Time to tell the second part in our Planes, Trains and Automobiles story!

Time to tell the second part in our Planes, Trains and Automobiles story!

Not long ago, I published the first half my Planes, Trains and Automobiles adventure that I experienced with my wife Brittany. I have been on many types of trains through my years (miniature, Christmas, rollercoaster, light rail, even stepped on a Lego train by accident once), but never on an 18hr overnight trip in my own little suite — I was stoked!

I ended my previous story with a great cliffhanger… our odd, yet interesting, little toilet in the very small roomette. I know that you all have been waiting to hear more about it, so I won’t keep you waiting.

THE SINK / TOILET COMBO IN OUR AMTRAK ROOMETTE

Before booking the train tickets, I read that there was a toilet in the room. I also saw the size of the room. I didn’t know how it would be possible, but those engineers have some talent. The sink you unlock from the wall and it easily folds down. It can be a little weird to use since the bowl fills up, and the water drains from those holes in the back, when you are folding the sink back up. So, if you have too much water in there, and you are on some bumpy track… good times.

Image of our roomette on Amtrak - Image: Amtack

The specifications and lay out of our Amtrak Silverliner Roomette – Image: Amtak

I don’t want to give TMI (Too Much Information), but I feel that I need to tell you a little more about this toilet before moving on. The room has windows to the hallway, and there are thick curtains, with magnets, to give you privacy. Visually at least. I mean, the toilet is along the hallway wall and people are walking by you, so the whole thing is just… well… unique. Doable, but unique. There are also other toilets available (some which offer showers), so there are other options. Okay, I promise that is the last time that I will mention the toilet.

Let’s get back on track (Get it? Track. I get to use train puns instead of airplane ones)…

 

In the roomette, there are two chairs facing each other, and a table that you can fold up to play games, write up a blog, or rest your arms. I am 6’1″ and Brittany is 5’6″ and we remained quite comfy — even when we stayed the majority of the time in our room. At first the space felt pretty small, especially with the interior curtains shut, but with the big windows and lots of natural light, it seemed to quickly grow in size.

STRETCHING OUR LEGS

In retrospect, I am not quite sure why we didn’t get up and walk around the train more (maybe because we did so much walking and exploring in New York). There was a snack car we visited a few times, but we didn’t venture beyond. We did take some opportunities to step off the train at a few stops, but at many locations, Amtrak told passengers that you “could” get off, but there is nothing there, so don’t. Okay then.

There was one stop in particular where we were adding cars, and a train next to us was connecting a locomotive. I was like a kid in a candy store. The sights, the sounds, the smells were all so wonderful. Brittany was nice enough to join me, and also made sure that I didn’t miss our train leaving.

TRADITIONAL DINING: SOME HISTORICAL ROMANCE ON AMTRAK

Dinner with a view in the dining car

Dinner with a view in the dining car. Well, crackers and a menu with a view. No cost for those with rooms, but for purchase with those with seats.

We both weren’t sure what to expect from our dining experience — I was excited, but also a little nervous (about eating with strangers). Since we took this trip back in May 2018, the meal service has changed. At the time, there was a formal dining car, with big windows and a pretty impressive menu.

Today, Amtrak’s Traditional Dining experience still exists on some routes (well, due to covid, Amtrak has paused all Traditional Dining service), but on the Silverliner route, they changed it to what they call Flexible Dining — which is pretty much room service. It sadly means that there is no more dining car.

I get it… there are more passengers who don’t want to sit with strangers, and it is cheaper, but the dining car was part of the romance of the trip. I am very grateful I got to experience it before it went away.

Odd that there is a sign to the dining car. Kind of hard to get lost on the train.

Maybe this sign has been updated to “Dining Car… None of the Ways”

I will say that overall, dinner was great. Not only were we passing through some beautiful scenery, but the meal was actually tasty and our seat mates were interesting (in a good way). For breakfast… the food was also good, but we were sat with two different people that didn’t know each other and neither of them were interested in talking. So Brittany and I just talked to each other, on the same side of the table, while our “guests” just scarfed their food and left. Awkward.

My meal was actually quite good!

My meal was actually quite good!

SLEEPING ON THE TRAIN

I was looking forward to this part of the train ride the most, but Brittany was kind of dreading it. When it was bed time, our attendant came in and set up our cabin. The bottom section made use of  the table and a mattress, where the top bunk just folded down. The cool part is both the top and bottom had access to the window. There were curtains, but I found myself waking up quite often just to look outside.

I enjoyed hearing the sounds of the tracks, being rocked to sleep, and enjoying the occasional whistle.  It was the romance of train travel that I was hoping to experience. Although, Brittany didn’t have the same romantic experience through the night. She had a harder time sleeping and the netting to stop her from falling didn’t offer much reassurance. She is a type that is always up for adventure, but it might be a challenge to get her on another overnight train ride.

CONCLUSIONS ON THE AMTRAK TRAIN RIDE

I loved the experience and I would love to do it again. The sights, the sounds of the tracks, walking down the cars while we move, and being rocked to sleep — it was a magical experience. And maybe with a different room setup, and some more time, Brittany will go again (I know I could talk her into it).

Arriving to the very hot and humid Jacksonville, FL

Arriving to the very hot and humid Jacksonville, FL

The 18 hours just tracked by for me (kind of like “flew by”). However, we had our next adventure waiting!

TIME FOR THE AUTOMOBILE PORTION OF THIS SHIN-DIG

This wasn't the GT or any other fancy Mustang model, but it also wasn't barebones... it treated us well.

This wasn’t the GT or any other fancy Mustang model, but it also wasn’t barebones… it treated us well.

I really love planes (duh). I really like trains. And I get a kick out of trying to rent a car that compliments my trip. Like a Ram truck when in Montana, a Jeep Wrangler when in Maui, and of course a Ford Mustang Convertible for Florida.

After arriving in Jacksonville, we took a Lyft to the airport, where our rental car was waiting.

Although I have no loyalty when it comes to Ford vs Chevy, I was pleasantly surprised to see the aircraft influenced aspects of the interior. The cool (literally and figuratively) ventilated seats while cruising with the top down didn’t hurt either.

With adventures like this, I like to have a hotel booked someplace (we wanted one on the beach) and then we just sort of find adventures along the way.  We just looked on Google Maps, found a place that looked interesting and went to check it out! We took what would have been a 3.5 hour drive and made it into two days.

Even though it seemed that our adventure just started… we arrived to our final destination (that silly movie franchise really ruined being able to say that, without it sounding like a bad thing).

ARRIVING TO OUR DESTINATION – VERO BEACH, FL

It is always nice spending time with family and relaxing, but as with all vacations, they sadly come to an end. We made our way to Orlando International Airport (MCO) and boarded our Alaska 737 for our diagcon flight home to Seattle.

BONUS: A Diagcon Look at the New First Class on an Alaska Airlines Airbus A321

COMPARING IT TO THE MOVIE

I am going to go ahead and say that our trip went A LOT better than the movie. Probably one of the better trips that I have experienced. Even the parts that might not have gone so smoothly, we had a way of making the most of it. Of course it helps having an awesome trip mate, like Brittany, along for the ride!

Have you done a trip like this before, or thought about doing it? How did it work out? How have your train experiences gone? I really feel I didn’t do a good job with the train puns, sorry about that. Tell me about your experiences or share more train puns in the comments!

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]

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7 Comments
Lee Bachar

I was wondering:You love planes,you like trains,how about taking a trip on a Greyhound bus?

Hey Lee,

Hmm. So, I will have to admit that since I saw your comment I have been on Greyhound’s page a few times — it sparked my interest. I have concluded that I think it would make an interesting story, but not such a great experience :). The amenities have come a long way (very airline-like), since I have last taken them. What has sparked my interest more is I have always thought that Greyhound was so much cheaper than airlines. When I did a bit of comparing of routes (not using airline covid prices, but knowing what the prices normally are), the airlines are normally cheaper (sometimes half the cost), and of course way quicker. Are there that many people who fear or prefer not to fly to take the bus?

So… yea… after covid is over, I think I might need to take a little Greyhound ride and look more into this! Let me know if you have some insight.

David

How many people noticed “ground speed” on the speedometer? Is the Mustang expected to have a significant “speed” difference between “ground” and “air”?

What an awesome trip! I love those trips in which the journey is more important than ariving at a destination. Having been on quite a few different night trains, I find the Amtrak version somewhere between weird, nice and old-school. I hope that I will have the chance to test them one day…

I did something quite similar to your trip, only in Europe (and with one additional form of transportation!):
1. Took the TGV really-fast train from Germany to Paris
2. Hopped on the Eurostar to get to London
3. Spent the night in the wonderful Caledonian Sleeper overnight train from London to Mallaig in West Scotland (and Aye, with a wee dram of Whisky before bed and porridge for breakfast while watching beautiful Highlands rolling by).
4. Took the ferry to the Outer Hebrides to relax among sheep, rain, and storms. And Whisky.
5. Took off from famous Barra Airport (runway=beach) to fly the DHC-6-300 Twin Otter to Glasgow, being seated in row 1 right behind the pilots
6. Rented a car (no convertible though, because, you know, Scotland) to drive through the Highlands.
7. Flew home to Germany from Glasgow via London on one of the last inner-British 767 services.

Hello Jonas,

That sounds like quite the adventure. Doing something similar in Europe is on my bucket list and from what I have read, it is a lot easier to do these sorts of things there. Trains can be a mess in the US (or almost non-existent on the west coast).

Thanks for sharing, David

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