When I woke up, our train the Sunset Limited was traveling through somewhere in Arizona. The three of us got dressed and headed out to the dining car for breakfast which is our first meal onboard the Sunset Limited Train. There are no meals when you board in Los Angeles the first night. I do not believe even the cafe car is open during the first night out of Los Angeles. The dining car was the next car over from our Superliner Sleeping Car which saved us from having to walk the whole length of the train during meal times. When leaving Los Angeles, the Sunset Limited and the Texas Eagle are coupled together with the Texas Eagle Train attached to the rear of the Sunset Limited. If you were a passenger traveling on the Texas Eagle portion of the train, you have a long walk to the dining car for all of your meals.
Once we entered the Superliner Dining Car, Our Sleeping Car Attendant, Darlene was in there preparing a togo meal for one of the sleeping car passengers. We greeted her with a “Good Morning” before continuing to the other half of the dining car where we were seated by Jason the LSA. Amtrak has a community seating policy in their dining cars. This means unless you have four people in your group, other passengers will be seated at your table to fill it up. Nobody else was seated at our table this morning for breakfast so we did not have to worry about small talk with strangers so early in the morning before anyone has had their coffee.
Alice Wong, the server working in the Superliner Dining Car, came over to our table and handed us three meal tickets with instructions on how to fill out the bottom portion with our sleeping car information and then sign all three meal tickets. She came back shortly to take our breakfast order by checking off the items on the carbon copy meal tickets that my parents and I filled out and signed while Alice helped another table.
I ordered the scrambled egg breakfast with a side of sausages, croissant, and a glass of orange juice plus a cup of coffee. My mom ordered the omelette with a side of sausages and my dad went with the Railroad French Toast with a side of sausages. The dining car tables were setup with paper tablecloths, flowers, bowls with breakfast condiments and real silverware and cloth napkins. Coffee was served in a disposable plastic mug and the orange juice in plastic cups. All of the food came out on disposable plastic plates with Amtrak branding on them.
The breakfast food items were all surprisingly tasty. I did a lot of researching online regarding food onboard Amtrak’s long distance trains before leading up to this trip. The reviews were mixed with some saying that it was terrible with others saying it was edible but nothing to write home about. I would compare the quality and taste of my scrambled egg breakfast as two steps above Dennys. My dad said he liked his Railroad French Toast but I did not taste it since I am not too fond of French Toast. My mom swapped half of her omelette for half of my dad’s Railroad French Toast so they could both sample each others breakfast choices.
The dinning car was not very busy for breakfast when we were in there. If I remember correctly, only two other tables other than our table were occupied while we were eating. Alice came by frequently to refill our coffee and she would crack little jokes with my parents and myself. We must have spent about 2 hours total in the dinning car between eating and conversing with Alice.
According to Alice, she is almost 80 years old, and have been working for Amtrak for about 30 years. For over a decade, Alice has been working exclusively on the Sunset Limited. Alice said that she lives in Las Vegas and drives herself between Las Vegas and Los Angeles when it is her work week. We talked about anything and everything with Alice during breakfast and in hindsight, Alice Wong was the entertainment that kept the trip interesting.
Once it was closing time for the dining car, my parents and I headed to the Superliner Sightseer Lounge to watch the scenery along the Sunset Limited’s route. The Sightseer Lounge is Amtrak’s lounge on Western Long Distance Routes. Half of the Sightseer Lounge have seats facing the window and the other half of the car has booth style table and seats similar to the dinning car. The full length of the Sightseer Lounge has wrap around windows and the lounge is available to both sleeping car and coach passengers to enjoy. On the lower level of the Sightseer Lounge is the cafe and more booth style seating. At the cafe, you can purchase snacks, beverages including beer, wine and liquor and other items. While passengers are not supposed to hog the lounge, passengers do. 90% of the passengers on the left hand side of the picture were still there in the same spot the following day when I visited.
After checking out the Sightseer Lounge, we went over to the coach car so we could see what the coach class seats looked like. We were getting stares from the passengers in the coach car while we were playing around with one of the seats so we left the car and headed back to our deluxe bedroom in the sleeping car. Darlene had already converted the beds back into daytime mode and restocked the bottled water in our bedroom. At this point in the day, I decided to be the first one to take a shower and change into fresh clothes. While our deluxe bedroom has a private shower toilet combo, I decided to use the communal shower downstairs which is much bigger than the shower in our deluxe bedroom. The communal shower is meant for roomette and family bedroom passengers but since no one was using the shower, I decided to use it.
Once I was finished showering, my parents each took turns using the communal shower downstairs as well. It felt good after a hot shower and a change of clothing. When I boarded the Sunset Limited yesterday, I had my MiFi internet device on me. I tried looking for the device so I could connect to the internet and try to do some work. I could not find the device anywhere in our deluxe bedroom. My parents even helped me search through my bag and I pulled down the upper bunk that I slept on to see if it fell out somewhere up there. Neither my parents nor I could find it, so I decided to call up Verizon and temporarily turn on the hotspot feature on my iPhone. Verizon’s customer support was able to help me turn on the hotspot feature and I was able to get good fast speed out where we were in the desert. I took out my computer to do some work and my mom used her iPad to stream her shows using the just turned on hotspot internet connection.
While we were keeping ourselves busy with the internet, Jason came through the sleeping car taking reservations for lunch. We chose to have lunch at the first available reservation time Jason had available. Time flew by as decided to go around our sleeping car taking pictures and afterwards sitting in our Amtrak Deluxe Bedroom looking outside the window. Just a little after our train, the Sunset Limited crossed into New Mexico, our reservation time was called for lunch. We put our stuff away in the small closet, closed the curtain and sliding door, and headed to the dining car for lunch. When we arrived in the dining car, my parents and I were seated at a table already occupied by another passenger. Unlike at breakfast, we were going to have to make small talk with a stranger. I did most of the talking to spare my parents from small talk, but the gentleman that we were dining with was shall we say a little odd. He was traveling in coach and headed to El Paso Texas.
Alice came by with the meal tickets again and I performed the same routine of filling in the the sleeper info and then signing the tickets. For lunch, Alice recommended the breaded chicken with the onion gravy. The three of us went with her recommendation for lunch. Lunch started out with a small salad and a dinner roll and a beverage of our choice. I chose iced tea and my parents went with diet soda. The chicken dish was good but probably would have been better had it been fried and not baked. On the Sunset Limited, and onboard other Amtrak Dining Cars, there are no deep fat friers so everything is either griddled, baked, boiled or steamed. Lunch also comes with dessert. I chose to have the cheesecake and Alice let me have it a la mode with a side of vanilla ice cream.
As soon as we were finished with lunch, we quickly excused ourselves and left the gentleman traveling to El Paso to finish his lunch. I was going to leave Alice’s tip on the table but my mom decided to to give the money to Alice directly herself than leave it on the table unguarded.
We headed back to our deluxe bedroom, to just kickback and relax after lunch. Since we brought our own bag full of beer and wine, I asked my parents if they wanted some wine, which they agreed to. On Amtrak, you are allowed to bring your own alcohol and consume it onboard in our roomette or deluxe bedroom only. You are not allowed to consume your own alcohol in the coach cars. I opened up one of two bottles of Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon and poured three glasses for ourselves. The wine was not bad and even though we recently had a big lunch, we took out the snacks we brought along with ourselves to enjoy with the wine.
Jason the LSA, made an announcement that he would be going though the sleeping car first and then through coach to take dinner reservations. When Jason arrived at our bedroom, he gave us a list of reservation spots open and we chose to eat dinner at 5:30 PM. Around this time, our train the Sunset Limited crossed into Texas and we could see the border with Mexico out of the window. Shortly after crossing into Texas, announcements were made regarding our next stop which is El Paso Texas and that it would be a longer service stop, so anyone who wanted to could get off off the train to smoke to do so.
As the Sunset Limited approached El Paso Station, the conductor made an announcement that the Burrito Lady was on the platform selling burritos for anyone who wanted to make a purchase. I got off of the sleeping car and got in line behind a long line of coach passengers and purchased two different types of burritos to share with my parents. Unfortunately we ate the burritos before I remembered to take pictures of them. So far today, we have been doing nothing but eating onboard the train and dinner time was fast approaching.
At 5:30 PM, Jason made the announcement for passengers holding 5:30 PM dinner reservations to come on down to the dinning car. My mom was in the middle of reading so she wanted to finish up the page before heading over to the dinning car. Just as she was finishing, Alice got on the intercom calling us to the dinning car by name. At this point, all three of us laughed and jumped out of our seats and hurried to the dinning car for dinner.
Once we arrived at the dinning car, we were sat at a table already occupied by a lady traveling to Fort Worth Texas. She was traveling in the sleeping car of the Texas Eagle which is the last car coupled to the rear of the Sunset Limited. Early in the morning, when the Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited arrives in San Antonio, the Texas Eagle’s one sleeping car and one coach car will be uncoupled from the Sunset Limited and attached to the daily Texas Eagle which runs between Chicago and San Antonio.
We all introduced ourselves at the table and had a conversation that was neither forced nor awkward. Unlike the odd gentleman that we shared a table with during lunch, our dinner companion was very pleasant. According to herself, she is originally from California and a transplant to Texas. Alice came by with the meal tickets which by this time we were quite familiar with the required routine. All four of us decided to go with Amtrak’s Signature Steak for dinner. I was offered a baked potato by Alice but I told her I would pass. She asked me if I would rather have rice pilaf instead and I accepted. Our dinning companion asked if it would be ok if she had a beer with dinner. It was really polite of her to ask us and I let her know that she was sitting with two drinkers and the only reason we were not having any beer or wine during dinner was because we had already finished couple of beers and a bottle of wine in our sleeping car.
Dinner, just like lunch started with a salad and a dinner roll. Somebody at another table must have not wanted their salad or their dinner roll because Alice came by our table and gave me a second salad and dinner roll. During this time, an odd gentleman from coach came into the dining car and plopped himself down in one of the empty tables. Jason went over to him to ask if he had a reservation and the man looked shocked and surprised that he needed one. Long story short, Jason sat the odd gentleman at the table across from us with three other passengers. I totally felt sorry for the other three people having to dine with the odd fellow. He was loud and talked with his mouth full of food. Rumor has it that this gentleman tried to smoke on the train and was later kicked off of the train at the next stop. I never followed up on the rumor but that is what I heard.
Our main course arrived after we were finished with our salads. Amtrak surprised us again with how good the steak tasted. Even our dining companion commented on how tender and juicy the steak was. I say Amtrak’s Signature Steak dinner tasted better than most cheap steaks sold at diners such as Denny’s or Norms. While I had rice pilaf, my mom had a baked potato with her steak which came with sour cream and butter. After the main course plates were cleared away, Alice came by to take our dessert order. I went with the vanilla ice cream since I was so full from eating all day. Alice seemed a little disappointed that I was having such a small dessert.
Once my parents and I were finished, we wished our dining companion a safe trip home and excused ourselves from the table after leaving a tip on the table for Alice. By this point in the trip, it was pitch black outside with no artificial lights to be seen. Eventually, an announcement was made that we would be stopping in Alpine Texas which is a crew change stop and also a smoke break stop for anyone who needed to smoke. My parents and I decided to get off of the train to get some fresh air. I was running around the train in shorts and got off of the train in Alpine in shorts and immediately felt the winter chill hit my legs as I got close to the door of the train. I decided to brave the cold and disembarked to take pictures. During the stop in Aline Texas, the Sunset Limited blocks one of the streets for quite awhile. People in this town do not seem to mind the long roadblock. If this happened in California, there probably would have been a riot by the drivers.
I went back aboard the train to join my parents back up in our Amtrak Deluxe Bedroom. Once we began moving again, I asked Darlene to convert our room for sleeping and the three of us went to the Sightseer Lounge while Darlene was converting our room. Inside of the Sightseer Lounge, coach passengers were camped out on the chairs and on the floor in their sleeping bags. There was one nosy man who seemed to get into everyones business in the car. My mom did not want to hang around in the lounge any longer so we headed back to our deluxe bedroom to prepare for bed and call it a night.