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Rec.Bicycles Frequently Asked Questions Posting Part 1/5
Section - 4.7 More information on Amtrak and Bicycles

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Date:    Fri, 07 Nov 97 13:31:13 -0800

     In the summer of 1997 a group of us decided to take Amtrak to the 
     northern Californian town of Dunsmuir. This is the last stop before 
     Oregon and we wanted to ride from the California boarder to Sacramento 
     through the Central Valley since we had never heard of anyone doing 
     that before.
     
     After several calls to Amtrak we finally found out that we could take 
     the train from Fremont to Dunsmuir with only one transfer in 
     Sacramento. But since neither Fremont nor Dunsmuir had passenger 
     services (which allowed baggage loading and unloading) we couldn't 
     take the bicycles with us.
     
     We made other plans for the bicycle transport. We had a sag wagon 
     going up there but most people would probably opt just to send the 
     bike via Greyhound which is cheap, reliable and goes more places than 
     the train does.
     
     The train was a bit late at Fremont but we finally got out only a few 
     minutes off of their schedule. The view and the trip to Sacramento 
     were very nice. The trains are extremely comfortable in the seating 
     position though the overhead luggage section isn't suitable for normal 
     sized carryon stuff. This line had bicycle carriers that would accept 
     ONLY single bikes. Tamdems would definitely not fit.
     
     The connecting train was a real problem. It was 2 hours late and the 
     Sacramento station is something built around 1925 or so and extremely 
     uncomfortable, drafty and cold at night. Moreover, Amtrak personnel 
     generally know nothing at all about what is going on, what the delays 
     are or when you can expect the train to arrive. This isn't because 
     they are stupid or don't want to be helpful, it is because no one 
     knows what is going on and the railroad won't tell them.
     
     There was another bike rider there who was going between major 
     stations and so was loading his bike into a box provided by Amtrak. 
     However, they had no tape and it was late evening and there was no 
     place for him to get tape. I don't know how he resolved the problem 
     since he was gone when we got back from dinner. But if you intend to 
     take your bike on Amtrak be aware of this possible problem.
     
     Amtrak loads passengers into cars in some manner that keeps most of 
     the passengers getting off at any specific station in the same car so 
     that it is easier for the conductor to remind you to get off. The 
     problem with this is that the more popular stations will crowd some 
     cars while others will be almost empty.
     
     If you want a good view the upper levels are best, but that is also 
     the level though which the children run continuously fore and aft as 
     the train is traveling. Because of this you will get no sleep 
     whatsoever if you seat yourself at either end. The doors are 
     continuously opening and closing and have air mechanisms that are very 
     annoying.
     
     Instead sit near the center of the car. The lower level seating is 
     very quiet in this regard though there is more track and traffic 
     noise. I would sit on the lower levels in the future since our trip 
     was almost exclusively at night and there was nothing to see anyway.
     
     We had other members of the tour arriving the next day but that train 
     was 8 hours late and no one knew where it was stopped. This was a 
     nightmare for the people involved and it took the sag wagon away from 
     the ride for the entire day trying to recover these riders. Without 
     the sag wagon to wait for and sag these late riders up, we would have 
     had to lose a day of the tour and we would therefore have had to 
     reroute the trip missing the most scenic portion of the trip.
     
     Be aware that while there are some advantages to taking Amtrak, there 
     are a lot of disadvantages and you cannot count on time schedules 
     being kept. I would always allow at least an extra day for travel to 
     or from an event knowing what I know now.
     
     We had planned on a day to recover from the trip and booked rooms at a 
     local motel for the day after the trip and that was definitely the 
     right thing to do. The owner of the motel also allowed us to use their 
     garage to store the 15 bikes after they were reassembled from 
     transportation mode.

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Top Document: Rec.Bicycles Frequently Asked Questions Posting Part 1/5
Previous Document: 4.6 Touring Europe Guide
Next Document: 4.8 Getting Weather Information

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