Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

If One Must Travel Today...

...there are far worse days to do so than by riding the Amtrak Capitol from Fremont to Sacramento. Of course, the sense of relief I had when I got on the train and knew that I was free from the frantic work demand for a few hours (no internet on the train) made it even better.

I boarded the 12:49 train bound for Sacramento, and since I have some experience of traveling on the day before Thanksgiving, quickly bunged my bag into a luggage rack and headed upstairs in search of a seat. None of the coveted "corner singles" (the four single seats located at the corners of the car) were available, so I headed forward. There, in the forward coach, was a lovely single seat, into which I dropped my briefcase and computer bag to lay claim on it. I then went back and dragged my suitcase upstairs, then to my coach, then back downstairs to the lower level luggage rack.

The Capitol Corridor has done a decent job on the transportation "Black Wednesday" in trying to get every one of their coaches out on the line. This particular train was in the relatively odd formation of two cafe cars with four coaches in between them. The coaches did fill up and people did end up sitting in the cafe car, but it did not get as crowded as the trip I made a few years ago where the aisles and stairwells were SRO to the point that nobody could move anywhere.

After getting my ticket lifted, I stepped into the cafe car and bought lunch, which was effectively also breakfast because I'd not eaten anything except a banana today. I'd been working very frantically on an urgent project. (I'm actually working on it right now as I compose this message; it running on the modeling machine in San Mateo and I'm writing while I wait for the next job to finish. Yes, there are people waiting for me to turn this in so that they can spend their Thanksgiving Day and the weekend following working like mad to respond to a client request.) I felt so relaxed when I sat down and ate my lunch while reading a book and not staring at a computer.

At Oakland Jack London Square, the train started to load up, and by Emeryville, the conductors had to keep making the announcements that "This is a very full train. No bags on seats, please! Make room for other passengers!") I felt smug. I felt even more smug when our train paralleled the interstates and I could see the large-scale backups. As we approached Davis around 3 PM, I could see the wall-to-wall traffic jam on I-80 eastbound, which looked like they must have stretched for more than ten miles — maybe clear back to Vacaville, for all I could tell. We breezed on by on the paralleling railroad at the track speed of 79 MPH.

An older couple joined the train at one of the Oakland/Emeryville/Berkeley stations, and I chatted with them a bit. The were from the Midwest and had never ridden the train in this area. They were very interested in my pointing out sights like the Mothball Fleet. When I made a comment in passing about listening to the train crews on my radio, they asked if I was a ham radio operator, and I said I was. They were, too, and the man got out his 2-meter handheld. Unfortunately, I was in such a rush to get away this morning that I forgot my radio, along with my list of what frequencies are used on this stretch of road. It's in the 160-161 MHz band, just above the 2m ham frequencies.

When we got to Sacramento, I didn't see Lisa. I asked the man if I could borrow his radio and called Lisa on the frequency that she and I conventionally use in such cases. She had just arrived in the station, so all was well. I thanked the man for his help, bade the couple a happy Thanksgiving, and walked into the station building, where Lisa was waiting for me.

Lisa said she heard people coming off the train complaining about the trip and saying they'd never ride the train again. I don't know what their problem is. Traveling today is generally a hassle no matter what, but this was the least-stressful and easiest way possible. And I didn't have to go through a porno-scanner or get groped by someone to get on the train. Not yet, at least. I'm sure that once the TSA drives everyone away from airports, they'll roll out their plans for scanners at all train stations, bus stations, subway portals, etc. Think I'm kidding? I'm not. I wish I was.

After Lisa collected me from the station, instead of driving to Yuba City, we went to a new-for-us hotel: the Staybridge Suites in north Sacramento. Since the former Holiday Inn Express in Yuba City was de-franchised, I have less incentive to stay up there, especially as Priority Club is running a promotion that for the rest of this year gives me an incentive to maximize stays, not nights.

We like this hotel. Lisa said, "I could live here; it's bigger that the trailer in Mehama." Of course, these are long-stay hotels where most people are setting up housekeeping for a week or a month at a time, but that doesn't mean you can't stay for one night. Having a fridge and kitchen as well as a separate bedroom from the living room is very nice.

Lisa appreciated not having to drive much more today, as it was a long, cold, slow slog over OR-58/US-97 last night, and was so cold that she wasn't able to get much sleep in the pickup — only two hours, which was only about two fewer than what I got last night, but she was doing more physically demanding work than I was.

Now I hope I can polish off the stuff from the Day Jobbe so I don't have to fret about it tomorrow and can instead relax with my family.
Tags: family, hotels, trains, travel
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