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On July 31, 2002, I dared to venture out by Amtrak from Sacramento to Richmond, CA to a "surprise" retirement party for a dear friend. After receiving the invitation, my wife and I began to discuss our best mode of travel. Since our current van is not in "tip top shape", we discussed other options. By bus, it would take longer and the ride would probably be unbearable as we took into account the many stops along the way, as well as, a bumpy road ride. This method did not seem too appealing.
Since I had just recently taken my first train ride to Fresno in April 2002, for a not so happy occasion, a funeral, I was still enthused with the thought of yet another train trip, on a happier note. The trip to Fresno was about three hours, while this one to Richmond would be a bit shorter, lasting about one and one-half hours. Even though the trip to Fresno was longer and on a bit more solemn note, I was surprised to find myself rather enjoying the ride. It was smooth and accommodating, while assistance to aid in getting on and off the train was also readily available for myself as a non-transferable wheelchair user.
Consequently, it was no doubt in my mind as to the method of transportation we should take for our trip to Richmond. As for this pleasure trip, we had more time to plan and prepare for it, both physically and mentally. I found myself relishing the thought of yet another train ride and even looked forward to the day of our departure. We departed out of Sacramento on schedule and arrived at our destination in Richmond on time as well. We had allowed enough time to get from the train station to our final destination well before the surprised guest's arrival. We even had time to relax, breathe and settle into our designated spots.
All in all, this was a very memorable and enjoyable trip. As a physically challenged, wheelchair user, I am extremely careful with travel arrangements. However, I must admit that Amtrak proved to be most accommodating to my lifestyle. In fact, I look forward to yet another trip via this mode of transportation. It allows my wife and I to enjoy time together, while it also releases her from stress related highway traffic.
Once on board, I was ready to try out the cuisine from the diner car. I was also amazed to find that the items from the diner car were not so bad at all! I found myself testing several different items on the menu. Hmmm, I thought, this might turn out to be quite a good decision on my part after all! If the items on a commuter train are acceptable, I wonder what the items on a long distance train might have in store for me. Somehow, I find myself looking forward to yet another trip soon!
As an added bonus, I actually found myself enjoying the scenery out of the wide windows of the train. I also got great joy out of seeing my wife's enthusiasm as she tried to capture memories on film. She was taking shots of river beds, fields, bridges, ships, hills and even the architectural structures at some of the stations we passed through.
Let's take a moment to view some of those shots now:
In the picture on the left, seats fold up in order to allow wheelchair users the space to sit alongside a table with windows behind and in front of the passenger. Out of the window is a scene of a small river bed running near the tracks. The middle picture captures a tree planted by the rivers of water. In the picture on the right we saw fields and grasslands.
In the picture on the left is yet another river bed running near the tracks. In the picture on the right are fields of crop getting ripe for picking season soon!
Above are shots of bridges, ships and the hills of the Oakland Bay Area.
Above left is the beautiful architectural structure of the Martinez station with the winding staircase. Above right is yet another striking architectural structure of the Davis station.
Now I must admit, that our train broke down on our journey back from Richmond. But much to my chagrin, another train came along to rescue us within 20 minutes. The delay was not too bad and the agents were apologetic and helpful in making the transition as easily as possible.
Despite the delay, I still look forward to making that next trip on Amtrak with much less hesitation than ever before. The staff and attendants on board were friendly and helpful. My wife was able to enjoy the trip totally stress-free away from the busy highway traffic. There are many amenities for the physically challenged rider to explore on Amtrak's trains.
Phone: 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245) - ask for "Special Services"
TDD/TTY: 1-800-523-6590 - for "Hearing Impaired Service"
Amtrak advises you to call the toll free numbers rather than booking through the web site system because it allows them to document your needs with your reservation record and to notify the appropriate station and train personnel. However, the web site system is excellent for researching more information online before you make that reservation call.