Saint Kitts & Los Angeles
May 7th to June 9th 2008
After my 2007 Saint Kitts trip I decided to come back and piggyback the next visit with a trip to Los Angeles. After seeing that I could save money by using my Amtrak Guest Rewards points for travel I choose to take Amtrak's Silver Meteor to Orlando, return to DC and then take the Capitol Limited to Chicago and change to the Southwest Chief. While in Los Angeles I would also take another rewards trip to San Diego. The return trip was different in that the Cardinal would be used to return to New York. The trip would be a total of 32 days long with 18 days in Saint Kitts and a week and a half to travel to/from LA.
I was driven from Glen Head to the Port Washington LIRR station since the latter had direct service to New York and transferring with two huge bags might a little difficult. I took the 11:40 train to New York. Upon arrival in Pen Station I had lunch at the Roy Roger's and then did a little bit of last minute shopping. I returned to Penn Station at around 1:30 PM to await train 97. Just before the expected boarding time it was announced that the train was delayed due to equipment maintenance. I was seated in the first coach (Car 25041) in seat 24. After the problems were resolved we boarded and departed at 3:54 PM (0:39 Late). We pulled out partially past the platforms and then let an Acela, NJ Transit Commuter and the Lake Shore Limited pass before proceeding south.
During the ride to Philadelphia I was able to record some of the consist:
HHP-8 (removed at WAS) 173 P42 (added at WAS) deadheading coach (added at WAS) Baggage Car Viewliner Viewliner 8559 Diner 28018 Diner Lounge 25041 coach 25045 coach 25119 coach 25015 coach
Just after Newark the dining car steward took dinner reservations and I took the 6pm one. Dinner came at Philadelphia. I had the Braised beef with an appetizer of chips and salsa and the chocolate cake for dessert. Everything was wonderful and the I went to the lounge for some drinks where a passenger nearly started a fight. We arrived in DC for the engine change which took longer then expected due to some HEP problems. Then a passenger got annoyed and delayed us to the point of being 2.5 hours late. Shortly after Richmond I began trying to sleep but got only about 3.5 hours of sleep.
Breakfast was at 6:30 and I had the cheddar cheese omelet with Sausage (very good food) around Charleston South Carolina where we made up about a half hour. At Jacksonville we had a smoke stop and when I got off the train it felt like walking into a pizza oven. Just north of Palatka I had a lounge car burger, potato chips and an ice tea for lunch. Just after lunch we lost time as we had to stop suddenly to avoid hitting a guy on an ATV. Eventually we arrived in Orlando 1:56 Late. I took a taxi to the Quality Inn that was virtually adjacent to the airport. After dinner I went to sleep early since I had an early wake up to catch the airport shuttle
After waking up at 2:45 AM I got ready for the day with a breakfast of a self serve waffle before my flights since this would eliminate getting food at the airport. After breakfast the shuttle was loaded with several other passengers and we went to the airport. I was dropped at the entrance to American Airlines and went to check in. A supervisor suggested I try the self service check in which went smoothly and I was offered a business class upgrade for about 50% of the standard price which I took. After about 2 and a half hours I boarded flight 1230 and took a 45 minute flight to Miami. At Miami I went to the Admirals club and had a few beverages and then went to board my flight.
Flight 2299 was a very pleasant experience since I was in business class. The first good thing was the seat was huge (even bigger than Amtrak but the pitch was still noticeably smaller). We were served a juice while still at the gate. We took off on time and after reaching the cruising altitude we had a hot lunch. The lunch was cheese ravioli with raspberry cheesecake. It was extremely tasty and comparable to Amtrak and very different from last years buy on board snacks. Although there was a movie playing and the headphones were free I decided to after lunch catch up on some sleep and awoke just before we began the descent (we were over San Juan). We landed almost on time and after the usual customs and other stuff was completed, a hotel shuttle took me to the Marriott where the bellman recognized me immediately. After another brief short nap I called Kara and checked out the restaurant where we would have Dinner.
Dinner was at a restaurant called BLU. The food was very good but very expensive. The two of us then hung out at a party for a bit until I went back to the hotel.
5/10/08 and 5/11/08
I had breakfast the the Calypso restaurant and then joined Kara and her dog Dido at a Frisbee tournament. After the tournament we had a early dinner at Bohemia Cafe. That night I watched some TV and had the first of many Pina Coladas
On Sunday because of large crowds I had breakfast for take out at Calypso Bistro and met Kara where we drove to Cockleshell beach for a few Hours and then we returned to the hotel where I again watched TV
5/12/08 and 5/13/08
On Monday I relaxed poolside and swam a little bit to keep my exercise routine going. Also I had booked a hike through the rain forest for the next day.
The rain forest hike on the thirteenth was extremely interesting and a perfect way to get exercise. The terrain was conducive to using a lot of energy and was a lot of fun. During the hike we saw all sorts of plant and wildlife. The guide showed as all sorts of plants that would be able to heal many things from colds to upset stomach (however some of them had an odor that was not the most pleasant). After the hike we had a small picnic type lunch of local cuisine which was quite interesting. After returning to the hotel I put my aching legs into the jacuzzi for about 30 minutes. After that I got a call asking if I wanted to do some food shopping with Kara in an attempt to save funds. I joined her and I saw that the supermarkets in Saint Kitts were very similar to the ones in the states. After a few hours in the hotel Kara and me went to Ciao restaurant for dinner which was fantastic.
5/14 and 5/15
The 14th was a day to rest my weary limbs so it was a rather standard day of relaxing by the pool. The 15th was a different story though.
On the 15th I took a Catamaran trip to St. Kitts' sister Island Nevis. The bus ride from the Hotel to the boat was quite comfortable and the bus was similar to the Van type busses used for low ridership lines and paratransit. Upon arrival we asked to remove our shoes and were given a short safety lecture and told were we could sit and enjoy the ride. The drinks were plentiful and free. After about an hour we arrived at the snorkeling location and were given another safety speech on fire coral and how not to touch it and what it looked like. After about 30 minutes we got back on the boat and had a very nice lunch of monkey (in reality probably chicken, mahi mahi, and rice and beans) while we journeyed to Nevis. At Nevis we went to a beach adjacent to the Four Season's Resort. While there three very playful dogs joined us and when we were departing one actually boarded the boat but was coaxed back to shore.
5/16 and 5/17
The 16th and 17th was a very light since I had gotten a really bad sunburn on the catamaran despite using large amounts of sunscreen. Dinner on the 17th was with Kara and one of her classmates at another Bar and Grill called the Monkey Bar which had tasty food and drinks and overly sweet Oreo cheesecake.
5/18 and 5/19
Nothing Interesting done
The twentieth was a day for swimming and booking my Island train tour for the twenty first (the following day). That evening I got a call from Kara asking if I wanted to join her and some friends for dinner at De Lime Bar and Grill. This locale was very popular with both the veterinary and medical students on the island as well as tourists.
5/21 - Island Train Tour
This day was when I finally did the Island Train tour on the St Kitts Scenic Railway. The bus took us to Needsmust Station (virtually adjacent to the Airport). There we boarded the Narrow gauge double decker tour train. The cars were extremely comfortable and are best described as Sightseer Lounge Car with an open Second Floor. The train was a collection of equipment from around the world with a Romanian Locomotive, Washington built coaches and Colorado built power car. The ride was slow but very scenic with interesting vistas on both sides of the train. The closest route in scenery on Amtrak would probably be the California Zephyr. Since the tracks were not rebuilt on the West side of St. Kitts the train stopped at a location called La Vallee where we transferred to buses to Needsmust and returned to to board the hotel shuttle.
This day was quite slow due to the fact that the ubiquitous tropical showers (not hurricane related) were striking the island where it would be clear and 5 minutes later there would be torrential rain for 15 minutes. During one shower Kara invited me to join her at Shipwreck Bar and Grill for lunch. After lunch I want back to the hotel to enjoy a marathon of Law and Order.
On the 23rd I did the usual poolside activity until lunch and then went to to the casino but made no money. That evening I joined Kara and a friend for dinner at a pizza place called Spratnet and the following day we drove around with her dog Dido and recovered her wallet
This day was beach day for several hours with Kara and Dido in the morning. The afternoon was a soccer game during which I had observed a waterspout which looked really cool. Dinner was at Rock Lobster where I had a very tasty seafood bisque as part of my meal.
This was my last day on Saint Kitts so I did the laundry in the morning and then packed up all my stuff. At 545 PM Kara called me and we drove to a very good Restaurant called Star of India. After dinner I said goodbye to her and went straight to sleep
I took a cab to the airport where I waited for the flight to San Juan. We departed and arrived on Time. I went to the Admirals club for several hours and then proceeded to the gate where amateur hour began. First the plane boarded about 1 hour late and then we waited another hour for a pilot. The pilot announced that he was the pilot and a cheer came up. He asked the passengers to not blame the cabin crew (we all obliged). Then he told everyone to complain to AA. After returning to Orlando I took a cab to my hotel and then went to sleep.
I woke up at 6:30 and after breakfast at IHOP took a cab to the Amtrak Station where I had Lunch at a Cuban Bistro across the street. The Silver Meteor arrived about 20 minutes late. The passengers were then split by sleeper and coach and the coach passengers were assigned there seats. I was in the car behind the lounge.
Train 97 (partial consist)
P42 P42 Baggage sleeper sleeper sleeper 8531 Diner 28003 lounge 25069 coach 25061 coach 25121 coach 25032 coach
Around Deland we moved very slowly because of signal failure. Around Jacksonville and while in the station I had a dinner of Steak and Red Velvet Cake. The meal was extremely delicious (A+) but the service was quite slow (C-). After dinner I went back to my seat and tried to sleep but I did not fall asleep until just after Florence.
I woke up around 5:30 and had French toast at 6:30 in the diner. We arrived in DC around 45 minutes late and I then went to the Club Acela and stored my bags. I rode the Metro Rail for several hours and after returning had lunch at the Sbarro's. At 3:20 the boarding announcement for train 29 was made and a large group was ushered to the train
Train 29 The Capitol Ltd:
125 P42 159 P42 1212 Baggage 39027 Crew Dorm 32027 Sleeper 32068 Sleeper-Room 2 38061 Diner 33035 Lounge 34147 Coach 31010 Coach 34116 Coach
Shortly after Leaving DC the dining car steward took dinner reservations and after that I proceeded to the lounge. During the time before dinner I noticed the location of the washout that delayed me back in 2006 was easily spotted due to the boulders used for rip-rap. The 6pm seating was called and I had dinner with two ladies who were very trilled to be riding the train. I had a roast game hen and a cheesecake. After dinner I went to the lounge until I began to fall asleep.
In my room which was refurbished in the manner of the Empire Builder I slept so well I woke up around 7am instead of the usual 5 am. After waking up and getting dressed I went to the diner and had Scrambled Eggs, Sausage and Hash Browns. After breakfast I was back in the lounge until just before Chicago where I went back to my room. The train arrived in Chicago about 40 minutes late (very good compared to the usual 2hrs plus usually observed)
While in Chicago I rode the CTA out to Skokie and observed how different the Skokie Swift was using only third rail. Also the adjacent Union Pacific line was abandoned and the tracks completely removed.
After the CTA it was back to Chicago Union Station to await train 3.
The boarding call was made around 2:35 and we walked to the train. At first my attendant was nowhere to be seen but shortly before departure he appeared and explained all the features and even helped obtain dinner reservations (something I have never had happen ever riding Amtrak). Shortly after departure I walked the train and got the consists (Engine and baggage car numbers observed the following day).
The consist was as follows:
68 P42 93 P42 1203 Baggage 39036 Crew Sleeper 32117 Sleeper-assigned to room 2 32047 Sleeper 38004 Diner 33019 Sightseer Lounge 34113 Coach 34078 Coach 34014 Coach
Dinner was at 6 pm. I had the trout with raspberry cheesecake which was exquisite. After the dinner I went to the lounge and then my room and fell asleep. I awoke briefly in Kansas City with no AC or lights and then went back to sleep
I awoke at the usual time of just before 5 am. I discovered that due to a engine switch at Kansas City we were about 2 hours late. I had a cheese omelet for breakfast with sausage, hash browns, and a biscuit. I spent the entire time between breakfast and lunch in the lounge observing the scenery and you could see cloud formations indicating extremely bad weather. Just before Raton Pass I had lunch of a burger and chips.
Raton Pass was utterly beautiful and I was taking frequent pictures. The conductor was giving us narratives about the adjacent scenery as well as historic information. After Raton Pass we entered the Albuquerque area and I saw the scenery change to a more urban/industrial feel. We arrived at Albuquerque about 90 minutes late. I did not get off since I was having a dinner of steak and ice cream. I eventually fell asleep shortly after sunset.
Upon waking up I realized that we were again over 2 hours late. As a result just after an early and abbreviated breakfast I observed and photographed Cajon Pass. At Fullerton I noticed a huge crowd of what looked like railfans and the conductor announced that we would pass ATSF 3751 just after Fullerton. The train was a beautiful sight with its steam engine on the front. We arrived in LA and I took a taxi to the hotel where I stored my bags and then rode the Red and Purple Metro Rail lines. At North Hollywood I observed the smoke from the Universal Studios Fire
This day I rode the entire Metro Rail network. All the lines had there scenic locations. Of all the lines (Red, Purple, Blue, Green, Gold) the gold was my favorite. While riding the Green Line I met a passenger who had just visited Long Island. I also noticed how with the gas prices at that time well over 4 dollars a gallon most trains on the Gold, Blue and Green lines were at either full capacity or had no seats left. I went to sleep and prepared for the next day's San Diego Trip (the second portion where I used Amtrak Guest Rewards)
This day I took a side trip to San Diego. I rode the Pacific Surfliner in Business Class. The route was very scenic especially through some mountain areas and along the Pacific Ocean. While in San Diego I rode the MTS Trolley which was very pleasant to ride and had some very scenic areas. While waiting to return to LA I was followed by a pigeon and observed the USS Nimitz pull into port. During both trips I rode in Surfliner equipment with the AM train having a phase six Superliner in the consist and the PM train being all Superliner. I unfortunately did not write down the consist
6/4 & 6/5
On the fourth I rode the Gold and Red lines again was well as the Orange Line BRT. I also went to a very nice Japanese Restaurant for dinner. The next and final day in LA I visited Hollywood and spent time at the wax museum and the Guinness records museum. After the museums I went to LA Union Station to await train 4 for the start of my return trip
At a little after 6 pm the boarding call was made and I proceeded to the train with several sleeper passengers. I took my assigned room in car 0431.
The consist was as follows:
45 P42 25 P42 1203 Baggage 32020 Crew Sleeper 32109 Sleeper 32058 Sleeper 38063 Diner 33014 Sightseer Lounge 34050 Coach 34100 Coach 31008 Coach 6803 Pacific SUrfliner (Deadhead)
I took the 7:30 dinner seating and had a steak and red velvet cake as well as white wine. The food was Delicious but the service could have been a little faster. Shortly after sunset I fell asleep but could feel the train climbing Cajon Pass
6/6 & 6/7
I woke up at 5:15 AM and went to the lounge to await breakfast and 6:30 the diner opened and I had the Cheese omelet with sausage, hash browns, and juice. The time between breakfast and lunch was spent in the lounge observing the beauty of Arizona and New Mexico. Lunch was the usual cheeseburger and cheesecake. As the train traveled through New Mexico after lunch I again took large quantities of pictures. Dinner was the game hen and ice cream.
On the seventh I woke up around 5 AM and had scrambled eggs with hash browns, biscuit, and sausage for breakfast. After that I spent all of my time in the lounge watching the scenery. At Argentine Yard we had to switch tracks several times to avoid congestion. After Galesburg the lounge car lower level closed and at Naperville the upper level closed and I went to my room to prepare to arrive in Chicago. Eventually we arrived at just after 4 PM I went to the Metropolitan Lounge to await train 50 (The Cardinal) for my last leg. The Cardinal was boarded about 25 minutes late and departed about 15 minutes late.
The consist was a little odd to say the least:
91 P42 25113 Coach 25096 Coach 25086 Coach 28001 Diner Lounge 62030 Sleeper Two horizon cars in the 54XXX series
Just after leaving Chicago dinner was called. I had the salmon with rice pilaf and corn. Even though we only 1 attendant she was magnificent and a true asset to Amtrak (unfortunately I donít remember her name). During dinner we came to a stop and the conductor announced it was due to a Tornado Warning. We also lost some time waiting for freight traffic. At Dyer I fell asleep for the last night of the trip.
6/8- The final Day (or so I thought)
I woke up around 6 AM and had breakfast at 6:30 and I had the French toast. During breakfast I determined we were over 4 hours late due to weather near Indianapolis. I spent most of the day in the lounge observing the jaw dropping scenery. My lunch was a burger with mozzarella sticks and a diet Pepsi. The best part of the trip came when we passed through the New River Gorge. Shortly after leaving the gorge we were delayed about 30 minutes by a disabled freight. Shortly after we began moving again I had dinner of cheese ravioli and ice cream. As a result of the delays were almost five hours late at stations between Charlottesville and Manassas. Shortly before midnight we pulled into DC and had the Engine Change. We were then instructed to make stops only as needed for our passengers.
6/9- The last Day
After Midnight we stopped at Baltimore, Philly, Trenton Princeton Junction, Newark and New York (we were 4:40 Late which was a new record) I was picked up and back home at around 4AM.