Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Worldcon Trip Day 1: TrainCon Begins

[This is the first of a series of entries written during our trip from the Bay Area to Chicago aboard Amtrak's California Zephyr, where there is no internet connection. During significant portions of our trip, there wasn't even cell phone service and the only way to get to where we were was by rail, raft, or maybe helicopter.]

Although Lisa and I were capable of walking the 1500 m or so to the train station — after all, we’d done so yesterday — Lisa had been coughing all night long and not feeling especially strong, so when a taxi in search of a fare pulled up in front of the hotel just as we were coming out the door, I decided to take it. We therefore got to Emeryville Station maybe 20 or 30 minutes earlier than expected, and that’s just as well.

Based on our trip three years ago, Lisa and were not making a special effort to get breakfast, because when we boarded the California Zephyr in August 2009, sleeping car passengers were sent straight to the dining car for a special breakfast seating. I was annoyed, therefore, to see signs in the lobby of Emeryville station advising all passengers (including first class like me) to purchase breakfast before boarding, as there was no longer a breakfast service of any sort. Phooey! Worse, I’d mis-advised my friends also riding the train. I bought a breakfast sandwich and a coffee from the stand in the lobby of the station and joined Lisa, Chris Garcia, Linda, and the Harrigans outside the station.

The Coast Starlight made its station stop and headed south, and maybe fifteen minutes later our California Zephyr trainset rolled into Emeryville. This being the origin station, boarding was relatively unhurried. We stowed our heavier bags downstairs and went up to Bedroom D on car 0631 to get settled. Within a couple of minutes of the scheduled 9:10 AM departure time, our train smoothly pulled out of the station bound for Chicago.

Lisa and I had prepared special signs to post in the windows of our sleeping compartment and those of the other Chicon-bound passengers that said “All Aboard for Worldcon” and the Chicon logo. We located Chris and Linda in a roomette on our car, and Diane Osborne was diagonally opposite them. Diane had apparently had Too Much Adventure and only just barely made the train, but she did make it. The Harrigans were in the next car aft of us, with Little Harold getting a roomette of his own. España Sheriff was originally planning on taking the trip as well, I thought, riding coach, but apparently changed plans late in the game and flew. Too bad; I bet we could have sneaked her back to the First Class section later and at least paid for her meals.

Not too long after getting under way, Lisa and I went to the lounge car where Chris and Linda were setting up to play cards. They taught us how to play Guillotine, and we enjoyed playing while we rolled along the bay, over the Benicia Bridge, and across the flatlands to Sacramento. This was my first trip through the newly-relocated tracks at Sacramento, where, in order to make it more convenient for freight trains (and partially funded by Union Pacific), they’ve moved the passenger platforms 500 m away from the passenger station.

There were a total of eight “members” of what I dubbed “TrainCon” and we soon fell into a pattern of occupying two four-person tables in the lounge car, in what I took to calling the Con Suite. From Sacramento to Reno, volunteers from the California State Railroad Museum provide narration of the historical Donner Pass railroad route, but it was difficult to follow thanks to “George.” That was Lisa’s name for the guy who got on at Davis and dumped his bags into one of the lounge car tables and acted very aggrieved when the conductor told him he couldn’t do that and would have to take things back to his coach seat. After stowing his bags, he came back to the lounge and camped out in a table and proceeded to drink. A lot. And to accumulate other people who were also drinking a lot. They got loud. When the CSRM narration would come on, they would get louder and drown it out. It’s not as though I hadn’t heard it before, but none of the others except Lisa in our group had heard it. I tried to fill in as best I could when they could hear me.

The trip through the Sierras was lovely as usual, and augured of good things to come on the rest of our trip. Everyone seemed to enjoy the sights, and we entered Reno in high spirits, waved at the Atlantis Hotel (I’d worn my Reno in 2011 t-shirt in honor of today’s major intermediate stop) to the south as we passed about 5 PM, and got ready to (briefly) show off our house to our friends.
Tags: amtrak, lisa, traincon, trains, travel, worldcon

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