrap in the other direction (90 degrees different), then engaged on the cam buckle, cinch tight, done. So 4 panniers equals 2 checked (or carryon) bags. No need to repack, and straps pack a lot smaller than another large bag. I forget the size limits on carryon. On the train trip I was on, tons of luggage space in racks at end of cars, and overheads.

For a plane trip, I might put the panniers in duffles, to protect against abrasion, and theft. But trainside checked baggage is not subjected to the abuse of airline baggage handling systems and personnel. More likely, my folding bike in a bag or box will have clothes in bags and empty panniers packed around it, and some stuff brought as carryon.

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Old 02-16-24, 09:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
I have been planning a trip that uses Amtrak. Outbound from Chicago, 18 hours on the train, including all night.

On the return to home, train scheduled to leave the station at 6:33am, so should get to the station by 5:30am and since I will need to put my panniers into a single checkable sized bag, probably should get to the station earlier than that to repack my luggage. Ugggghhhhhhh.

Plus a multi-hour bus ride to Chicago to start it off and returning home on the bus later.

This will be my first time doing the Trainside Carry On bike option, thus do not need to box it. I will finally find out how that system works.
Hi Tourist
Good luck with your trip. I have traveled up and down the left coast a dozen times. I love the idea of combining train and bicycle travel. The reality, not so much, kinda sorta, sometimes. Each time, once it reaches about 12 hours, I start to question my sanity, why oh why am I doing this, AGAIN. But I'm a big boy and just need to power through it. For me it's a little victory when I can travel somewhere and not use a car. And it is kinda fun looking at everybody's back yard as you go through towns, big and small.
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Old 02-16-24, 09:35 PM
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I'd love to do a bike and train trip overnight, but the sleeping accommodations are ridiculously expensive, and I can only sit in the seats for about half a day, that is my limit. For a long trip, air travel is so much cheaper than a sleep room on amtrak. But packing the bike is so much more hassle. On amtrak, my folder and panniers go onboard easy. I'd like to do a long trip where I can train a few hours, then bike and camp overnight and bike a few days, then perhaps train where the rides are long and boring or across desert areas, but it's still not economical via train I think.
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Old 02-17-24, 06:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
My front panniers, and rear panniers, snap together, but even so, I used a long cam-buckle strap around each. So like stringing a square package, around once and then crossing the two strap ends to wrap in the other direction (90 degrees different), then engaged on the cam buckle, cinch tight, done. So 4 panniers equals 2 checked (or carryon) bags. No need to repack, and straps pack a lot smaller than another large bag. I forget the size limits on carryon. On the train trip I was on, tons of luggage space in racks at end of cars, and overheads.

For a plane trip, I might put the panniers in duffles, to protect against abrasion, and theft. But trainside checked baggage is not subjected to the abuse of airline baggage handling systems and personnel. More likely, my folding bike in a bag or box will have clothes in bags and empty panniers packed around it, and some stuff brought as carryon.
I have taken several trips where I got on the train at a small town that is not too far from my home. There was one staff person there that had an authority complex. He said I could not use a strap to strap panniers together. That way I would have to pay extra for more pieces of luggage. I had heard both ways, so fortunately I had an empty duffle in my vehicle. The first time I took a train from that station, I got there two hours early to make sure I had time to pack the bike, etc. He said he had an important conference call, would get me a bike box later. So, for an hour and a half I watched my thumbnails grow. Then asked him about the box and he said if I was not there more than 45 minutes before train time, he had the authority to refuse me service. I reminded him that I had been waiting for an hour and a half already because he claimed to have to be on an important conference call. Things went down hill from there, but I did get on the train. He apparently no longer works for Amtrak at that station, but for the next several years I saw him several times.

Just in case I run into another obnoxious Amtrak employee, I try to conform to the rules on sizes, weights and number of items without snapping them together, etc. But if you always use stations with more helpful staff, then the strapping bags together works for you.

I have some big mesh duffels that are quite light and collapse down to almost nothing that I do not mind putting in the bottom of a pannier for the duration of my tour.
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Old 02-17-24, 07:19 AM
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Originally Posted by tcs
Flixbus owns Greyhound.
Have been spending the last few days planning another trip. The bus that I have used in the past to ride to either Amtrak or O'Hare airport in Chicago has this luggage policy:
We allow up to 2 bags to be stored under the bus and 1 carry-on per adult fare
And their bike policy (I am going from Wisc to Illinois) is:
Note: Bicycles are not permitted with the exception of Wisconsin and Illinois routes and each bicycle will be charged $10.00 boxed, $20.00 unboxed.
From:
https://help.coachusa.com/portal/en/kb/articles/baggage

They apparently did not proof read their dimensions, but I suspect almost nobody reads that.

I probably will ride bike from home to the bus stop, thus happy to pay the extra to avoid boxing, especially if I use the Trainside/Carry On bike option on Amtrak. The taxi company in my community that had bike racks on each of their taxis went out of business, so getting a bike to the bus stop will be easiest if I ride it there. Hopefully it will not be raining that day, as I will have to put the stuff from my panniers into a duffle or two at the bus stop while waiting for the bus.

***

Flixbus for that trip does not offer a bike option, so not using that bus. Flixbus is more stringent at one large (airline size) bag and one carry on, with specific dimensions:
From:
https://www.flixbus.com/service/baggage
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Old 02-17-24, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN

I have some big mesh duffels that are quite light and collapse down to almost nothing that I do not mind putting in the bottom of a pannier for the duration of my tour.
The doorways and vestibules of the Vermonter equipment are too narrow to allow one to roll on the bike with the panniers on. I have used a mesh sleeping bag sack to put my panniers in so I can easily get them in the car quickly. Like your mesh bags, it weighs next to nothing and collapses down very small.
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Old 02-17-24, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
The doorways and vestibules of the Vermonter equipment are too narrow to allow one to roll on the bike with the panniers on. I have used a mesh sleeping bag sack to put my panniers in so I can easily get them in the car quickly. Like your mesh bags, it weighs next to nothing and collapses down very small.
I do not even want to try to roll the bike with panniers on it anywhere near a train on my next trip which uses the Trainside Carryon. If I have to lift it up for any reason, I want it to be unladen.

But I have until June to decide how to consolidate my stuff and what bags to use for that. The bus I take to the Amtrak station has tighter luggage specifications than Amtrak, so the bus luggage is the limiting factor. Last time I took that bus, the driver chewed me out for having a small bag besides my carry on, it was my handlebar bag that he did not like, but he said he would let it slide this time.

My tentative plan is my light touring bike with Ortliebs, same that I used this past April on Natchez Trace. This trip, I have no need for the S&S couplers, so I don't have to take my heavy touring bike. If you are curious, photo of the bike and gear I plan to use at:
Pictures of your loaded rigs?

But I have some Carradry panniers, that is another option I will be thinking about for next few months.
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Old 02-17-24, 10:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
I have some big mesh duffels that are quite light and collapse down to almost nothing that I do not mind putting in the bottom of a pannier for the duration of my tour.
Thanks, good tip! I will look for those. My guess is end opening, like a laundry bag, not a full-length zipper.
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Old 02-18-24, 05:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
Thanks, good tip! I will look for those. My guess is end opening, like a laundry bag, not a full-length zipper.
The duffle with the red ends in this photo (that I previously posted in post 18 a year ago) is one of them, full length zipper. I have used this as a carry on bag on Amtrak several times, the photo shows my carry on luggage just before I got on a train at the end of my Pacific Coast tour.



The photo below (previously shown in post 123 in this thread) shows that duffle with the red ends sitting on top of a larger duffle with blue ends of the same brand and model that I used as a checked bag on Amtrak at the start of that tour, also has a full length zipper.



During the tour, both of this duffels were in the bottom of a couple of my panniers.

Red one is 340 grams, the Blue one is 410 grams. Packs down to almost nothing.

I initially bought these duffels for kayak trips. The hatches on a kayak that you store your gear in are usually pretty small so all of your camping gear is in small dry bags or other small bags. And when you get to a campsite, something like those duffels come in really handy to haul your dozens of small bits of camping gear from the beach to your campsite. Mesh is great as sand does not accumulate in the duffel.



But the one(s) that Indyfabz described in post 162 that is a storage bag for a sleeping bag probably has a draw string end on it, no zipper.

My next trip that I am planning, a duffel with straps on it I think will be preferred for my luggage since I have to have my luggage packed for a bus trip in the luggage compartment, then carry it around with me in a train station, probably for hours, then get on the train. And five weeks later, repeat in reverse.
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Old 02-18-24, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
But the one(s) that Indyfabz described in post 162 that is a storage bag for a sleeping bag probably has a draw string end on it, no zipper.
Correct. I only use it for the closed panniers, so there is no chance of anything falling out and getting lost.
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Old 02-18-24, 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
The duffle with the red ends in this photo (that I previously posted in post 18 a year ago) is one of them, full length zipper. I have used this as a carry on bag on Amtrak several times, the photo shows my carry on luggage just before I got on a train at the end of my Pacific Coast tour.



The photo below (previously shown in post 123 in this thread) shows that duffle with the red ends sitting on top of a larger duffle with blue ends of the same brand and model that I used as a checked bag on Amtrak at the start of that tour, also has a full length zipper.



During the tour, both of this duffels were in the bottom of a couple of my panniers.

Red one is 340 grams, the Blue one is 410 grams. Packs down to almost nothing.

I initially bought these duffels for kayak trips. The hatches on a kayak that you store your gear in are usually pretty small so all of your camping gear is in small dry bags or other small bags. And when you get to a campsite, something like those duffels come in really handy to haul your dozens of small bits of camping gear from the beach to your campsite. Mesh is great as sand does not accumulate in the duffel.



But the one(s) that Indyfabz described in post 162 that is a storage bag for a sleeping bag probably has a draw string end on it, no zipper.

My next trip that I am planning, a duffel with straps on it I think will be preferred for my luggage since I have to have my luggage packed for a bus trip in the luggage compartment, then carry it around with me in a train station, probably for hours, then get on the train. And five weeks later, repeat in reverse.

Kayak hatches: "Sausage" bags!

Kayak: NDK Romany? Maybe not with the rudder. Some UK boat. If I had a better angle, I might be able to ID it, though it's been many years and Derek Hutchinson's book is deep in storage. I met him briefly once, quite a thrill.
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Old 02-21-24, 06:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
Kayak hatches: "Sausage" bags!

Kayak: NDK Romany? Maybe not with the rudder. Some UK boat. If I had a better angle, I might be able to ID it, though it's been many years and Derek Hutchinson's book is deep in storage. I met him briefly once, quite a thrill.
Valley Skerray XL. I bought it in the mid 90s.
https://www.ukseakayakguidebook.co.u...ay%20Excel.pdf

It has a lot of rocker, needs the rudder or skeg to hold a straight line. The number of solo Brit boats that I have seen with a rudder, I can count on one hand. This one was a few years old and heavily discounted at the dealer when I bought it, possibly because the rudder was not a popular option for Brit boat buyers.

The old VCP hatch covers disintegrated over time, same with the second set I bought. But Sea-Lect makes good replacements which I have on the boat at the time of photo. Check valves for the Chimp bilge pump are shot, I bought some in-line check valves that I have to add the hoses to make the pump work again.

Great boat. An early morning at sunrise on Lake Superior.

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Old 02-21-24, 03:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
I'd love to do a bike and train trip overnight, but the sleeping accommodations are ridiculously expensive, and I can only sit in the seats for about half a day, that is my limit. For a long trip, air travel is so much cheaper than a sleep room on Amtrak. But packing the bike is so much more hassle. On Amtrak, my folder and panniers go onboard easy. I'd like to do a long trip where I can train a few hours, then bike and camp overnight and bike a few days, then perhaps train where the rides are long and boring or across desert areas, but it's still not economical via train I think.

I'll agree with you that sleeper cars on Amtrak are expensive, but not the "ridiculously" part. My perspective is that you are in a rolling hotel instead of just a train. So the cost of hotel plus food should be factored in.


For example, if I took the Empire Builder from Portland to St. Paul in June, the price for June 11th (a mid-week date I selected at random) in a Roomette (the smallest sleeping room) is about $900. That's about $700 more than coach, yes. But I'm getting two sleeping nights in a bed. Hotel rooms are about $100-200 on average these days. Also, I get three full meals a day for the time I'm on the train in the Dining Car (with the exception of the first night out of Portland, when the Portland section of the Builder lacks the Dining Car, so it's a boxed meal instead). So I'll be getting two breakfasts, two dinners, and one lunch. Dinners are three course affairs (starter/salad, main course, dessert) plus drinks. You get drinks for the other meals, too. And they started offering one complimentary alcoholic beverage for dinner. So a day's meals could easily add up to about $100 if eaten in regular restaurants.


Can you find cheaper hotel rooms? Sure. Can you find cheaper food elsewhere? Of course. I spent many years in Coach, bringing a big bag o' food to last two days so I wasn't at the complete mercy of microwaved foods from the Cafe. Are the beds in the sleeper like the beds in a nice hotel? No. Is the food in the Dining Car top notch? No, but I'd say it's decent. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison, but when you look at it this way, it's not as ridiculous in cost as you thought.


Flying will be cheaper, and it will be faster. But bringing a bike will be a hassle, unless it's a folder (and even then, can still be somewhat of a hassle.) Getting to airports is often a hassle, and I doubt anyone loves the experience of going through TSA. And the experience on the plane itself? Eh. I hate sitting in a cramped seat for anything more than a couple hours. So I prefer to travel by train whenever I can.
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Old 02-21-24, 09:08 PM
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Originally Posted by adventurepdx
I'll agree with you that sleeper cars on Amtrak are expensive, but not the "ridiculously" part. My perspective is that you are in a rolling hotel instead of just a train. So the cost of hotel plus food should be factored in.


For example, if I took the Empire Builder from Portland to St. Paul in June, the price for June 11th (a mid-week date I selected at random) in a Roomette (the smallest sleeping room) is about $900. That's about $700 more than coach, yes. But I'm getting two sleeping nights in a bed. Hotel rooms are about $100-200 on average these days. Also, I get three full meals a day for the time I'm on the train in the Dining Car (with the exception of the first night out of Portland, when the Portland section of the Builder lacks the Dining Car, so it's a boxed meal instead). So I'll be getting two breakfasts, two dinners, and one lunch. Dinners are three course affairs (starter/salad, main course, dessert) plus drinks. You get drinks for the other meals, too. And they started offering one complimentary alcoholic beverage for dinner. So a day's meals could easily add up to about $100 if eaten in regular restaurants.


Can you find cheaper hotel rooms? Sure. Can you find cheaper food elsewhere? Of course. I spent many years in Coach, bringing a big bag o' food to last two days so I wasn't at the complete mercy of microwaved foods from the Cafe. Are the beds in the sleeper like the beds in a nice hotel? No. Is the food in the Dining Car top notch? No, but I'd say it's decent. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison, but when you look at it this way, it's not as ridiculous in cost as you thought.


Flying will be cheaper, and it will be faster. But bringing a bike will be a hassle, unless it's a folder (and even then, can still be somewhat of a hassle.) Getting to airports is often a hassle, and I doubt anyone loves the experience of going through TSA. And the experience on the plane itself? Eh. I hate sitting in a cramped seat for anything more than a couple hours. So I prefer to travel by train whenever I can.
All good points, thank you. I didn't know food was included with the room.

The cost difference between a train room and a flight was more during the pandemic (when I last checked), train room was like 4-6X an equivalent round trip airfare. But I think that difference has narrowed quite a bit now. And space for those rooms is even a smaller portion of available space (if same car as seated) than first class in air, but I imagine they just add sleeper room cars on an as-needed basis.

I stayed in hotels when employed, but if I am bike touring, I love self-contained camping, if dry. Big problem now is power for my CPAP, there are good batteries now, but how to charge them is the issue.

I do have a 20" wheel folder, outfit for townie and touring, not the latter yet. It'll still be a hassle by air, biggest challenge is where to stash any transport bags at destination, doubly so if not doing a return trip to embarking point.

With train, that bike flew onboard, fit easy in the passenger car luggage, didn't even need to check it. *No bulky, padded bike bag needed.* Could have garbage-bagged it (to keep chain oil off everything else) and stood up if needed, for more luggage space. But half-day trainride of sitting was all I could stand, no farther. Train seat was far less comfortable than air, harder seat bottom.



Last edited by Duragrouch; 02-21-24 at 09:21 PM.
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