Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bikes OnBoard


Only two stops between home and Union Station put us at the Amtrak station well ahead of the scheduled departure of the Southwest Chief. We were traveling with our vintage bicycles, a 1973 Schwinn Paramount and a 1983 Mercian Strada Speciale, headed to Paso Robles for the annual Eroica California festival and ride.

Dilemma #1 - The bikes on the roof of the Subaru would not clear the garage.

Dilemma solved - Jacquie would wait on the curb while Jim would park the car.

Dilemma #2 - Jacquie standing on the curb in Chicago wearing a t-shirt, windbreaker and sandals with two bikes, a suitcase, a backpack, a shopping bag, and a large purse in 20 mph winds at 40 degrees.

This dilemma was not remedied until Jim made it back to me so we could proceed into the station. Shivering uncontrollably at this point, a security guard directing taxis observed our conundrum of bags and bikes and generously offered to roll the bikes to the baggage counter with us. We checked our large suitcases because Amtrak requires you hold onto a bike until it is handed off to the porter at the baggage coach.

Dilemma #3 - maneuvering the bikes around Union Station in search of lunch.

After several trips up and down elevators at different ends of the station, a Metra associate kindly walked us to the correct elevator to get to the food court. That's two friendlies so far. In true Chicago fashion we had dogs and fries.

Next we went to the gate that our train was supposed to leave from. This is where you have to forget everything you learned about traveling on a plane. A woman from Amtrak was herding all of us railroad neophytes into a single file line to move to the Great Hall. She was distracted so just told everyone to follow Jim and I because we thought we knew where we were supposed to go. 

Made it to the Great Hall. Now what. We were instructed to have a seat and wait until we were all called at once to move to the train.

While waiting we met another passenger, Tom, traveling with his bike. He had mistakenly chained his bike to a lamp post so he could leave it for a few minutes. In those few minutes his cable was cut and the drug sniffing dog was brought out. Whew.Glad that wasn't us. We almost tried it.

Thirty minutes prior to departure an attendant, who was as round and she was tall, came to the Great Hall and announced that all for the Southwest Chief should follow her. She put Jim and I in the front of the line because we had to hand the bikes off. 

Here's where Jim speaks when he shouldn't. There was a young man at the front whom Jim cordially asked "how are you today?" The young passenger proceeded to display peculiar behavior. After a long, drawn out deduction of phosphoric acid, lower intestines, leaching of nutrients, and vomit inducing levels of sugar it was concluded that Jim's Diet Coke was equivalent to bottled heroin.

I was unequivocally jubilant we were seated nowhere near this young passenger on the train. We were, however, assigned seats next to the other cyclist we had met in the station. Sweet!

Shortly after leaving Chicago an attendant came through the coaches to take dinner reservations. We picked the last time slot of 7:30. Lo and behold we were seated to dinner with another bike nerd. (After this trip Jim will never want to travel any other way.) Galen owned Paramounts and a Voyageur. He was on his way to Albuquerque to purchase a truck to bring home two more Paramounts, 
The conversation went something like this:
Campy this and Shimano that; 27 or 700?; Orange, yellow, or blue?; P13; no, P15; who made the wheels?; is Mercian British? For two hours the conversation revolved around steel. Who would have guessed, of all the passengers, we would have been seated with another bike nut?

We retired to our seats and fell asleep to the gentle rocking of the train.

Upon arriving in Los Angeles we again faced a dilemma of getting the bikes up the stairs to the rental car garage. No problem. We were old pros at this by now. Jacquie waited on the curb while Jim retrieved the car. The 70 degrees in LA was a little bit easier to tolerate.

People, bikes and luggage in the car, we were headed to Eroica California 2017.