LAS VEGAS, NM – 30 HOURS
After 6 months of Covid 19, and in anticipation of at least another. 6 months, we decided that we had to learn to live with it. Retired, we pretty much live a quiet life; however, travel plans have been interrupted, including a Family Alaska Cruise and a a cruise to the Caribbean. Alaska was cancelled, the Caribbean was reset for March 2021 and was then cancelled as Viking cancelled all cruises until at least March 31, 2021. We are betting on being able to go in June with our 125% deal, especially since the vaccines have arrived and being in the over 80 category, we expect to be high on the list.
We have mastered shopping, eating out on outdoor patios, exercise in small numbers at the YMCA and having friends over for outdoor drinks and dinners.
We have not been able to master travel, given our ages, 78 and 80 and various state and international restrictions. There is also a fear of flying.
So, we decided on a short train trip. Albuquerque to Las Vegas, NM is about 3 hours on Amtrak. Las Vegas has a renovated Harvey House Hotel, Castenada, next to the tracks, as well as an earlier one in Winslow, AZ which we have stayed at.
Train 4 was only 20% booked when I got tickets, $15 apiece each way. Leave at 11:45 and arrive about 3.
Castenada had rooms available for $130 including tax etc. and they claimed that they let a day lapse between guests and that the rooms were super clean. The restaurant was closed, but from Wed. Through Sat , 3-8 you could eat on the patio, first come, first served. A limited menu but it looks good.
No breakfast, but the hotel said that the Spic and Spam was just 3 blocks away. We have eaten there and they have great Mexican Food. The place also has an automatic Tortilla making machine which cranks out fresh tortillas.
We were still nervous, so we have gloves, masks, 90% alcohol handi wipes, and water proof pillow case covers, $25 from Amason. We could have gotten disposable hazmat but enough is enough is enough.
You have to balance the risk’s of Covid 19 with going crazy; and at 80 the choice was easy. Crazy is not my thing; caution is ok.
Fortunately, we can park in a city garage a block from the Amtrak station. We have had one Covid 19 test which came back negative, but that was a month ago. Since the trip we have had two more tests, both of which were negative. The tests were drive through and waiting in line took about two hours.
Before taking the trip, we considered what could go wrong.
If we are denied boarding on the train because of symptoms, no problem; we go home and are out $130 for the hotel. If we get toLas Vegas NM, and the hotel won’t let us in because of symptoms, or if the return Amtrak won’t let us on board, what do we do?
There seems to be only one bus a day, at the wrong time. Even if we could get to Santa Fe, The RailRnner is not running, and buses may be risky. Where do we spend the night. Car rentals seem to be non-existent in Las Vegas
It all worked out well. The trip was worth it and we are trying to think how we could do another.
One of the main fears that old people have is losing their driving options. Most of us are addicted to cars. We have been driving the 450 miles from our home in Albuquerque to see our grandchildren in Tucson for years; but, since I turned 79, I am rethinking my driving before someone else rethinks it for me. Our sons watch us…
We were making the trip over two days, with a nice stop and a visit to the hot springs spa at Sierra Grande Lodge in Truth or Consequences, NM; however, now we need to think a bit further out. My no-driving future may be closer than I think. Time to experiment with a few alternatives.
Last week, we drove to El Paso; a straight 270 mile shot on I-25. We took the Amtrak from El Paso to Tucson. Cost $50 each, each way. The train was 3 hours late out of El Paso, but except for the usual stress that old people feel about sitting around in a train station, not a problem. Coming back we got into El Paso 45 minutes early, which meant that we could drive back to Albuquerque before dark. Since it was Saturday afternoon, there was not much traffic on the freeway. Dark and large trucks worry old people.
Our son met us in Tucson and the next morning we rented a car from Enterprise, who picked us up. Thus we had a car in Tucson. We turned it in on Friday at 5 and got a ride to the train station the next morning. You can save a bit of money if you go through Costco Travel.
The coach train seats were great; much better than coach airline seats.
The food was questionable. Take a look at the train menu. Next time, a picnic lunch.
Boarding was a snap. We lined up, the conductor scanned our e-tickets and gave us a paper slip with our seat numbers. We had to climb a narrow stair-case to the upper level, but, you can’t have everything when you are old. No elevator.
The train, including the bathrooms, was clean.
The observation car was comfortable with tables; and, many people with laptops, cell phones and card games.
There were electrical outlets, but no wi-fi on the Southwestern Trains. Since I am addicted to my blog, I use a personal hotspot from T-mobile; (I pay $5 extra a month for extra gigabytes and T-mobile works all over the world.)
Note that cell phone reception is not the best between Lordsburg NM and Tuson, but…
The train was not crowded; about 20 % full.
You share tables in the dining car. We were seated with an interestig man from the Phillipines who was seeing the world. He started out working on Costa Cruise Ships, heard about truck driving in the US, and came here. He is an American Citizen and drives refrigerated trucks across the US. He was going to New Orleans to pick up his car, then to Chicago to start a new truck driving job in the Northeastern part of the US. He has no overhead and plans to return to the Phillipines after Australia and New Zealand
He is also working on a blog, but has not yet published it.
In El Paso, we parked in a secure garage for $10 per day. It was about 2 blocks from the train station and a block from the bus station. It is manned 24 hours a day.
The El Paso train station is an imposing old building; but not marked in any way. So we drove around it a few times and ended up back on the freeway before someone pointed it out. Downtown El Paso is confusing. Next time we will recognize the train station. Experience works, even in old age.
The train station is large, not used much: one passenger train a day in each direction. It has vending machines, one of which takes your money and does not vend; but, there is a warning sign. All the usual junk food. Nothing healthy. Cookies, candies and chips. No restaurants close by.
Three unplanned hours of waiting.
The net result: when we really can’t drive we can take the train, even though it will mean a bus ride from Albuquerque to El Paso, which can be arranged through Amtrak. You have to walk from one station to the other.
Since there are no longer any non-stop flights from Albuquerque to Tucson, we are considering flying through Las Vegas.
Another option that I will have to try alone, since my wife is not interested, is the bus to Tucson. It is reasonable, goes through Phoenix and leaves and arrives at decent hours, albeit 12 hours apart.
The lesson learned is that I have several relatively safe options to get to Tucson; all of which I will try before I have to use them. Even at my age I can figure out what to do now that I have done it.
We can adapt to our age.
You should check out alternate means of travel.
THINK OLD! TRAVEL MORE!