Taking the soon-to-be grandma to Charleston, S.C., so that she can help with the new bundle of joy
In June (2018), my mother and I embarked on an expedition to Charleston, S.C. We took Amtrak’s Capitol Limited to Washington, D.C., where we transferred to the Silver Meteor. Travels with Kev trivia: I have ridden the Capitol Limited every year since I started riding long-distance trains. (For more information on how we went and got there.)
Our trip started with a tardy Hiawatha from Sturtevant, WI, to Chicago. After arriving in Chicago, we walked upstairs of Union Station to the Junction Bar for food and beverage. I tend to enjoy an adult beverage before traveling to relax, and my mother wanted a bite, so we were both happy.
After leaving the bar, we headed to the Metropolitan Lounge; we could relax before our departure because we had a roomette on the train. The Metropolitan Lounge is a contemporary lounge for Amtrak’s business class and sleeper passengers.
For years I carried a deck of cards that I rarely used; while we waited, we played a few rounds of rummy if it was a great way to pass the time, even though I think my mom somehow cheated.
Boarding our train
While playing cards, we heard the announcement for our train, so we gathered our things and walked down to our waiting train. After the short walk, we found our sleeping car and met our car attendant, Carlos, who directed us to our roomette. Quickly we settled into our roomette, preparing for our adventure to Charleston, S.C.
If you ever have Carlos as an attendant while on Amtrak’s Capitol Limited, he will treat you well. He did an excellent job of ensuring we knew what was going on, we had food, and he pointed out places of historical interest or natural beauty. This simple act added to the enjoyment of our trip.
This trip was full of delays, but they all worked to our advantage.
We departed Chicago Union Station a little late due to issues with a locomotive that did not delay us too much. From what I heard, they needed to swap out one of our two engines with a different one. I would rather have that than have one breaking down on the trip.
I joked with my mom that I would be happy if we pulled out as far as the yard. Well, I should have shut my mouth; after we started moving, the yard was as far as we got.
The train left the station, and we rolled out as far as the yard, stopped, and waited.
A drawbridge was excited and did not want to go down. During this time, we decide to grab dinner and more information about our food experience later.
After we returned to our room, the train started to move backward! The bridge was in place, but we had to get out of the way of another train coming into the station before we could go further. This incident is the first time I have ever had something like that happen, but I have had some crazy things happen on trains.
Changes to Amtrak food service
We got to sample Amtrak’s new “contemporary” meals for sleepers, the crew did their best to make this work, but the meal distribution design is weak and inefficient. Instead of sitting and having your food brought to you, they made you stand in line. This food line could be an issue for some older passengers or passengers with special needs.
The meals were good but not great, and they ran out of breakfast; that was not too much heartbreak because I was not too fond of most of it offered in the breakfast box. You would think they would plan enough meals for all travelers entitled to a “box.” I am used to the typical hot meals and services on Amtrak long-distance trains and enjoy the food.
With this change, I tried to be open-minded about the move, and the execution may have sounded good on paper, but the actual implementation of the process needs work, and I hope the process is still under development. I should not have to wait in line for a box for money we paid, usually including a steak. Side note, these meals, this service is on Amtrak’s Capitol Limited and Lakeshore Limited. Since this trip, Amtrak added a warm meal that was lacking.
Okay, thus ends the rant; back to the rest of the story.
Train delays are not fun, but when they happen, you often get views that are usually only seen at night. It was interesting coming into Pittsburg in daylight; it usually is during the early stages of sunrise.
Because of the delay, Amtrak bought us a chicken sandwich box meal from a fast-food chain delivered to the train on the way out there. It was hot and tasty. This meal held us over until we got on our next train.
We did not have to wait in Washington D.C. that long; our next train became slightly delayed, giving us some breathing room, which was nice. But we had an hour before we were on our next train.
Our last train
Once on the Silver Meteor, we settled in our roomette before going to the dining car for a more traditional Amtrak meal. We shared a table with a lovely lady, and not only did we enjoy the meal but the company as well. We found out that she was on our last train, and I think she might have been in our car, but our paths never crossed until then. One thing I like about train travel is meeting new people.
This train still has traditional Amtrak food. The food was excellent, along with the service. I had the salmon while my mom had her favorite Amtrak meal, the steak.
After returning to our room, we settled in for a while before having our room ready for the night. With a 4:50 am arrival, you want to get to bed a little early.
When we arrived in Charleston, we found my sister and, for the last time, crawled into her Santa Fe to go back to her home and see Abby. (Before I left to come home, my sister’s “new” Buick arrived.)
While I was there, not many exciting things happened, mostly shopping for the baby, swimming, and playing with Abby.