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Amtrak Southwest Chief
Another Travelogue of Steve Grande
Fullerton, California to La Plata, Missouri Round-Trip
Monday, July 23 - Sunday, Jul 29, 2007

Items To Be Expanded:
OC Train Travel Meetup Group and Departure
Bob Manning
Homemade Burritos from Mike & Jane Narro of El Amigo Catering & More, c (505)328-8022, c (505)328-0721, Handmade Indian Jewelry, Souvenirs, T-Shirts, SWChief Guidebook
Car 0430 Plumbing Problem
August Sebastiani Country Cabernet Sauvignon, A Dry California Table Wine, Vinted and Bottled by Sebastiani Cellars, Livermore, California, Alcohol 13.0% By Volume, Amtrak Denver "Desert Wind" 8/26/97 (Might be 1/26/97)
Lost WiFi at 1:28 PM in Jackson? NM ?
Dinner Reservations: Henry; Door & Curtain open

TUE JUL 24 2007 11:45 PM MT

After riding Amtrak for 10 years and more than a quarter of a million miles, I can honestly say that this was the roughest ride I've ever had on Amtrak! I know the #1 complaint about Amtrak is how late the trains often run, but there is a limit as to how much effort Amtrak should put into avoiding a late train. We must have been going at top speed for most of this trip. We arrived into every smoking stop with plenty of time to spare. Many of the station that are usually a quick stop and go, we arrived early enough to spend 10 minutes at the station. But the sacrifice to running early was an unbelievably rough ride.

In past travelogues, I mentioned how amazing it was that cups and bottles will just sit on a very shallow cup holder and never spill. Not on this trip! Bottles were constantly flying off the shelf and beverages spilling everywhere! I've never had such a trip in all my years of riding Amtrak! Usually I don't bring a spare pair of pants with me, but I fortunately did on this trip. Earlier in the day, my beverage jumped out of its cup and landed all over my table in my roomette, fortunately missing my notebook computer. But this time, my beverage ended up jumping out of the cup and running all over the table, my seat and my pants! As I said, I've never experienced a ride so rough that it would cause things in the room to be flying all over. There were numerous times on this trip that we hit a rough spot so fast that I thought the entire train was going to derail.

I'm the last one to want to rag on Amtrak. Everyone at TrainWeb, all our travel correspondents, try very hard to encourage people to give Amtrak a try. But it is a bit discouraging when we know this will be a first time experience for many who will mumble those infamouse words "Never again!" Would I have ever boarded Amtrak a second time if this was my first Amtrak experience?

I know it is a bit rough being in Room 9 at the end of the car, but I've ridden in Room 9 or 10 on many trips, and the Family Room which is right by the trucks is my very favorite room on the train. My gut feel is the Engineer was pushing it too hard to keep this train on time, or maybe to keep it running early. Can you believe in a travelogue from years ago my kids built a house of cards on the train and made a game out of seeing how soon the train would shake and topple the cards? Sometimes it would take several minutes. Not on this train. I'm not sure how people in the dining car managed to get their drinks to their mouths without spilling them all over themselves. I certainly had great difficulty.

SAT JUL 28 2007 05:51 PM MT

I'm sorry to report that the latest round of Superliner refurbising is not holding up. If you've been consistently reading all of my travelogues, then you probably know how I raved about the newly refurbished Superliner I Sleeping Cars. Unfortunately, it may have been similar to painting over rust.

Once again, I am in one of the refurbished Amtrak Superliner I Sleeping Cars. The wood paneling is very nice. But I've heard from some Sleeping Car Attendants (not the ones on this train) that it is not as soundproof as the old wall coverings. Some passengers have been complaining that they can hear everything in the next room.

I still love the sink modifications. The basin is very deep and never splashes back at you. The gooseneck water faucet is so much better than the old flat style. The faucets are the greatest improvement. You press one down and it produces a flow of water for quite a few seconds. The old style only produced water while you held it down. It gave a whole new literal meaning to "one hand washes the other." You literally could only put one hand under the water at a time as the other hand had to be holding down the lever to make the water run. The new faucets seem to have the reverse problem. They will still be running after I'm all done washing my hands and walk away from a running stream of water. It doesn't run for too long, but I'm sure it uses up the tanks holding capacity a lot quicker than the old style. But overall, the new sinks are a definite improvement over the old style.

The redesign of the shower/toilet in the Deluxe Rooms has added tremendous more space without taking away from any of the space in the room. That is a really nice feature! But, the one thing that I mentioned before is a real annoyance, is they took away ALL of the clothes hooks in the room when they refurbished it. In my travelogues from years ago I mentioned how happy I was that there were hook everywhere you looked in the room! I kept discovering hooks in new places that I hadn't looked before. I really appreciated that as I had a lot to hang up! I like to put my hat somewhere, change into shorts and hang up my pants somewhere. I'd usually use up the 2 clothes hangers in the closets with the 2 shirts that I'd be wearing during my one-way Amtrak ride so that they wouldn't be all wrinkled when I put them on. I'd use the hooks around the room for my jacket and pants. If I was travelling with another person, all those extra hooks were a real big help. Now, there isn't a single hook anywhere in the entire room! Not even one on the back of the shower/toilet door! I don't really like that change.

But lets get to the paint over rust comment. When I borded the train in La Plata, I found the upper bunk already down in my room, Room A. That made sense as my friend Ron Carpenter was supposed to be with me on this trip. He didn't make it, so I'm traveling alone. So, it made sense they set the bed up for him. But then I noticed that the lower bed wasn't made up yet. That didn't make any sense. Eventually my Sleeping Car Attendant came by and told me that they were not able to fold the upper bed up into the wall before the train left Chicago. She said the maintenance crew tried and the Conductor tried, but nobody was able to put it up.

I looked at it and it was an awful strange mechanism, obvioiusly not originally manufacutred into the car. After the Car Attendant left the room, I examined the entire mechanism very carefully. The redesign was inventive, but reminded me of things put together with strings and chewing gum. There were lots of parts that were made in a machine shop, with big screws hanging out everywhere. This is technology that does work. If you look at an automobile, a washing machine, a radio, or just about anything from about 50 years ago, you will find screws, nuts and bolts everywhere on it. It made those items really easy to open up and service. But, you will notice that there are almost no visible screws, nuts and bolts on the surface of modern day automobiles and applieances. Maybe take to an extreme with the latest iPods and iPhones where it doesn't even seem possible to change a battery.

But, the Amtrak shops had come up with a way to get the worn out fold down mechanism of these upper beds to work again. It seems to involve really big and strong bungy cords, custom machined blocks of metal, and giant wood screws hanging out of giant metal plates. Anyway, I was able to figure out how the rod holding the upper bunk was supposed to retract and managed to get it to retract after a little bit of work. I folded up the upper bed, but it would only latch on one side. I looked carefully at the side that latched properly and saw that only a stub was left of the original latching mechanism. A giant wood screw was fastened into this stub, but only the very tip of the screw fit into the metal plate. The head of the wood screw would fit into a grove to hold up the weight of the uppper bed. I looked at the other side of the bed, and all that was there was the stub of the metal plate. Evidently, the giant wood screw had fallen out and there was no way for that end of the bed to latch onto anything. Thus, I put up the bed, but the entire weight of the bed was supported by just one side and the bed wiggled, squeeked and squeeled all night.

The reading lamp above the part of the bed where I lay down at night and read is broken. The other 3 reading lamps in the room work just fine, but I don't need those. Ooops! I spoke to soon. Just to check, I turned the one on above my seat and it flashed once and won't turn on anymore. So, I'll amend that to say the other 2 reading lamps work.

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