What the heck is The Great Train Escape? It’s the coolest 11 hour write-in you’ll ever spend on a train!
We reserve a 20 seat section of the train. We meet in the center of LA Union Station, between Starbucks and Famima at 9:30AM. If you’re late and receive a seat assignment, you don’t have to sit where the conductor assigns you. Just walk the train until you find us.
If boarding at another stop besides LA Union Station, tell the conductor you’re with NaNoWriMo, and he should be able to direct you. The conductors have been really nice the past two years. The Amtrak staff is fascinated by us.
November 15, Friday, about 16-20 WriMo’s board the Amtrak Coast Starlight train (10:10am at LA Union Station), coach class, and enjoy an 11 hour train ride from Los Angeles to Oakland (arrive ~9:30pm). Then we split cab fare into Union Sq (~$40, $10 each) and go to our hotels.
The train cruises along the beach for most of the trip, so the sunset is gorgeous. The old fashioned dining car, with waiters, is an elegant experience, even if the food is well… far from gourmet, and your loving MLs imbibe your writing with free wine.
The seats are huge and you have a private power outlet. The Wifi, so far, has not existed, even though they say it’s available.
NOTE: Amtrak gives you a 10% discount with AAA if booked 3 days in advance.
November 16, Saturday, enjoy San Francisco, check out Alcatraz if you’ve never been, and then attend the evening Meet & Greet party with the NaNoWriMo staff at a German schnitzel house about a 15 minute walk from Union Sq. The party is usually 7pm-9pm. There is often a late night write-in afterward – Rumor has it that Sara will be hosting a write-in at the lobby/bar of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in Union Square. Once this write-in is confirm it will be announced at the Meet & Greet party.
November 17, Sunday, brings you to The Night of Writing Dangerously (NOWD), which starts at 4pm with an open bar. The Julia Morgan ballroom has round tables, each with power outlets and the room has descent Wifi. Dinner and munchies are provided, and the bar is free all night. This is the Write-a-Thon of all write-a-thons. It’s AWESOME! The party basically goes until midnight. Save some space for the late night milk and cookies!
November 18, Monday, Fly home. The train ride home is really long, and you’ll be all alone, unless a few other WriMo’s plan to take the long ride back as well.
NOTE: In past years, the NOWD has been the weekend before Thanksgiving. But due to such a late Thanksgiving, this year it is two weekends before Thanksgiving. That means it’s still Conference Time in San Francisco, so hotels are ridiculously expensive, but train and airfare are cheap. So if you’re wondering why your hotel was only $120 last year, but is $300 this year, that’s why.
Air B&B is a great website for renting people’s apartments when they’re out of town. It’s typically about $100/night. Make sure you look at location.
Kimpton hotels in San Fran are swanky, well-located and keep popping up with descent deals. Today Serrano Hotel in Union Square is offering $204 for a deluxe, 2 double bed room. Grab a room mate and this is a descent price. (AAA discount available) Sara always stays at a Kimpton and will vouch that it’s well worth the money.
Many of the bigger hotels take AAA discount. Always check.
The Mosser is a decent location and decent price (Shared Bath Queen – $129/nt) if you don’t mind sharing a bathroom. Warning – Reviews are mixed.
The San Fran Downtown Hostel is a good option, and in the past, WriMos have all roomed together in a 4-person room at about ~$30/person/night. The private rooms are also quite nice to share if you have a roommate. Just keep in mind you need to keep very quiet after hours since residents live on that floor and the walls are apparently paper thin.
Keep checking Priceline, Hotel.com and Orbitz. Book something now, and then if you find a better deal, cancel the original reservation.
If you have any other questions about the Great Train escape, contact Sara at smcbride (at) caltech (dot) edu or check our “Great Train Escape” tab on the Menu bar for a bit more information about the weekend.