January 28th, 2012

Lord Black Cat

ChattaCon a long and partial trip report (partial one)

Well now, if you weren't there, you missed it. That's Chattacon.

As to some of the what you missed...

Sharon and I finished up Dragon Ship late last Monday, and early Tuesday we hit the road to Albany, which, yes, is not exactly a direct route for Tennessee. But then from here in Central Maine, what is?

Our usual protocol when going long distance South/Southwest/or West is to split driving, with one of us driving to either Kennebunk (http://www.findfuelstops.com/truck-stop-014106 )or the first New Hampshire Southbound liquor store and then drive on with new driver, with perhaps a switch off at the Lee, Massachusetts, rest area after a gas refuel there... and on to Albany for the Amtrak part of the run. For trips West we often drive directly to the train station, park, and board the train within an hour or so -- but that's for the Lake Shore Limited, to Chicago and points even Wester.

To hit NYC's Penn Station for a southern run we'll sometimes stop at the Fairfield Inn to get a morning train, and so we did this time, since Sharon's sprained ankle in the high-tech boot made it impossible for her to drive at all. That meant that I drove the entire way, including the first one hundred miles or more of snow and ice pellets ... and the last 50 miles or so of assorted icy weather. We stopped at the NH liquor store for a rest stop and to pick up a 4 pack of small Chardonnay for our coming train trip (train wine selections can be OK, but pricey).

Our overnight was at the Fairfield Inn, where we had cookies, a decent room, and a take-out dinner I walked to Denney's to get. The portion size was amazing (no, I *don't* get out often) and encouraged us to rise a little early and drive the 1 block or so to the restaurant so Sharon could have a non-TV news breakfast. We really hate being forced to watch TV with the "free" breakfast meals, yessir.

I here applaud Amtrak and Amtrak Redcaps. Sharon had been considering/assuming a hobble-hop from the upstairs lounge and waiting area down the escalator and two the business class section of our train. On AMTRAK, business class and first class tend to be at the rear of the train and require a bit of a hike to get to. In view of that, I approached a station attendant, pointed toward Sharon's boot .... and in short order we had a Redcap towing our luggage while pushing Sharon in a wheel chair after an elevator ride to trackside. More than that, said Redcap explained that we should ask our car attendant to call ahead, which we and he did... and got delivered directly to the Acela Lounge by Charlie the Redcap who also made it his duty to come BACK to the lounge at train time to deliver Sharon to the southbound Crescent.

Wonderful service ... credit where due. I note that we had good similar service on the way back. I note that we did not, however, appreciate the random drawing approach to unloading the luggage in Atlanta. Atlanta and Reno are now my least favorite "full-service" stations -- and I think both Atlanta and Reno should be much embarrassed by what the stations say about their civic commitment to rail travel.

The overnight trip to Atlanta was fine, and then we had a zoo of a time dealing with old information and ... Hertz shares with the the Atlanta rail station a "WTF" ... based on it costing us $20 plus to taxi to a place we'd been assured would send a car right to us when we arrived. Not fun with a schedule to keep, not fun with a bad foot limiting travel for Sharon.

A Texas-plated Nissan Versa was the car we were granted by Hertz and next time I'll specify a size up. The car felt squirrely in traffic with even a small wind; and though it WAS good on gas it didn't inspire the secure feeling the Civic we'd rented to get home from Toledo after the hurricane halted AMTRAK after WorldCon...

Next partial report ... later.