Days 5 and 6: October 3 and 4, 2015--Albuquerque, NM, to Chicago, IL

Don't miss today's Gallery!

In contrast to yesterday's Post and Gallery, today's will be short. Er. Shorter.

We left Santa Fe to catch an early balloon ascension on the way to Albuquerque, where we caught a late train to Chicago--arriving in the wee hours of Monday morning, nine hours later than expected.

The Mass Extinc... er, Ascension

By sheer serendipity, we were leaving Santa Fe the first morning of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Our ride--the Rail Runner--would ordinarily have started at 10:20 AM on a Saturday, which even would have made catching our train out of Albuquerque a little iffy. But because of the Balloon Fiesta there was a special schedule.

So here's what we did: We got on the extraordinary 5:07 AM out of Santa Fe, getting off at Los Ranchos/Journal Center Station at 6:03 AM, a couple of miles (as the balloon flies) southwest of the lift site, well within sight of, and in time for, the "mass ascension" scheduled for 7 AM. We saw the ascension, and then sat around freezing until the next special train came through at 9:47. We tried once walking to a place to eat, but without data on our phones, we had to give up, turn around, and go back. Turns out there was a Lotaburger a little over a half-mile away--in another direction. Oh, well.

We look happy, don't we? Completely unaware of how long it would be before we next saw a bed...

And that was that. We could tell there were a lot of balloons, but didn't see much detail--except for the occasional vagrants who floated our way.

Back on the Rail Runner, checked in at ABQ Station, and waited. And waited. And waited.

Amtrak's Epic Fail

Train time was supposed to be 12:10, arriving in Chicago at 3:15 the next afternoon. Just a hair over 26 hours on the train (with one hour deducted for the move from Mountain to Central Time), it would be our longest ride, lasting over night.

But here's what I posted on Facebook that day: "We had heard of Amtrak delays, but it never happened to us until now--our third boarding, in Albuquerque. It is now FOUR hours past the scheduled departure time. We're on the train, but not moving yet. Our next deboarding is at Chicago, supposed to be 27 [sic--forgot the time change] hours away--enough time to play catch-up?"

Well, no. In fact, what had happened was, the locomotive had conked out, and they had replaced it with a freight engine, which could not do passenger-train speeds.

We were, then, 29 hours on the train, and with the late start, nine hours late to Chicago. We arrived a half-hour after midnight Sunday night/Monday morning. We missed dinner with our Best Man Alan Rosenfield; we were supposed to at last meet his wife, and couldn't. We aslo missed lounging around in the swanky University Club in downtown Chicago where Alan graciously put us up for the night.

Also, we had some problems on the train: they sorta ran out of food. (When they had provisioned in L.A., they hadn't counted on the trip taking so long.) To make it up to everyone, they put on a free meal: beef stew! Not so great for the vegetarians. Check out what they gave us instead, scrounged from other people's meals (like when you forget to book a veg meal on an airline, and they bring you everyone's fruit, salads, and rolls).

Some of what Amtrak gave us in lieu of real food.

If there's a silver lining, it's this: a couple of weeks later, their Customer Service sent us a letter that began,
"We understand that you experienced a service disruption on your scheduled trip on Amtrak from Albuquerque,NM to Chicago,IL on 10/2/2015. [They were in error; as the ticket in the Gallery shows, it was "03OCT15"--October 3.] Along with our apologies for any inconvenience this disruption may have caused you, we would like to get your feedback about how Amtrak handled this disruption of service. Our goal is to provide the highest level of service in the industry. Your input helps us understand how we are doing, as well as how we can improve.

"I hope you will take a few minutes to share your opinions about that particular service disruption by completing a short questionnaire. Even though you may have taken other trains during that trip (or made other Amtrak trips recently), I would appreciate it if you would answer the questions with respect to the service disruption that occurred during the specific trip referenced above."
There was then a link to a survey page. Time has a way of easing pain, and time passed on the internet means I no longer have access to my reply. But I promise, it was a doozy. (Actually, pretty fair and balance, considering).

So we arrived in Chicago, and for the first time this trip, we took a taxi. For me, arrival in a new city and getting around by public transportation is a "win"; taking a taxi is a "fail." BUT (a) we were exhausted; (b) it was after midnight in the downtown area of a major U.S. city, and (c) we were exhausted. Turns out the station was less than a mile from the Club--I recall we walked back on our return--but did I mention we were exhausted?

Check-in went smoothly, we were showered and in our luxurious bed by 1:30 AM, and we slept well for our Big Day in Chicago tomorrow.

Don't miss today's Gallery!

No comments:

Post a Comment

We'd love to hear what you think! Please be aware that all comments will be moderated.