Train Travel Tips: Seattle to Portland
I woke up Friday with a hankering for a train ride. It would also be a good opportunity to shake-down my Christmas plan of taking the bus to Amtrak’s King St. Station, and then buying a ticket to wherever the next departure was headed. I hadn’t ridden Amtrak in more than thirty years, and I knew my comparisons to the sleek French railway system I’d ridden this past September would be both unfavorable and unfair. So I set my outlook on positive, threw a change of clothes into my daypack (“Mini-me”?) and took off into my next unknown.
A few snafus presented themselves immediately, the rest paraded throughout the rest of the trip. My senior bus card showed insufficient funds when I tried to use it. (The only cash I had one me was Canadian in the event the first train out was to Vancouver, BC.) Later, at the station, the Amtrak agent assigned my Business Class seat on the 507 to Portland, while selling me a ticket on the 509 leaving several hours later. The conductor on the train, in a most accommodating effort to work through the discrepancy, voided both my Portland ticket and my Seattle return the next day. The hotel declined my credit card. My phone died, because, in my haste to pack, I forgot both the regular and the external chargers. When I tried to add the uber app to my tablet (which fortunately I had decided to take with a full charge) I got caught in a password death spiral that threatened to leave me Uberless in Portland. But as they say, it’s dilemmas that have horns; problems have solutions, and all of the above turned out to be problems.
Both bus drivers let me ride free, while I figured out how to load the bus card for future trips (don’t know what happened to my initial cash load). The conductor found a way to let me remain in my assigned seat on the wrong train. I resolved the credit card issue, was finally able to add the uber app to my tablet, and bought a charger in the Portland station’s shop. An equally accommodating ticket agent reinstated my return ticket to Seattle on Saturday morning, and I discovered Business Class passengers have access to a well-appointed lounge in the station. All in all, it was a good experience with some lessons learned. (Not the least of which was just how friendly, almost unctuously so, the Amtrak staff all were.)
I will add a number 4 to my standard check-off mantra of 1) ID and cards, 2) house keys, 3) phone and now, 4) chargers. I will also not just show up at the Amtrak station to take pot luck on the first train out. There are not that many departures to interesting places, with hours in between each of those. Clearly, as well, Business Class sells out, and I’ll plan on that happening for the holidays and book online in advance. Had I not done this shake-down run, I would probably be headed for a big piping hot bowl of disappointment come Christmas. (The trip home from Portland Saturday included a one and a half hour delay for a bomb scare on the tracks, and then a Marx Brothers comedy trying to meet up with my uber driver at the King Street Station.
Also, if I’m going to be a fulltime blogger, I need to remember to bring a pen and notebook along next time.