Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

Getting Into Training

Next Saturday is National Train Day, a day for getting out and riding trains and participating in train-related events going on around the country. I found myself thinking about an unused Amtrak ticket from last November and what I could do with the value of the full-fare ticket. Looking at timetables and costs of tickets, I discovered that my ticket (originally a Bakersfield-Oakland ticket I intended to use as part of a combined road-rail trip with Lisa that we later canceled) could be used to buy tickets Sacramento-Bakersfield-Oakland-Fremont with only a little bit left over that I would have to pony up. Combined with a Fremont-Sacramento ticket I also have sitting around unused, I put together a sort of circle trip for next weekend. It would, however, require me to make a trip to Oakland today as well.

On Saturday morning, I'll catch the 10:19 AM Capitol train from Fremont to Sacramento, where I can have a look at the NTD displays planned for the California State Railroad Museum, have lunch in Old Sacramento, then catch the 4:55 PM San Joaquin for Bakersfield, arriving just after 10 PM. I'll overnight there, then catch the 10:05 AM train for Oakland, with about an hour wait there for a Capitol for the last short leg back to Fremont, getting home shortly after 6 PM. (If the San Joaquin is on time and Capitol #741 is more than nine minutes late, as it was today, I can make a train-to-train connection and get back an hour earlier.)

I have a minor concern about getting back and forth between the station and the nearest Holiday Inn Express -- it's about three miles -- but I reckon I can get a taxi when I get in on Saturday night, and I don't consider walking three miles is that big a deal in the morning, as long as I pack relatively lightly. (Although it's a little tricky packing light when you carry a CPAP machine with you. I might just decide to go without for one night.)

Much of this will be "new mileage" for me. I've gone between Fremont and Sacramento many times, but SAC-BFD and the BFD-Martinez section of the San Joaquin are new to me. One of these days, I need to get a rail map and actually mark off how many lines over which I've traveled. For instance, last year's Montreal trip included relatively rare mileage because the California Zephyr was diverted over the northerly route that does not normally host passenger trains these days.

I called Amtrak and made the necessary reservation. Because this is a ticket exchange, it had to be done at a staffed station, so I had to go up to Oakland Jack London Square. (I could have also gone to San Jose, but I had an existing OKJ-FMT ticket in hand, so it cost me less to go north instead of south.) If my northbound train was on time and if it didn't take them more than five minutes to do the transaction, I could actually jump right back on a southbound train at OKJ; however, neither of those things happened. The north (east) bound Capitol held for signals due to a freight train at Niles Junction, so the return train was actually sitting in the platform when I arrived. There was no line in the station, but the agent was completely befuddled by my request. It took her and two other agents about fifteen minutes to figure out how to redeem the old ticket against the new reservation and then charge me for the remaining odd bit. Although I expected this, it was still a bit annoying. Of course, I never come to a staffed station for anything but difficult issues because simple ones can usually be handled from a ticket vending machine.

After sorting out the train tickets, I had about 90 minutes before the next train back toward Fremont, so I wandered around the Jack London Square area. I walked past the former presidential yacht Potomac and thought about joining the free tour of the lightship Relief, but it was choice between that or having lunch, and I picked lunch. The restaurants at Jack London Square proper were too pricey for what I had in mind, but a block away there was Everett & Jones BBQ that had fine beef links with a hot sauce that was actually hot, and I enjoyed that while listening to the Giants finish off the Rockies. After that, I walked back to the Amtrak station through the Warehouse district, imagining what it was like when the street was full of railroad tracks and the warehouses were actually warehouses rather than artist loft apartments and pricey offices.

My return train was slightly late, having been caught in a rail traffic jam, but it was not that big a deal. I picked up a coffee from World Grounds cafe a block from the station, boarded my train, and roughly 40 minutes later was back in Fremont.

So yes, I took a train trip in order to take a train trip. Amtrak's marketing, and in particular the double and triple Amtrak Guest Reward credit I will get for these trips today and next weekend, is working. I need to accumulate enough miles to be able to take the train (30K points each way for a bedroom; I'm more than halfway there) to Chicago in 2012, after all.
Tags: trains
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