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Andy Anderson Travels Stage One
The Devil is in the Details: Future Plans
Old Barn in the Snow image by andy anderson
An old barn stands in a field of January snow outside Klamath Falls, Oregon

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Planning is the Key

If it really is true that a journey begins with the first step, then that first step is proper planning. Some people prefer to wing the whole thing. I, however, take the Adrian Monk approach to the problem, and plan the thing down to the last possible detail. If uber-planning is not your thing... that's cool; however, it's how I enjoy the journey.

With that in mind, I'm going to put down thoughts and ideas on the planning of this trip on this page. Let's see if my planning matches up to reality... shall we?

Update (December 2011)

The planning for this trip began about a year ago, on a cold Winter's day in December 2011. It had been about a year since my last trip and, although I had been a busy camper, I felt that I needed one of my train journeys... Well, at least begin the planning.

Over the years I've taken most of the long-distance trains that Amtrak offers; however, for me the trips are so enjoyable, I don't mind doing the routes all over again. If you think that I'm a bit off my trolley, then consider Chris Guenzler, one of the founding fathers of the Train Web site, has ridden over a million miles on Amtrak. Given an average speed of an Amtrak train, in order to travel a million miles, you would have to spend over two years of your life on the train. In my book, that's one heck of a train fan.

Update (February 2012)

It's taken me the last two months to figure out what I want to do this time around, and it goes something like this: Off to Chicago, then head to Los Angeles, then up to Seattle, back over to Chicago, and then home-sweet-home. Once I have a basic route picked out, I go out on the Amtrak site, and begin checking what dates work best for the whole thing.

Andy's Advice: If you didn't know this about Amtrak; they have different prices for the Deluxe Bedrooms, and Roomettes; depending on specific dates. I don't profess to understand the logic of why one day might be cheaper than another, but if you're planning to go first class, you might want to be flexible and try out different dates. On a long trip (like the ones that I do), you can save over a thousand bucks, or more... I kid you not.
For example, I booked this trip to begin on November 30th, if I had decided to book the trip on, let's say, November 1st, it would have cost me $1,600.00 dollars more. Smart Amtrak travelers know this about the rates, and book far in advance to get those kind of savings. I'd say that was smart shopping... Wouldn't you?

Update (September 2012)

Well, I just dropped the hammer on this whole thing and purchased the tickets. No matter how much planning you do (and I did a lot of planning), it's not real until you plunk down the bucks.

Here's how the trip is planned out...

Segment 1: Newton, Kansas to Chicago, Illinois (Southwest Chief), with a hotel stay in Chicago.

Segment 2: Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California (Southwest, Chief), with a hotel stay in Los Angeles.

Segment 3: Los Angeles, California to Portland, Oregon (Coast Starlight), no hotel stay.

Segment 4: Portland, Oregon to Chicago (Empire Builder), with a hotel stay in Chicago.

Segment 5: Chicago, Illinois to Newton, Kansas (Southwest Chief), and home-sweet-home.

I haven't decided on which hotels I'm going to stay at, but I always try for the Marriott brand... In my opinion, they are the best.

Old Dog... New Tricks...

I'm trying something new on this trip. Instead of spending the night in Portland, Oregon, I'm hopping off the Coast Starlight, and jumping directly onto the Empire Builder to Chicago. When it comes to train travel, I have a tendency to play it a bit cautious, so I usually get off one train, spend the day, and get on the next train the following day. You might say, I'm throwing caution to the wind here with this quick pick-me-up, but we'll see. Assuming that the Coast Starlight arrives on time, I have one hour to board the Empire Builder before it leaves the Portland station. Adds a bit of excitement to the trip... Don't you think.

Update (October 2012)

I've got my hotels booked... I'm staying two days in Chicago (at the beginning and end of the journey), and one day in Los Angeles). Marriots in Chicago, and a Double Tree in Los Angeles.

Update (November 2012)

Well, this trip will be different in how I keep my records... This year, I've written a FileMaker Pro database that goes onto the laptop and iPad, and all my journal entries will be written directly into my system. On previous trips, I used MS Word for most of my travelogue, so this should help to get the information out to the site quicker...

More thoughts to come...

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Keep the faith... And keep traveling
Andy Anderson