Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

The Pause Before the Train

I got up early enough this morning in Yuba City that Lisa stayed at the hotel (check-out time 11 AM) while I ran off to do errands.

The first errand I needed to do involved signing paperwork at the Bank of America branch where I maintain a safe deposit box mainly used by my nephew, who is the specified co-signer on it. (I need to go re-sign the signature card now and then.) I also had to deliver some unrelated papers to my nephew for my mother's benefit. When I got to my nephew's (and sister's) house, I discovered that due to a miscommunication, they weren't there! However, there was a Plan B: I went back to the bank, accessed the safe deposit box, and put my mother's papers in the box. I then left a phone message for my nephew telling him what I'd done and went back to the hotel. Lisa and I headed out around 11, but just before leaving, I called my mother and told her where the papers were and that my nephew needed to collect them for her.

(I pause here to explain that my nephew lives in his mother's house in Yuba City. My mother lives up twisty roads in the Yuba County foothills, and usually coordinates her trips down to YC to coincide with mine, but was unable to do so this time, so I was leaving things for her with her grandson. It's a little complex, but we are used to it.)

Somewhere south of Yuba City I got a call from my nephew apologizing for the crossed wires. I told him that maybe he should head over to the bank, which closes at 1 PM on Saturday, and get his grandmother's papers out of the box so that she could get them when she comes down tomorrow for a regular visit. He said he would do that. Issue resolved, all is well.

We got to Emeryville just before 2 PM and moved into the Hilton Garden Inn for one night. This was the all-ashore-that's-going-ashore moment, as anything we aren't taking to Detroit with us needed to stay in the van.

My train ticket from Fremont was for the 4:56 PM Capitol, and while it's relatively easy to use that unreserved coach ticket on a later train, it's difficult to use it on an earlier one, so there was no point in rushing to Fremont. Lisa stayed at the hotel while I headed to the South Bay to deal with some small errands there that were lower priority, but sensible to get out of the way while I had a couple of hours of leeway.

After these errands, I ended up at my favored mechanic's shop, where he was working on Saturday to try and deal with his backlog. He listened to the engine and could easily hear the problem. Off the top of his head, he speculates that I've got a sticking valve. It could get pricey, but not more than I can manage, thank goodness. I warned him that there will be times in the next few days that I will be out of telephone contact because the train goes where there are no cell phone towers, but that if he leaves a message, I'll get back to him as soon as I'm back in the land of multiple coverage bars.

I almost cut things too fine. I could see the headlight of the approaching train as I walked up to Centerville Station in Fremont. The trip up to Emeryville was routine. By the time I got back to the hotel, I was very hungry and Lisa and I walked back over to the Public Market to get dinner, then walked back to the hotel.

The eastbound California Zephyr, Amtrak train #6, is scheduled for a 9:10 AM departure tomorrow morning, but I don't think it will be leaving on time. When I checked at Emeryville than the Zephyr still does not serve breakfast on the morning of departure — it used to do so years ago, but stopped some time ago — the agent warned me that today's westbound train #5 was running so late that it probably will delay the outbound departure tomorrow morning. That's because today's inbound trainset is turned and forms tomorrow's outbound consist. When I checked after dinner, I found that today's westbound #5 is running more than twelve hours late and is currently predicted to arrive in Emeryville shortly after 4 AM tomorrow morning. It is very unlikely that they will get that consist cleaned, supplied, turned, and ready to depart by 9 AM tomorrow. Unfortunately, we probably won't know just how late it will start until we get up tomorrow morning.

On the bright side, it now seems likely that we will have time to get a fairly leisurely breakfast before rolling over to Emeryville Station tomorrow. Of course, a late start means a late arrival in Chicago on Tuesday, but that's why we have booked a one-night layover there both directions to/from Detroit.

Amtrak is at the mercy of the host railroads, and with an improving economy flooding the tracks with more goods, the slightest disruption can knock the People Train (as one of the Union Pacific dispatchers on the Nevada Subdivision calls it) out of its slot and make it continue to lose time on its entire trip. We like trains, but except in a few corridors like the Capitol Corridor between San Jose/Oakland and Sacramento/Auburn, riding the train requires significant patience.
Tags: amtrak, family, lisa, nasfic, travel
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