Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Amtrak to Visit My Parents

Last Sunday night I boarded Amtrak in Ottumwa, Iowa, and arrived in Oroville, California, via the Amtrak shuttle bus, at 6:45 P.M. on Tuesday evening--around 46 hours. The train was on time, but the bus was 45 minutes late. Not bad, though, considering the train can be hours late.

I packed three bags: my folding bicycle (Montague Navigator), my bicycle commuter trailer (Burley Travoy), and my underseat bag. The travel with the folding bicycle went smoothly. No one on Amtrak blinked at the oversized bag, although in Sacramento, the electric cart shuttle driver from the tracks to the terminal asked, "What's that?!" at the Montague bag. He said I had to help him move it, which I gladly did.

My bags at Sacramento Amtrak, waiting for the shuttle bus
Traveling by Amtrak is not for those who are focused on the destination. The journey is part of the reason for traveling by train, in addition to lower ticket costs.

Sleeping through the Midwest, morning brought the Rockies and snow, including some passing views of ski resorts. There's something very satisfying about riding through the high mountains in winter, looking at the snowy vistas while eating a meal in the dining car.

Rocky Mountain winding gorges and tunnels

The journey's  panoramas--quality over speed
The trip changes from forests to desert
The second night of sleeping covers much of the desert. Sleeping nights in the coach seat, it helped to have both seats available, but it's still mostly a process of sleeping 1.5 to 2.5 hours, then waking and needing a new position. Sleeping isn't the high point of Amtrak, but I chose coach over a sleeper car just to be frugal--and I woke up feeling pretty good. After all, lots of time is available, so getting sleep a couple of hours between wake-ups still adds up to a night's sleep.

Although there was plenty of snow in the Sierra Nevadas, it was generally drier and warmer as the altitude dropped. I especially like the mixed forest of the lower altitudes with oak and manzanita mixing with evergreens.

Mountains that I knew while growing up
We dropped down to the Central Valley of California and the liveliness of the state capital.

Sacramento police providing a smile
Arriving in Oroville, I assembled my bike and trailer and rode for about nine miles to my family's house. Arrival at last, with some good exercise after a couple of days of sitting. It was especially fun to be riding my bike again without sock hat or gloves after a winter in Iowa with little bike riding.

Off the bus and ready to set up the rig on the sidewalk by a gas station

Ready to roll
 I am now ready to spend some time visiting family and enjoying the warmer weather. Yesterday I rode my bike home from the bus drop-off. Today I rode to Wal-Mart, to my dad's extended care facility, and then hit the grocery store. My Travoy trailer carried my stuff, and I had fun hauling it in the warm climes of California.

Seven more days of fun left!

Copyright 2014 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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