Austin to Los Angeles by Train
The final leg of our trip across the United States. A trip from Austin to LAX (Los Angeles Airport) by train. In fact, this was the longest train journey across the USA as we spent 2 nights on board. Our train departed at 6 pm. So we had a day to explore Austin before making our way to the station.
Once aboard, we settled down for the long trip. It’s a good way to travel and see something of the countryside on the way. We spent time reading and looking out of the window. Then, of course, there are meals. Amtrak does a good job of feeding its passengers. All sleeper car passengers get 3 meals a day. It’s included in the fare so whenever you are on the train they feed you. You come to look forward to the meals. Not so much for the food. Although it is good, for the distraction and the excuse to move around the train a bit more. Our carriage was at the back of the train. So we had a very long walk through 3 or 4 coach class carriages. Then the lounge car before reaching the dining car.
Broken down near El Paso
The landscape around this area is very barren and dry and there is not much to look at. A few miles out of El Paso we slowed to a halt and sat there for some time. Stops like these are not unusual with Amtrak. They often have to give way to freight trains so to start with nobody was at all concerned. What was unusual was that they turned all the power off on the train so this did not look good. After some time, probably over an hour, the conductor finally announced that they had a power failure on one of the engines pulling the train. Now they were doing their best to fix it.
So we waited. Another hour or two passed by and we have no power at all on board. This would not have been a huge problem as it was still daylight. However, the toilets need power to flush so that became more of an issue as time passed. Also, all our electrical devices were running out of power. But although that was a nuisance, it wasn’t really a problem.
A Late Dinner
We had dinner reservations for 5.30 pm, this is the earliest time available and we don’t normally book that early but for some reason, Paul decided he would this time. As time went on that dinner time got closer and the dining car announced that they would not be able to start serving food as they had no power either. So we sat and waited. It got dark. We were moved slightly to another part of the line so 2 freight trains could get past us. And then we waited some more. The conductor announced that they had swapped the two engines and were working on restoring power. We waited some more. Finally around 7 pm, after sitting there all afternoon, they restored power to the carriages. After the inevitable rush for the loo we all wondered what would be happening about dinner.
Those of use with 5.30 pm reservations were called in around 8 pm so it was particularly lucky that Paul decided to go with the early booking. To their credit, the Amtrak dining staff were marvellous and were processing passengers through as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, all the ice cream had melted. They should have put a call out, I could have helped them with that.
We were now some 6-7 hours behind schedule but everyone seemed confident that we would make up time overnight. I was woken up this morning by the bright lights of Yuma station – still in Arizona where we should have been at 2 am but now it was 7 am. We should have been in LA by now and the dining staff were not expecting to have to serve breakfast but they put together pancakes and scrambled eggs for the sleeper passengers which, together with the coffee, were much appreciated.
From our point of view, a later arrival in LA is not really a problem. In fact, it rather suits us as it is no fun arriving anywhere at 5.30 am. We left Palm Springs at 8.45 am and hoped to be in LA by around 10 am. When we got on the train I laughed at Paul as his carry on bag for the journey was not just full of clean underwear, toothbrush etc like most people but cables for charging phones, laptops etc. I said it was the IT guy in him that meant he wasn’t happy unless he had his cables with him. Turned out to be pretty useful though on our extended journey and at least we have fully charged ipad, kindle etc to keep us occupied.
Finally we arrive in LA
We finally arrived in LA at 10 am, so 5 hours behind schedule. Unfortunately, Hertz had given our hire car away so after a brief wait while the guy tried to find us one we decided to give up and catch a bus to the airport instead. As the stopover in LA was just contingency in case the train was late (good call there then) we didn’t have much planned and were staying at a hotel at the airport. There is an airport flyer bus from Union Station to LAX so we walked through to the other side of the station and the bus was just pulling up – for the very reasonable fee of $9 each we were whisked across LA to the airport.
Getting dropped off at the airport proved to be the easy bit. We found the hotel shuttle pick up but our hotel only operated an on-demand service so we had to ring through and ask them to collect us. The driver did eventually pick us up and another 2 groups of people waiting at various terminals around the airport. However, he missed us completely the first time and we had to flag him down and then we had to go back round through the airport because he’d left some other people behind. Not a great introduction to the hotel at all.
Overnight in LA
The hotel is one of those near-the-airport hotels. It was rather dreary and uninviting, not to mention a bit worn. However, it was clean and we had a decent sized room. The front desk staff were very nice and they have some useful freebies such as printers to print our boarding passes and of course the oh-so-efficient free shuttle service. Still, it got us there and we will use it to get back to the airport in the morning for our flight to Maui.
For the first time during our trip, the temperature is really heating up and LA is very warm. Hopefully, it will be just as warm in Hawaii and it will be nice to stay in one place for 3 nights.