Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Day 18: Off The Train For Awhile

The Southwest Chief arrived about an hour early -- 38 hours or so after we left Chicago. I had forgot to properly set my alarm, but the conductor's call of "San Bernardino" at 5:30 AM was sufficient to jar us awake, and we bestirred ourselves, cleaned up, and packed everything away. We did not hurry off the train, for there were many other people ahead of us who were in a bigger hurry than us. Lisa took pictures of an Amtrak former F40 locomotive converted to a driving cab and baggage ("cabbage") car on an adjacent platform, and then we went inside.

This was my first time in LA Union Passenger Terminal, and I must say that I'm impressed. Oh, it's not perfect, but the station has been restored to something of its 1930s splendor, and as Lisa said, "Now this is a proper train station! They have tracks here!" The station has 12 tracks and looks well patronized, with long-distance trains like the Chief, short-haul intercity Pacific Surfliners to San Diego and Santa Barbara, and Metrolink commuter trains.

Luggage claim took a while, so we waited in the main hall. Unlike Chicago, the main hall is actually a useful waiting room. I went over to the ticket desk to pick up a fresh copy of the Coast Starlight's schedule for tomorrow. To my bemusement, on the rack of tourist-opportunity fliers for LA-area attractions was a (somewhat out-of-date) leaflet on New Orleans.

Claiming my one piece of checked luggage -- we won't have to check it tomorrow because the Superliner luggage racks are big enough to hold it -- Lisa and I made our way back through the station tunnels to the Red Line subway. Being a relatively new system, it's accessible, so we could use elevators to get to the platforms. Lisa said the station had a somewhat cold and sterile look about it. It's currently a proof-of-payment system, but signs point out that turnstiles are coming in the future.

Looking at the ticket vending machines, and observing that transfers from line to line aren't free, we decided that a $5 day pass (versus a $1.25 single one-line ride) was best for us. We assumed that we'd eventually get out for one more ride today, which would surely make the passes break even at least. We then made our way down to the Red Line platform and rode to 7th/Metro and transferred to the Blue Line for one stop to Pico. We wouldn't have done the transfer if (a) we hadn't already bought the day pass and (b) it was a very easy transfer -- easier than exiting at 7th/Metro. Our hotel is in between the two stops, marginally closer to Pico, so we were better off doing it this way.

Walking the three blocks to the Holiday Inn past the Staples Center and the LA Convention Center, we were delighted to learn that the hotel wasn't very full and could check us in right away, around 9 AM. We dumped our stuff in the room, and at Lisa's suggestion, headed down for breakfast as we'd not had anything on the train.

After breakfast, I got the computer running and worked my way through the hundreds of messages that had come in since we left Chicago (nothing critical, thank goodness, although there are a number of important things brewing) and Lisa took a long hot bath, sighing at the luxury. Then we spent the next several hours doing Not Much At All, although I did update my LJ with the last several days' entries. There are also some trip photos at travelswithkuma of the Lake Shore Limited trip from Schenectady to Chicago. We'll have some more photos from the Chief later.

The less-than-39-hour trip from Chicago to Los Angeles seemed to go by very quickly. While flying is obviously much faster, taking the train sure beats driving. I don't think we could possibly make that trip at the average speed of nearly 60 mph at which we traveled if we drove. After all, we'd have to stop to eat now and then, let alone sleep or use the restroom.

In a little while, Lisa and I will bestir ourselves from our nice hotel room and decide how to spend the rest of the day. But I don't expect anything too adventurous. After all, our train for Oregon leaves at 10:15 tomorrow morning, which means we have to be out of here early enough to get back down to Union Station at least a half-hour or so before that.
Tags: amtrak, lisa, trains, travel

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