When we weighed up all our options to get across America, we were stuck with a time v cost dilemma. For us, the time difference to fly was not worth the cost, and so we were left comparing the Amtrak to the Greyhound. The ability to move on a train, the large seats and leg space, the food carts, and the cost made our decision for us.
The California Zephyr is one of America’s premier long distance train routes. We were riding the entire length from Emeryville (San Francisco) to Chicago Union station, a journey meant to span 53hours. Yes, you read that right, two and a bit days. We prepared for this accordingly, by buying in lots of snacks, buffering TV shows, and making sure cards and dominoes were accessible.
The views from the train have been insane for much of the route. We spent a day going through Sacramento Valley and then over the Sierra Nevadas, followed by a day tracking the Colorado river through the Rockies. It has been an amazing journey right across the middle of the states, areas I have never seen. We got the opportunity to step off the train in every state we passed through, and got to view it all from the scenic car.
Being able to move around the train was the big selling point for me. The extra carriages and the ability to move away from the designated seats were hugely useful and stopped both of us going mad, and getting to stiff.
We met a nice Australian guy called Owen, who taught us new card games, allowed us to use his sleeper car to get a nap and smoe drinks, and was pleasant company for most of the route. We also met a group of young pre-college American lads who were a laugh, and seemed to know an awful lot more about everything than we do.
The staff have been super friendly as well, with such gems as ”Don’t leave your valuables behind. If you do, here are the details for my ebay account” courtesy of the train conductor, and ‘bad news folks, we’re stuck here waiting for the green light from dispatch for about 45 minutes. The good news is we’res till up right and haven’t crashed.’
The train was great and all; I got some sleep, I caught up on my blog, I read some, I played cards,, I got to meet some nice people, but it ran late. And I mean really late. I know that the Amtrak service borrows track off the freight train service in the US, and I was prepared for a bit of a delay getting into Chicago considering how far we travelled, but as I sit writing this prior to the last stops, we are running 4 and a half hours behind schedule. Multiple people have missed connections or have been otherwise inconvenienced, luckily we just need to check into a hotel, and the train service seem relatively unwilling to help unless your onward ourney is with Amtrak. Very frustrating.
I think I will be disappointed if it is true that this long distance Amtrak train is scheduled to be cut. It is a good service, desipte it’s flaws. I just wish they could run a little more on time. No-one wants to be stuck on a train for 4 hours more than they need to be, especially when they have been on here for over 53 hours already.