Michigan Revisited

I have been away from the internet for nearly a week and now that I’m back there’s one thing I want to be sure to tell you first. And that is: Do not travel by Amtrak. I will give my reasons for this, but I rather start with the good stuff.

One of my best friends got married this last weekend. It was an honor to be there see the ceremony. The day was a perfect match to the beauty of the wedding itself. I’m excited to have gained a new friend in his wife and hope that I’ll be able to make frequent visits with them.

I was also able to meet up with a few friends that I hadn’t seen in nearly three years (and one Twitter friend I hadn’t met before). Overall it was too, too brief. But completely worth seeing them if only for a short moment.

I have so much to catch up on with my blog and my marketing (the latter especially), so I’ll wrap things up with explaining why I say not to travel Amtrak.

First of all, Amtrak does not guarantee you will make any connections, including their own. This was stated as matter of fact by an Amtrak employee. My train to from Minnesota to Chicago (where I had a connection) was 45 minutes late to our station, then lost so much time along the way that we were nearly 3 hours late to Chicago.

I missed my connection. We all did. They hardly cared. In a chaotic shuffle at Amtrak services they sorted us out onto buses to either drive us to our stops or catch up to our trains. For me, they just drove us all the way. Happily this means we surpassed our train and I arrived in Grand Rapids only 30 minutes late. The trip back was far worse.

People say that traveling short distances with Amtrak is okay. I have to disagree. The trip to Chicago was supposed to take 3 hours. It took 8 hours. We were, once again, 3 and a half hours late. We ALL missed our connections. Amtrak said the would hold some trains to wait, they’d bus some to catch up, or they’d provide overnight lodging for those stranded due to this “inconvenience.” They followed that up by saying, “although, we can’t promise these accommodations.”

They don’t guarantee you’ll make your connection and they don’t guarantee that they’ll do anything to help you once you finally reach the station where this connection would have been. And when you spend FIVE HOURS longer on a train than you’re suppose to all they have to say (when they DO communicate with the passengers) is, “Sorry for any inconvenience this may be for anyone.” DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW INADEQUATE THAT SOUNDS?

Here’s what they should have said, “Amtrak deeply apologizes for this inconvenience, though circumstances were out of our hands (a freight train had broken down in front of us), please go to the Amtrak Services station and we will do our best to help you continue on your travels.” Including brief directions to where that office is would have been helpful too.

See here’s the little known facts of Amtrak. It’s government-run, so customer service is…well, non-existent. Also, they rent the track from the freighter companies which means schedules are more like guidelines than actual plans. As one who became used to train travel in Japan, this is utterly ridiculous. In Japan you can set your watch, to the second, by the trains. The only time a train is late in Japan is if…morbidly, if someone jumped in front of one. But train travel in American (via Amtrak) is a joke. I skipped the Chicago to Minnesota leg of my journey. Instead, I escaped. I bought airfare from O’Hare to Minneapolis, grabbed a cab, and made it through airport security with 15 minutes to spare. I was home 6 and a half hours sooner than I would have been IF my train had been on time.

So I’m sworn on a Bible, literally, that I would never travel with Amtrak again. I’ve also vowed to tell everyone I know to NOT travel with them either. That is the extent of how passionate my distaste and frustration was with Amtrak. For the rest of my life I will hold to this promise.

All that said. I want to be VERY CLEAR about one thing. IT WAS ALL WORTH IT to see my friends get married and to visit with friends again. For them, I walk to Hell and back. You can count that as fact.

Now, I should get on with catching up on my marketing.

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