13 June, 2021

I’ve been home for a little over a week now, and think I’ve recovered enough to post about the trip!

36 hours on an Amtrak train. I’ve done this one and a half times before, so you would think I would remember what it’s like. It must be like childbirth, because there are moments – not pleasant ones – where my mind says ‘oh! I remember this!’. Unfortunately, my trip began with one such moment. I had an Uber pick me up and take me to the transit center where I caught a bus to the train station. Well, 2 blocks from the train station, but close enough that it shouldn’t have been an issue, even with the one suitcase with the wheels that no longer turn. When I made it to the station, the door to the elevator from street level to concourse level was locked. The security guard told me it had been locked since Covid lockdowns. This is the ONLY handicapped access to the train station from street level, without going WAY out of your way. So I had to schlep my 47 lb. suitcase down two big flights of stairs, then go back up and do it again with my 35 lb. bag. I have back, heart, and breathing problems (welcome to your 60’s!). THIS WAS NOT FUN. I fully intend on contacting the City of Seattle as the Amtrak personnel told me the city owns the building and it’s their job to come out and open the door. Thankfully I arrived early enough that I had time to stop sweating and let myself dry out before getting on the train.

Then there was the 90-year-old woman who boarded the train somewhere in Oregon and sat 3 rows behind me. When the train pulled out of the station she started screaming ‘LET ME OFF THIS F*****G TRAIN’ as loudly as she could, and interspersed it with a few ‘God Damn Its’ and a lot of coughing up what must have been VERY large hairballs. Many hairballs. There were a few times when she evidently felt she wasn’t getting enough attention and started screaming she was going to be sick. The Amtrak porters obliged her and deposited her at the next station.

I would think that by 90 you have realized that riding a train would give you an anxiety attack. Evidently, I’m just not thinking straight. But now she, and all the passengers in our car, know it. And as a side note – if your COPD has reached the point where your lungs are full of liquid, you need to be on oxygen. And you need to be medicated properly. And if you aren’t on oxygen, nor medicated properly – you should not be exerting yourself by traveling, even if you don’t suffer from anxiety attacks. To be clear, I am sympathetic to her situation, but there were children in our car and her behavior was not acceptable, even allowing for an anxiety attack. The Amtrak porters treated her with care and respect. I don’t know how they did it.

The dining car attendant kept announcing that Amtrak had gone back to 100% booking, yet the dining car had (and still is) been restricted to serving only the passengers in the sleeper cars. Coach, and business class needed to buy their food from the snack bar. When I asked why they were back to 100% booking, but hadn’t opened the dining car to all the passengers, the porters told me that Amtrak management decisions never make sense. I’d brought enough food to last the entire trip (still have some) and just supplemented with a burger here and there, so I really wasn’t bothered – with the exception of being told I wasn’t high class enough to deserve a spot in their exclusive dining car!

For most of the ride I had both seats to myself, but from Eugene to Sacramento I had a seat mate, Debbie. Debbie had been visiting family and we had nice conversations during her time on board. Much of the time was spent sleeping, so we weren’t to the point where we learned each other’s eccentricities! Debbie was going someplace in New México and was puzzled by having to take a bus from Sacramento to Los Angeles. I had to remind her the train moves VERY slowly, and her bus got her to LA a whole 4 hours before the train. Sadly, she would be missing the oceanside scenery.

The rest of the Amtrak journey was smooth and silky! BUT THEN … I had reserved a room at the Wingate by Wyndham hotel near LAX. Two factors made me chose this hotel, price, and the free airport shuttle. Again, I must be thinking like a crazy person. I called them from the train early on the 4th to tell them I would need a late check-in. They said, “No problem, we’re open 24 hours”. They did NOT say, nor was it listed on the site I use to book the room, that their shuttle is NOT 24 hours. So, after arriving at the train station I decided to take the $10 bus to the airport, where I could hop on the shuttle to the hotel. Airport bus drops me off at the hotel pickup spot, and I call the hotel to ask if they just do continual loops, or if I need to let them know I need a pickup. That’s when they tell me the shuttle stops at 9 pm, and I will need to take an Uber/Lyft/Taxi. That pickup lot is 5 blocks away. 5 blocks rolling a 47 lb. bag and dragging a 35 lb. one. And an additional $35, which is what it would have cost me to come from the train station directly. I will be asking the booking agent for a refund of my Lyft ride. I will also let you know that if you visit Los Angeles, do not stay in this hotel. I’ve been to many of the lower end hotels and this Wyndham branded hotel was dirtier and less properly maintained than any of those. The carpeting in the hallways was absolutely disgusting. The light bulb in my bathroom was burned out. There WAS a single cup coffee maker in the room, and a safe was sitting on a wooden box in the closet.

Next morning I checked out and took the now operating shuttle to the airport where I can say with all honesty that the upgrade I opted for to first class was money well spent! Alaska Airlines baggage scale gave the same reading as my home scale, and the one at Amtrak – so they didn’t try to hit me with overweight fees! And wonders of all wonders, the first-class seats in this Alaska Airline plane weren’t like the American Airlines Edith Ann ones! I was comfy, pampered, had one bloody mary, a nice American version of a bahn mi sandwich, and a warm chocolate chip cookie (which I ate, even though chocolate has lactose)! 92 degrees in Mazatlán when we landed and now I’m warm again! Pizza delivery for dinner the first night home (La Rustica), and 4 tortas ahogadas ordered from El Mono which lasted the week! Made it to the Mercado and (as I posted previously) Ley Express. Bags are unpacked, and my kitchen is enjoying its newest member, Mr. Giant Wok! Oh, and yes – customs made me open my suitcases. When they got to the chili crisp they started trying to unwrap it (I had it in two bubble wrap bags) until I told them there were no seeds in it. Then they stopped and put it back! Well, there ARE a few seeds, but they’re from chilis you can buy here, and they’ve been cooked and put in oil, so they’ll never grow. I did a chili crisp happy dance! (note that this is a 24.69 oz bottle!!!!).

Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp
Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp

I never did a menaje de casa when I first moved here, so I’ve been schlepping things down every time I make a run back to Seattle. If you’re coming into México by air, you can bring items valued at up to $500 usd, in addition to your personal items. When it’s iffy, I get online and print receipts/invoices from the places I bought them. If they’re old and used, I go on ebay and find the cheapest listing for the item. When you’re flying and have the airlines branded credit card, you get one free checked bag up to 50 lbs. If you fly first class, you get TWO free checked bags up to 50 lbs. each! There’s a post by Q’Roo Paul on bringing ‘Stuff’ into México – if you have any questions about the topic, you should read this well researched post: https://qroo.us/2019/10/04/mexico-how-much-stuff-can-you-bring-duty-free-and-which-items-are-exempt/. With this trip I now have the giant wok, the chili crisp, and my cold smoke attachment for my smoker! I will soon be finding out how smoked chihuahua cheese tastes!

So, back a little over a week. My body has stopped feeling as if I’m still on a rocking train. My diet has been restarted and I’m getting into the eating sensibly habit again. I’ve been taking a Spanish class from a community college by my house in Seattle, and that’s almost over … and the trip only cost me a missed quiz, one test, and a ‘late’ turn-in for one day’s assignments. Thankfully I’m using a program that doesn’t allow for my grade to affect my transcript! I took the initial Spanish class because the last formal class I had was in 9th grade. This one DEFINITELY filled in some blanks I had. I will likely be taking the next class as well … that one is going to make me do a bit of work in order to succeed.

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