Trip 1: Amtrak from Los Angeles to Vancouver

Union Station Los Angeles

Well, at least it was pretty! When Amtrak announced that the Coast Starlight would be 15 minutes late, I took the extra time to walk from the Metropolitan Lounge (for Business Class and Sleeper Class patrons) to the main food court and shop for a few snacks. Once on the train, the next announcement moved us from 15 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes late. Fifty seven passengers were on a train still trying to get to Los Angeles. Amtrak decided that the Coast Starlight would wait for that train to arrive.

California by rail

According to Amtrak’s official website, waiting for freight trains to pass is the largest cause of delay for passengers. Freight train interference — a dispatching decision made by a freight railroad to delay an Amtrak passenger train so their freight trains can operate first — caused 700,000 minutes of delay in 2020. The freight industry simply ignores a fifty year old law mandating them to provide Amtrak with preference over freight. Amtrak is unable to enforce the law.

Enjoy the views, whenever you can.

And so, if you have no where to really be, if you have enough money to purchase a sleeper class ticket (that includes three meals a day and a bed), Amtrak is the perfect way to travel long distance across the USA. On the other hand, if you’re in coach or business class … you’re going to be a day late and a dollar short. During my 36 hour trip (that turned into 40 hours), passengers decided to use paper towel, once the toilet paper ran out, in the restroom. They could have push the button and notify the attendant …. Naw! Folks opted to flush paper towel and return to their seats. Hey, I told you the views were nice.

Oregon by train

So, by the time we reached Oregon, our train car restrooms were all closed. Turns out that would be the least of our worries. The train was packed and there wouldn’t be much breathing room until Portland. The sleeper class passengers were fine and happily eating and drinking in the dining car. The business class passengers were each given one complimentary bottle of water. That’s it. On the rare occasion when a dining room table was free, an announcement was made for business class. If you were quick, you could purchase lunch ($25.00) or dinner ($45.00). This rarely happened on our way from Los Angeles to Seattle. The rest of the eighty or so business class passengers had to purchase their meals from the café car, in coach. And, on this trip, Amtrak did not offer food discount vouchers for business class travelers.

Washington by train

Midway through Oregon, most of the food in the Cafe car was gone. For some reason, the train couldn’t get restocked. The announcements about the lack of food options were more frequent than those about the delays. Finally, somewhere near Portland, it was announced that the train was over two hours behind. Would we be able to make up the time? Would the Café car be restocked? Would the toilets in the business class car be fixed? Of course … NOT. As we reached Washington, the Coast Starlight was now more than three hours behind. My 9:00 pm connection bus from Seattle to Vancouver was scheduled to leave two hours before I would arrive. Still … the views from the train were stunning.

Sit back and relax

After almost 40 hours, the Coast Starlight pulled into the King Street Station, in Seattle. A representative for Amtrak greeted us at the door. I asked about the connection service. The 9:00 pm bus to Vancouver was still waiting (with passengers who arrived on time) at the front of the building. We waited in Los Angeles and now the favor was being returned in Seattle. I quickly made my way to the bus. Once there, the driver asked for my ArriveCAN receipt, in order to check me off his passenger list. Huh? You mean that app I downloaded, tried to fill out, gave up on, and then forgot about even having? The driver was amazing. He said we would figure it out at Customs and told me to get on the bus.

Late check in PLUS!

According to the Canadian government, you must use the ArriveCAN app to provide mandatory travel and public health information, before and after your entry into Canada. Speaking of things mandatory, after a four hour train delay, my mandatory list now includes Internet service on the connecting bus from Seattle to Vancouver. Thank goodness for my new GloCalMe hotspot. I hopped on the bus, connected to the internet, and completed the ArriveCAN form, well before we hit the USA /Canada border. Then, just like that, we were going through customs. I, of course, forgot to ask to have my passport stamped. Yes … fam, I’m a travel blogger.

This will do!

The connection bus dropped us off at the Pacific Central Station in Vancouver. The station was closed. And so, while hipsters made their calls to Uber, I stood under the taxi sign (after calling the number on the sign). Five minutes later, I was picked up and on my way. It cost $10.00 (Canadian). Finally, around 3:00 am, I was putting “late check in” to the test. My harbor front hotel was more than up for the challenge. The long awaited GGT “next” adventure had begun and the first leg (like this very tired travel blogger) was put to bed! Many thanks for those of you waiting for this “next” adventure to start.

Next up —-Mexico City. XOXO GGT

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