Fred Frailey Blog

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Thanks to all of you for acting as my travel agents. A week ago I asked for your best ideas for getting me from Sarasota, Fla., on February 19 to Vancouver by 8:30 p.m. on February 22, to ride VIA Rail Canada’s train No. 2, the Canadian, with 55 of my nearest and dearest friends.

I thought I had all the best ideas covered. How much I underestimated you. I was offered dinners, cab rides, and even speaking engagements. One of you, I believe, even remembered my love of a dry martini. Your imaginations knew no bounds. I was overwhelmed and thank you for stepping up to the challenge

In the end I chose the option first suggested by traindude001, which is to fly from Sarasota to Washington, D.C., take the Capitol Limited  to Chicago, the Empire Builder to Seattle and an Amtrak bus to Vancouver.

Well heck, most of the rest of you must be saying. That’s the simple solution. Let me explain why it’s also the best one for me.

Flying home to DC for a few hours lets me dump my dirty clothes of the past week and repack my bag for the next. Now I’ve eliminated laundromats or extra luggage. The rest is almost all rail over two of my favorite routes, the Empire Builder being made more attractive because I’ve never taken it all the way west.

But as several of you made note, I am cutting it close. The Builder is due into Seattle at 10:25 am on the day of the Canadian’s departure from Vancouver, and the last Amtrak-affiliated bus to Vancouver leaves just 200 minutes later. It’s winter, as you warned.

Therefore, if there’s any doubt of making the Seattle connection. I’ll pull the pin in Spokane the night before and take any of many Alaska Airlines flights to Seattle to make my bus connection.

And if we’re later than that? Oh c’mon. The next Canadian leaves in three or four days. My wife will surely forgive me, if I surrender the diamond bracelet I’ve been holding for just such moments, and you’ll be rewarded with so many exciting blogs of my misadventures that you’ll forget I ever staged a contest.

But one of you shouldn’t forget. Traindude001, get in touch with me at to collect your 5,000 Amtrak Guest Reward miles. Again, thanks to everyone for joining in the fun. — Fred  W. Frailey

  • What airport are you flying to in Washington?

    Dulles, Regan, or Washington-Baltimore? I think Regan has a subway connection, and from Wash-Baltimore you can take a train right into Union Station.

    Overall, that I feel you went with the best choice, have fun!

  • I’m sorry, I read and responded to this post at work, I didn’t realized that you lived in Washington DC, I was still thinking that you lived in Florida. I was changing the garbage in the business center and snuck in time checked up on your blog for about 3 minutes. I read too fast and missed that fact.

    I’m only interested because I think air-rail airport connections could do a lot to boost ridership for passenger rail.

    I was wondering if you would consider Baltimore-Washington more convenient because of its rail connection to Union Station. I know that it involves a shuttle bus instead of a people mover like Newark Liberty, so it’s not the most convenient air-rail connection.

    At Reagan National there is no direct Metro connection to Union Station, you would have to change trains at Gallery Place to the Red Line.

    And Dulles only has an express bus connection to L’Enfant Plaza.

  • BJ, I'm ticketed to Reagan National. It's a $24 cab ride including tip from my home. BWI is a $30 cab ride from Union Station after getting there by rail and will add at least an hour to the time.


  • Thanks! BWI only made sense if you didn't live in DC and where going direct to the Capitol Limited from the airport. Have a good trip!

  • Of course you got to rub it in with those pictures of the Canadian.  I'm sitting here at work thinking about not riding the Canadian.  Thanks  a lot!

  • I think those of us at work (which I’m not now) should for our own good focus on our work and let Fred ride his train.

    I got to ride in two Park Observation cars over Thanksgiving when Amtrak borrowed VIA equipment for the Adirondack, there was a cross-platform transfer at Albany.

    The dome was perfect; the glass was crystal clear, unlike the blurry and discolored glass of Amtrak’s full-length Budd dome which is now hooked on the Adirondack for the fall colors, or the same problem with glass in the full-length Budd domes of the Saratoga & North Creek/Iowa Pacific.

    On my trip up and back from Port Henry, a few rail fans and Amtrak officials made the same journey. I know that Mr. Frailey posted a few months ago about a bad trip on the Adirondack, but everything was pretty perfect this time!

    For one of the “most scenic trains” in the world, it’s a shame we don’t have appropriate rolling stock and sometimes better onboard service.

    It was like a big dream come true, for a few days we had our own 1950 "pocket-streamliner”. When I was little, the issue of Trains Magazine that featured the re-launched Canadian was my favorite one.

  • That appears to be Mount Robson in the lower photo. We were told that seeing the peak unobstructed by cloud cover is a rare treat. Very good catch.

  • Fred,

    Don't you mean "Vancouer?"

    to Chicago, the Empire Builder to Seattle and an Amtrak bus to Seattle.


  • Good catch, MCO-KCK! I made the correction.


  • I spent 19 years living in Sarasota, Traded it in for Chicago in June

  • Fred, I would never have thought to suggest such a close connection.

    Enjoy your trip.

  • The good news is that your trains will be on time more often than not.  Capitol Limited-79.7%; Empire Builder-70.6% (12 month performance).  So, barring the occasional snow storm, freight train delrailment or mud slide, you should make the party.

    I would still make sure the airline reservation app on your iPhone is current.

  • Now if I had tumbled this contest, I think I would have suggested flying to New Orleans. That would be a great excuse to try IP's Pullman service to Chicago. But then there is that dirty laundry.

  • Fred-Why not take the Sounder from Seattle to Vancouver?  Have taken this train and the ride is BEAUTIFUL! Have rode the Park cars on the Ocean RT Montrael-Halifax.  Had one of the rooms on the dome/lounge car.  I forget his name but the lounge attendant on the train was written up in TRAINS a few months ago.  Great ride also but I think VIA has replaced the Park cars with the English imports.  Nothing is sacred.  Found a new one for our martinis-Bombay Saphire East.  Better than regular Saphire and includes a couple more herbs which give a very subtle flavor.


    Dick Watkins

  • Will we get a trip update?  If I'm doing the math correctly you're on the Builder now, I think.


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