Due to health conditions, my riding/rallying season has been greatly reduced. I will not be able to attend the Salem National this year, and I will not be able to serve as Rally Train Conductor. I am not sure that Conductor George Brown will be able to serve on the Rally Train, at this point in time.

If there will be some rally-goers that will be taking a Amtrak train to Portland, let me give you some hints that we learned from the previous Rally Train:

1. Organize the riders and select Conductors. Meet with the train's Amtrak Lead Conductor, and introduce yourselves and let them have a representative of our group to interact with the Amtrak conductors. This will keep conflicts and problems from growing into major problems.

2. If riding in coach, let me recommend that the "up-all-night" crowd should take the lower level seats on the coach cars. Having the late night crowd down in the bottom of the coach will make all groups happy. The folks on the upper level can try to sleep all night, and the folks on the lower level can have a section to keep the fun going all night. We were able to bring beer on the trains on the first Rally Train, but post 9/11 regulations might be more restrictive. Work with the Bar Car on keeping supplies going thru the night.

3. Dining on a Amtrak train is actually a good thing. We found the food and service was very good on our trains. The biggest problem was hearing when your table reservation was ready. The PA call works on the sleeping cars, but we found the PA was not working a lot of the time in the coach cars. Try to get a time slot for your reservation and hold them to that reservation time.

4. Since we are not carrying our bikes on the train, a big problem for the Rally Train Conductors is removed from their tasks. I checked on all our freight cars containing our bikes at every stop,and I am glad that I did. Amtrak neglected to connect the East-bound freight cars in the Chicago yards, and we almost left our bikes in Chicago! It was quite a stand-off in the Chicago yards, with me demanding our freight cars be attached, and refusing to take my leg from the car wheel. Stay aware when you are traveling a long distance on Amtrak! Keep the good manners and try to keep everybody happy and don't get the (underpaid) Amtrak staff angry with you.

5. Communications, good attitude, and sensible ideas will make this trip a fun experience!

If you have additional questions, send me a PM and I will try to find an answer. I hope that I will be able to make the RA National @ Asheville this June, and I will be glad to talk with interested travelers. Look for the Gonzo Touring Team banner @ Biltmore, and they will help you find me.

The train is a lot of fun for long distance travel, and I sure wish they would carry our bikes on the train again. If we continue to give Amtrak some good business, they might eventually come around to our needs.

I'm sorry that I cannot serve on the 2013 Rally Train, but I hope that some members will take the rails to Oregon this year. Enjoy the journey!

Willie Nichols 2001 Rally Train Conductor