Grand Tour 2017 was planned to accomplish various things. First, we wanted to reverse the route of travel on various major Amtrak Western routes. We wanted to spend more time in Reno. And I wanted to visit Alaska — the final state of the 50 US states I needed to visit to be able to say I’d been to them all. When planning Amtrak travel, one must, above all things, remain flexible, and our Semper Gumby was stretched on this trip.
Remember the tornadoes and heavy rains in Northeast Texas and Arkansas at the end of April? In addition to severe property damage and flooding, railroad tracks were washed out in numerous places. We boarded our Texas Eagle and it departed on time. Everything seemed normal until we neared Fort Worth and the announcement came over the system that everyone would be detraining in Fort Worth and would be bussed to their final destination or Little Rock, Arkansas. In Little Rock, we’d pick up the train again. Okay. Sounds fine. Amtrak will make it right.
In Seattle several years ago when the train was delayed, Amtrak got Subway dinner boxes for everyone, including coach passengers. I thought that was a nice gesture. This time, the bus stopped and everyone got to purchase their own dinner. I was less impressed. After meandering the back roads of Texas for many hours, and then the back roads of Arkansas, we took a tour of Little Rock while the bus drivers searched for the train station. Once they found it and after a long delay (and no passenger train in sight), they told us we were being taken to a train yard about a hundred miles north, and the train would be waiting for us there.
In one of my strangest Amtrak experiences, the train was, indeed, waiting for us. It came to life as we arrived, and the crew did a wonderful job of helping everyone get on board. Unsure they would actually remember our checked baggage, I grabbed it from the bus, and we loaded it on the train with us.
We arrived in Chicago several hours late, which nixed our plans for dinner with friends. Our motel room was waiting for us, though, and I got a great night’s sleep. In the morning, I called Amtrak and they initiated reimbursement for the portion of our trip where we did not have the use of the bedroom on our train. Refreshed, we headed back to Union Station to catch the Empire Builder to Seattle. The Empire Builder left on time and arrived in Seattle close to on time — a completely uneventful ride, but very pleasant. As we approached Seattle, I received the email I’d been dreading — the Coast Starlight from Seattle to Sacramento was cancelled. We’d have to find our own transportation for that leg of the trip.
Upon arrival in Seattle, I went to the ticket counter to initiate the refund for the Coast Starlight leg of the trip. After picking up our rental car, we drove to the Greyhound station and purchased two seats to Sacramento. Greyhound said they had comfortable seats, more leg room, and electrical outlets at each seat. Mr. L said, “It has to be more comfortable than that bus from Fort Worth to Little Rock.