Our 'short' train journey across the states
Trip Start Jun 20, 2010
74Trip End Dec 23, 2010
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We thought about driving from Chicago to San Francisco but given the time that we have in the states, we decided to take the Amtrak – California Zephyr, a journey that should take around 54 hours. We had read mixed reviews but are so glad that we took the train. It is a great way to see the truly varying American landscape and also a great way to meet people.
People say the California Zephyr is one of the most beautiful train trips in all of North America. As you climb through the heart of the Rockies, and further west through the snow-capped Sierra Nevadas, we completely agree. The California Zephyr runs daily between Chicago and San Francisco, coursing through the plains of Nebraska to Denver, across the Rockies to Salt Lake City, and then through Reno and Sacramento into Emeryville/San Francisco
Scenic highlights include:Rocky Mountains; Sierra Nevadas; Moffat Tunnel; Colorado's Gore, Byers and Glenwood Canyons; Winter Park; Truckee River; Donner Lake; San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez Strait.
Our accommodation for the 2.5 days was a 'roomette' – although slightly small it was perfectly adequate for our needs. We had many laughs in it especially at bed time when I had to strap Kate in to make sure that she didn’t fall out of the top bunk.
We were told that the first part of the journey would be relatively boring and flat with fields and fields of corn – surprise surprise - it was! The first night involved us being delayed due to a flood over the tracks from heavy rainfall. There was some discussion about turning back to Chicago – which would have been another night at Hotel Dan – but luckily for Dan the train ended up going forwards.
Towards the middle of the next day, the scenery changed because the train started rising into the Rocky Mountains. It is hard to think how engineers managed to build this train line through these mountains – but thankfully they did as the scenery is out of this world
We were really surprised by the food on the Amtrak. There were very different comments online – but we thought that the food was good - bacon and eggs for breakfast, burgers and salad for lunch and steak for dinner. If you can handle that for 2 days running then the journey is on track.
As we mentioned – the train is a good way to meet people. During dinner you always tend to sit across from different people, most of whom are great (a few weirdoes though – but that is expected). In the lounge car the seats are designed to give maximum viewing and also are close enough together to meet fellow travellers. We have to give special mention to Marty and Mikey. An amazing couple that are in their seventies (still skiing!!!) and whom have been married for 55 years. Ivor asked them what the secret was to being married for so long and they both answered that as long as you make each other laugh then anything is possible - great advice! We will definitely be meeting up with them in the future.
We have realised that living in the UK distorts your appreciation of how big and diverse the world is. If anyone wants to do the same trip across the states – then we recommend the Amtrak. An amazing experience - and a big thanks to all for the honeymoon money we put some of this towards having a roomette so that we had beds during the trip – this trip was really worth it!!!