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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 2009)

To start, I began planning for this trip almost a year before it will begin. There are several reasons for this:

  1. It helps you think things out, and decide what you want to accomplish without doing it all in a big fat rush.
  2. The best time to purchase tickets is as far in the future as you can: They're cheaper, and you have more options (bedrooms get sold out quickly on the popular runs).
  3. You can always change your mind (Amtrak does not penalize you for canceling a first-class ticket... not yet).

Whatever you choose to do, when you book with Amtrak you should do it way ahead of time.

Here's something that you might find interesting. As I look at my tickets, I'm traveling on the Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited, Coast Starlight, and the Empire Builder. I did this same journey last year. Anyway on all three trains, I'm in the same sleeper car, and in two of the three segments, I'm in the same room... Interesting. Deja Vu, all over again.

Here's another thing. On my previous trip, I flew into Chicago, took my around-the-country trip, and flew back. This time I'm contemplating taking the train from Newton, Kansas to Chicago, and then returning on the same train. That would have me catching the train at 3:00 AM, and returning about the same time. Plus it would mean that I would have to leave a day earlier, and get home a day later, so I would have to add two hotels (in Chicago) to my list. The trip from Newton to Chicago, lasts around 13 hours (most of that sleeping), so I wouldn't go to the expense of a deluxe bedroom... a roomette would be fine. That would add more expense to the journey. The hotels I can pick up for free, using my Marriott points; however, I would still have to pick up the expense of the two extra segments.

I can hold off on that decision for a bit, simply because that particular train (The Southwest Chef), always has an extra room.

Update (January 2010)

As a traveler who has logged several million miles in the air, I know how to pack. On my previous Amtrak journeys I've taken three things:

  1. A roller bag
  2. A duffel bag
  3. A brief case

The roller carries my equipment, the duffel my clothes, and the brief my computer and papers. My one problem was navigating with all that stuff. Since I'm planning to walk to my hotels on my stops it's a real hassle keeping everything in tow. This time I'm going to attempt to solve the problem by getting a duffel that's also a backpack

Update (March 2010)

I've decided to add the Newton to Chicago, and Chicago back to Newton segments. It gives me two more days on the journey, and saves me having to take a plane to Chicago, and then back again. In addition, if I fly, I'll have to take a taxi to the hotel, and that's about a 40 buck expense... each way.

Since I'm taking the train to Chicago Union Station, I can walk to the Marriott, and pocket the money. Is that a great plan or what...

I've booked two roomettes for both of those journeys. They promise me a good night's sleep, without the extra expense of a deluxe bedroom.

Update (April 2010)

I've changed my mind (again), and I'm leaning toward taking a flight to Chicago, and then a flight back. The trip on the train to and from Chicago (with hotel) will add about 700 bucks to the trip, and I'll be spending most of that time sleeping. If I take a plane, the price is about 25o bucks. Sounds like a no-brainer.

Update (May 2010)

Okay, it's official... I'm taking a flight from Wichita to Chicago, and then back again. It will save me seven or eight hundred bucks for the train trips back and forth, and I got the American Airline tickets with my mileage points... so the flight is free

Update (July 2010)

Most everything is is place for my October trip... didn't I tell you that I'm an over-the-top planner. The trip looks something like this:

  • Fly to Chicago on September 29th, and spend the evening at the Marriott near Union Station
  • Pick up the Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited on the 30th
  • Spend the night at the downtown Marriott in Los Angeles on October 3rd
  • Pick up the Coast Starlight on the 4th
  • Spend the night at the Waterfront Marriott in Seattle on October 5th
  • Pick up the Empire Builder on the 6th
  • Spend the night at the Chicago O'Hare Hilton on the 8th
  • Fly back home to Wichita on October 9th


Update: (August 2010)

Well, from this writing, there are only about 35 days left until I head out to Chicago, and start this journey. To be honest with you, my wife doesn't really understand why I do these trips. Her idea of a vacation is more the traditional one... travel somewhere... get a hotel in a distant land... lay out on the beach... get a tan... fly back home.

While I do enjoy that type of get-away, travel aboard Amtrak is a whole different experence. To me it's a vacation (the journey is the reward), but it's also a working vacation. As a writer, I'll admit that there are some places that I seem to write more. I know that it's mostly in your head; however, when I'm on the train, I really start to let loose. While I'm on that moving bedroom on rails, I typically plan writing projects that I will be working on for the whole next year. On the other hand, it's a relaxing get-away, where I can have excellent meals, view a part of this great country few have a chance to see, and the ability to meet new and interesting people.

As far as I know, everything is in place... All the Amtrak segments have been booked for a year, and all the hotels I'm staying at confirm that they have my reservation. It's really is important to make sure everything is in place. How would you like to get to your stopover city, only to find out that your reservation was lost. Not only that, but there is a convention in town, and no rooms are available. You search most of the day, only to wind up sleeping in your rental car... Don't laugh, that's happened to me three times in the last few years.

Update (September 2010)

Only two weeks until the trip, and everything is on schedule. From some of the forecasts that I've seen, I might get in on the beginning of some of the Fall colors (further north), and that should be fun. This will probably be my last entry here (but you can never be sure). Click the Journey Index link below to get to the site materials. Actually, when the trip begins, I'll remove this page, and you'll be linked directly to the jounal pages... Allll Abbooard...

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Keep the faith... And keep traveling
Andy Anderson