Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

Advance Planning

We're taking the train to Chicon 7 next August, and using the pile of Amtrak Guest Rewards points to buy bedrooms out and back. Because sleepers book up way in advance, particularly on one leg of the trip we're taking when there is only one through sleeper (and thus only five bedrooms), I booked the trip now, only a few days after the trains went on sale. (You can only book 11 months in advance. Contrast this with Japan, where you can only book sleepers a month in advance, and must do so in person at a station.)

You can't book AGR sleeper travel online; you have to call and speak to an agent, which I did this morning. We're going out on the California Zephyr and back on the Texas Eagle, the return trip of which has the most nights on board of any Amtrak train.

Because there is no long-term parking at Reno's Amtrak station and we haven't yet determined whether there is any way to arrange for some sort of "stay-park-ride" at one of the many nearby hotels, we're actually going to start the trip back in the Bay Area, driving to Fremont and parking there, then taking the Capitol up to Emeryville the night before the main trip starts and staying at the Hilton Garden Inn on Hilton points. That hotel is walking distance from the Emeryville Amtrak station, and now that we know that they serve breakfast to the sleeping car passengers upon the 9 AM departure, we won't have to get up extra early to get breakfast before checking out and walking to the station.

AMT 6 California Zephyr
Lv EMY 9:10 AM Sunday, August 26
Ar CHI 2:50 PM Tuesday, August 28

On the afternoon of the day we leave, about an hour out of Reno, we'll be watching out for the house as we pass through Fernley. I'll have my birthday on board as we pass through the Rockies on August 27. This will be our second trip on the Zephyr, but the first time we'll get to see the Colorado River canyon, as on the Montreal trip the train was diverted on the northern "I-80" route, which had a different set of scenery.

We'll have one full day in Chicago before Worldcon starts. We haven't decided what to do that day yet. There are, of course, many options. We might go riding on the Chico Metra system while taking pictures again to see if another officious conductor thinks Photography Is Illegal,

Having decided to come back on the Texas Eagle, we were somewhat limited on departure options. The through sleeper on that train that is swapped into the Sunset Limited at San Antonio continuing on to Los Angeles is only on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday departures. (The Texas Eagle is daily, but the connecting Sunset Limited is only three days/week.) Fortunately, the train leaves in the early afternoon, and Union Station isn't far from the hotel, so leaving the morning after the last day of Worldcon won't be so bad.

AMT 421 Texas Eagle
Lv CHI 1:45 PM Tuesday, September 4
Ar SAT 9:55 PM Wednesday, September 5
Lv SAT 5:40 AM Thursday, September 6
Ar LAX 8:30 AM Friday, September 7

So we'll be going to San Antonio, site of the following year's Worldcon, immediately after Chicon 7. This is a through sleeping car, which means that at San Antonio it gets switched out of the train from Chicago and is attached to the train from New Orleans that arrives in the wee hours of the morning. In theory, passengers are allowed to visit San Antonio during the eight hours the car is parked there, but the timing is such that it's probably not worth it.

We currently are planning on spending a couple of nights at Los Angeles (using points at Holiday Inn) before taking the Coast Starlight up to San Jose. That's a day trip, so we'll buy regular coach seats later. (Using points to buy coach seats is silly, thanks to the structure of AGR's point-redemption system.) Then we'll stay at San Jose for the night (points again, either at the Crowne Plaza or Hilton), and the next morning I'll catch a morning Capitol up to Fremont, collect my van, drive back to San Jose to get Lisa and the luggage, and we'll drive back to Fernley.

I still have to book the hotel nights using points from Holiday Inn and Hilton, but those are a bit less constrained than the train nights. Because we're starting the trip at a staffed station, we can wait to pick up the tickets until the day of travel (probably the night before, when we get to Emeryville), and that's good because if we have to make any changes, we won't have to send the tickets back; also, we don't have to worry about losing the tickets over the next year, which was a real concern of mine on the Montreal trip. I'm glad to get that booking out of the way.
Tags: trains, worldcon
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