To Chicago on the Empire Builder.

I have no idea what the obstacles are–cost is obviously one–but Amtrak really must find a way to provide internet access for passengers on the long-distance trains. I’m certainly not an addict … I don’t have to be constantly on line … but I do feel uncomfortable not being able to check my email every so often. And there was a dust-up between the Red Sox and the Yankees a few nights ago which I had to read about in a newspaper account on my phone the next day. I can deal with it but, like it or not, there are many people for whom a long-distance train trip would be unthinkable if they knew they weren’t going to have access to the internet while on board.
We experienced a couple of delays on my Seattle-to-Chicago ride on the Empire Builder. Just routine stuff–mostly just stopping somewhere in the middle of nowhere and, as is so often the case, there were no announcements by the conductors informing us as to the reason. It’s such a small thing, requiring no effort, and it’s very frustrating.
One more complaint while I’m at it: Amtrak has stopped printing timetables for the individual trains. This is very frustrating for anyone who really likes train travel because it makes it easy to keep track of your train’s progress … something I always want to know. If the westbound Lake Shore Limited arrives in Utica, New York, at 9:15 p.m. and the schedule says we should have been there at 8:48, I know we’re probably going to be at least a half-hour late into Chicago. I’ll check when we arrive at another town five or six hours later and will then know if we’ve gained or lost time since Utica.There’s not damn thing I can do about it, of course, but I do like to keep track of our progress (or the lack thereof). Not having timetables for passengers is just another one of Amtrak’s cost-saving devices, and it’s counter-productive because it annoys all of us who travel by train a lot.
The attendant who looked after me in the 30 car was O.C. Smith and he’s a good one. Friendly, but with a little distance, and he had everything under control without bustling around so we could all see how busy he was. And–for my money, the mark of a truly conscientious car attendant–he told me he would be in roomette #1 and I shouldn’t hesitate to call him if I needed him for anything.
Saturday night was spent in Chicago’s wonderful Palmer House, where the front desk clerk, Edgar, gave me a late check-out at no additional charge. It turns out he was originally from Hawaii. The Aloha Spirit at work.