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And once again, I’m on the receiving end of an Amtrak transaction, this time in Staunton, however…

December 31, 2008, 8:23 PM

Yay, Sis is here! Mom, Dad, and I met up with Chris’s mother, and we all went to greet Sis and her fiance Chris as they got off the train in Staunton. We took the Sable. They took the Cardinal from Chicago, and we were there to meet them. So we all got to the train station around 3 PM, and in came an Amtrak train. We thought it was us, but the conductor then announced that this train was going to Chicago, and thus not the train we were waiting for. So we went into the tiny little waiting room to wait. Interestingly enough, the Cardinal has to single-track through Staunton, as the station is only served by one track. Sis actually got caught up in the single-tracking, as they had to wait for the westbound Cardinal to clear the single-track area before they could proceed. Let me also comment that I will never take Union Station for granted again, since that station’s all nice and indoors and heated and has things to do while you wait. It was very cold and windy in Staunton today, and so waiting outside was not fun. And then waiting in the little waiting room is dull because there’s nothing to do. Just some benches.

Then Katie texted me. As it turns out, my cell phone’s text message chime, which is four bell rings (think the out-of-time bell on Wheel of Fortune), sounds exactly like the bell on the Amtrak trains when they make a station stop. Thus my text tone got everyone’s attention, thinking that the train had arrived. After it was brought to my attention that lots of people were reacting every time I got a text, I explained to everyone that it was my phone. But eventually, the eastbound Cardinal arrived.

First, a photo of the locomotive, for the railfan in me. I left without my real camera totally without thinking, unfortunately, and didn't realize it until too late.
First, a photo of the locomotive, for the railfan in me. I left without my real camera totally without thinking, unfortunately, and didn’t realize it until too late.

Then, after the train stopped, the people getting on in Staunton lined up and when the conductor got off, he said that there were a few people who were getting off here. After a few stray people and a family, I saw two familiar faces get off.

First Sis got off the train.
First Sis got off the train.

Then Chris got off.
Then Chris got off the train.

And of course, one last shot before Chris went with his mother to see the rest of his family, and we went home.
And of course, one last shot before Chris went with his mother to see the rest of his family, and we went home.

They indicated that they had a less-than-optimal experience on Amtrak, though part of that was their own fault. Mom had offered to upgrade them to sleeping car accommodations (Viewliner), but they declined it. I don’t understand that one, turning down a free upgrade to first class. Most of the complaints about the experience stemmed from being in coach, like sleeping sitting up and such. Trust me, sleeping car accommodations are so worth it. You get complimentary coffee, turn-down service, all meals are included with your ticket, and you spend your waiting time in the club rather than the main waiting area.

One thing Sis noted was that walking on the Cardinal’s Amfleet cars was like walking on the “L” Train in Chicago, which surprised me somewhat, because my Amtrak ride last year was a bit bumpier than a subway car. But then I realized something. The Cardinal uses Amfleet cars – one-level cars. Thus as the cars are moving around on the tracks, the occupants are lower to the ground. My ride was on the Capitol Limited, which uses Superliner cars, which are bi-level, and most of the action takes place on the upper level. Thus being a little further away from the ground, any swaying motion is a little more amplified on the Superliner cars than on the Amfleet cars.

So there you go. And now we’re all together as a family in the house for the first time since March. Pretty cool, no? And Sis is going to be very busy in the three full days that she’s in town, doing some wedding shopping. She and Mom are looking at wedding gowns on Thursday, she and Dad are looking at venues on Friday, and then I don’t know what Saturday’s plans are, but she’s fully booked. Saturday, my plans are not really dependent on anyone else’s plans, since that’s the day I return to DC. However, today, I feel like I was just there, as we watched the local news from WUSA, a station based out of Washington DC, and so I got all my local news.

And outside the wedding planning, I managed to snag Sis for a few hours, and we’re going to go see Katie. That was amusing, as the original plan was to go to Charlottesville, where Mom was to hand Sis off to Katie and I, and we would eat in Charlottesville. I described it as a “prisoner exchange”, which surprised Sis a bit. But then plans changed, and now we’re going to Waynesboro. No prisoner exchange.

And then with Dad being the new go-to for the venue selection, Friday is looking like it’s going to be a Mom-and-me day. We’ll likely be running over to Charlottesville, going to the Mellow Mushroom. Who knows – maybe we’ll also hit the mall, and Mom can see Mr. Moo Cow again. That would be amusing, no?

And with less than four hours until 2009 begins, happy new year, everyone!

Categories: Amtrak, Family, Staunton