SF 2005: Mon, Tue, Wed

I’m still in San Francisco, having fun! I need to catch up on my blog entries, but meanwhile:

Monday was a recharging day, and King & Gwen introduced me to Greg the Bunny.

Tuesday I got to Moscone Center at 7:45 am for the Keynote of Macworld Expo (featuring Steve Jobs, of course). Watched it with the other media people (oohing and aahing over the new stuff, including Mac mini, iPod shuffle, iLife ’05, iWork, Tiger, etc.), and then prowling the exhibit floor until I was worn out. That night King & Gwen & I went to see “Yes Men” at the Red Vic – very entertaining!

Wednesday (today) I did some research at Creativity Explored and, later this afternoon, AccesSF, and tonight I may attend the Final Cut Pro User’s Group meeting.

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The last leg: Reno to Emeryville

I’m now in San Francisco at King and Gwen’s home! Yay!

I awoke this morning, made my way downstairs to the hotel lobby in Reno, and waited for more info. Eventually a bus arrived, and the crowd of Amtrak refugees was finally given a reason to hope. More buses began to arrive, each going to a specific destination (Martinas, Sacremento, and yes, Emeryville). More details later; I don’t want to ignore my hosts right now 🙂 Suffice it to say for now that we survived traveling over the mountains!

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Amtrak pix and movies

More pix in Pictures area and also QuickTime movies:
My Compartment

Rockies #1

Rockies #2
FYI, I use a Canon S230 digital camera along with my Macintosh PowerBook G4, iPhoto, and Galerie to create these picture albums; the video is from the Canon, too. I use Transmit to ftp files to my website, using the Merlin card to access the internet. Feel free to comment; my email address is pluckey {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Morning in Reno

Early in the morning here in Reno. Skies seem somewhat clear (though still nighttime). I called Amtrak’s 800-USA-RAIL for more information about our fate, since that was one of the recommendations from last night’s customer agent on the phone. The first agent I reached on the phone this morning informed me that there were “no buses and no trains going anywhere” and suggested calling the Reno station (they’ll open at 8:15, another 3 hours away) to find out more.

I called the 800 number again a few minutes later to check and see the progress of the next #5 (California Zephyr) train out of Chicago, the one running a day behind us. This agent (Kathleen) was much more helpful and sympathetic to my tale of being stranded “by the grace of God and Amtrak.” She found in her computer (i.e. actually looked, which appears to be more than the former agent did) a note that confirmed that yes, indeed, a bus would be in front of our hotel at 9:45 this morning. She theorized that this bus would be taking us to the Reno station where we’d be meeting the next #5, due in today (running a couple hours late currently), but it wasn’t clear in her notes if there were a block of seats on the new #5 for us or what.

A shuttle bus to aid the weary travelers in getting from the Reno station to the hotel would have been extremely helpful for us last night, when all passengers and crew had to walk the four blocks — two of the blocks were unplowed and unshoveled, so we were trudging through 1 – 2 feet of snow — dragging all our checked and carryon luggage ourselves to the hotel. A couple cabs started relaying people, especially the elderly and disabled passengers (I discovered a lady in a wheelchair still sitting at the Reno station when I went back to help, some 2 hours after they had annulled our trip, just waiting to see how she would get to the hotel with her luggage. Fortunately a cab showed up and we helped her down the snowy ramp into the cab. It’s a wonder I didn’t see more exhausted passengers face-down in the snow.) I did note that some of the very first people in line at the hotel registration desk last night were Amtrak crew members, I think from the kitchen staff. I did encounter one of the sleeping car attendants coming back to check on the passengers straggling through the snow, and that was good to see — I do hope that other Amtrak crew members had gone back to help those less able to travel in these conditions while I was in line. I really do hope that. Surely there weren’t only two of us (and one of us doesn’t work for Amtrak) that went back to help. I’ll be calling the Amtrak customer service department on Monday to document this experience.

Anyway, I got back to the hotel last night around 11 pm PT, wandered around the casino for about 4 minutes (I allowed myself 3 dollars to spend on the slot machines, and it took 2 minutes to get rid of that), picked up a hot dog from the restaurant, and retreated to my 8th floor room. I got up at 5 am PT and began calling Amtrak. Now I think I’ll nap a little bit before preparing to meet the bus and perhaps even glean more information. Still having a good time, though, but I’m goofy that way .

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The Golden Phoenix beckons

I’m sitting now in a nice hotel room in downtown Reno, overlooking their casino strip. Amtrak gave each of us rooms at the Golden Phoenix (someone sez it used to be the Hilton… until what, I wonder? hee!).

The current plan is for us to call the Amtrak 800 # (1-800-USA-RAIL) early tomorrow morning for an update, and they’re also planning to have buses out front of our hotel at 9:45 am tomorrow (Sunday) morning. So far so good! It was quite the journey getting myself and luggage the 3-4 snowed-in blocks from the Amtrak station to the Phoenix. I think I’ll head back over to the Amtrak station to see if anyone needs help with their luggage. (This room is, in fact, larger than my train compartment. Ah, #12, I shall miss thee.) More pix & videos later once I settle in.

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As far as Reno, Nevada

We made it to Reno. I can see the casinos when I stand outside the train in the falling snow. The snow (around 1-2 feet deep) is wonderful and powdery. We’re stopped, awaiting A Decision on what our train does next. One possibility: Travel through the Sierra Nevadas and rescue the passengers from the derailed train stuck way up there. That sounds like fun!

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From Sparks to Reno

We’ve left Sparks and are inching our way toward Reno. It’s slow going, due to frozen switches, and, in some cases, they have to dig around to find the railroad track (!) given the 2 feet of snow here. Should be in Reno “soon.” The Conductor has told us a few things recently. A train coming over the Sierra Nevadas has derailed, and they’re clearing that now. We are pausing in Reno until we know more about the route ahead of us. More info as we know it. Oh, and they’re showing Princess Diaries II in the Lounge Car to soothe us. Perhaps at Reno now?

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Inching down the snowy track

Getting ever so much closer to Sparks, Nevada, which is “just 8 minutes away” from Reno. Not sure how many days that translates to. Still, people seem in good spirits on the train (well, ok, I’m in my compartment, but I don’t hear any psychotic shrieking or death wails). I’m fine, watching the snow fall, fall, fall. Here’s a pic from the weather.com: We are right next to the word Reno (east of it). Smack-dab in the big white snow storm. The excitement continues! Oh, and I’m uploading yesterday’s pix to my pictures section. Who knows how long I’ll have a modem link after Reno…

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Training the desert

We’re still in the desert, perhaps an hour or so before Reno. We haven’t seen the sun today; it’s been overcast and snowing. Lots of flat land here, with mountain ranges in the distance (turns out the mountains I see aren’t the Sierra Nevadas, because they’re Very Much Bigger, as in 6000 feet of elevation). We’re around 7 hours behind schedule. A couple times we’ve been reduced to 20 mph due to frozen switches, but right now we’re at full speed ahead. The conductor just told us (to allay passenger worries) that Union Pacific will be sending a snowplow train right ahead of us as we travel through the mountains, so that should help. Ok, just had announcement that we’re 30 minutes away from Sparks Nevada, then 8 minutes later is Reno. I’ve heard that all other roads, and other trains, are all closed except for us. Yay for us!

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Morning in… somewhere

I woke up about an hour ago. The train had stopped. I climbed down from my bunk and checked my watch. 6:30 am MT. Peered out the window into complete darkness. Ok, we’re somewhere.

This is probably not Salt Lake City (which we probably stopped at around 4 am). I noticed after a moment that there were tracks alongside our train, and figured we were probably on a siding waiting for a train to pass by. I pulled on my shoes, went to the bathroom, and in a little while I heard/felt the passing train. By the time I returned to my compartment we’d begun to move again. Assured that at least we weren’t stuck somewhere, I gathered my things and took a shower. Actually the shower is not bad. The stall is very cozy, but the water was warm and the handheld showerhead made it easy. I suspect we’re on a long straight stretch of track and therefore standing in the shower was no problem.

I returned to #12 and started downloading yesterday’s pictures from my camera in order to annotate them. The sun is starting to rise, and I can now see across the plain some craggy mountain peaks. The Sierra Nevadas? The mountain range draws closer and closer. I’m surprised to see the green light on the modem card indicating cell service, so I’m quickly posting this before it winks away. We just passed some casinos, so we must be in Nevada. More later, including pix and such.

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