Here’s the third video I’ve made on this journey, answering some of the basic questions about the trip.
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(Transcript of the video)
The answer to the question “can you travel right across the USA by train?” is of course a resounding yes.
If you start on the east coast in Boston New York or Washington DC, you can travel all the way across to the West Coast to Seattle, San Francisco or Los Angeles.
There’s no one direct train that does it all so you do have to change; most people do this in Chicago but some do it in New Orleans and take the southern route.
I chose to go from New York to Chicago, where I broke my journey for a couple of days, and then from Chicago across to San Francisco.
It’s an amazing trip and one you won’t forget.
It’s also pretty good value – at some times of the year you’ll be able to get coach class with no sleeping accommodation for well under $300 coast to coast; even if you have private rooms with beds, you can still get these often for one thousand dollars for two of you which is quite something when you consider there’s three nights accommodation included.
This particular Journey starts at the Metropolitan Lounge at Penn Station in New York.
This is really quite something, with free food and drink.
Everyone’s really chilled out and it gets you in the mood for the trip.
Then you’re ushered down to the train and before you know it you’re leaving Penn Station.
Sit back and enjoy the journey of a lifetime.
You travel alongside the Hudson River to start off with, until soon it’s time to take your first visit to the train’s restaurant car.
Food in the restaurant car is not bad actually, although I did find it was much better on the second train I took.
It’s all included for sleeper passengers.
This is the sleeping half of the train; you go down the corridor and here’s my roomette, which is designed for two people.
During the evening the sleeping car attendant will come round and convert the roomette into two beds – that’s fine, although do remember if you’ve got a roommate one of you is going to have to go in the top bunk.
This is not for everyone, so you might want a bigger room for that if there are two of you.
For one it was just quite amazing.
I’m not going to suggest I had the best night’s sleep ever but one of the problems was that I was so excited at watching all these towns and cities pass by.
Overnight we leave New York state, pass through Pennsylvania and Ohio then Indiana early in the morning, and finally, soon after breakfast, we reach Illinois and our destination in Chicago.
If you’re transferring straight to the next train there are a few hours’ break, but I used the opportunity to spend a couple of days in Chicago – who wouldn’t? What a fantastic city.
If you’ve never been, do give it a couple of days, it really is worth it.
Then it’s back to Union Station; the California Zephyr train leaves Chicago after lunch.
This is a double decker one so it’s quite a bit bigger than the previous train; make sure that if you can’t do the stairs they put you downstairs but they’ll look after you, don’t worry.
Upstairs does have a better view and there are more roomettes upstairs than there are downstairs.
California Zephyr travels through Illinois and Iowa and reaches Nebraska in the late evening; overnight we pass into Colorado and then we’re at Denver for breakfast.
I’d have liked to have stopped in Denver for a couple of days but that turned out to be an expensive option, breaking the journey in that way.
But if you can do it, give it a try: Denver’s an amazing City.
And then as the train conductor said, “let’s go see some mountains! Day three of the trip is by far the most spectacular, through Colorado and following the Colorado River through gorges and spectacular scenery.
It just keeps on coming – I can’t stress how amazing this is.
You can see it through the window floor to ceiling, you can go to the observation car, when you’re at the restaurant car this amazing scenery is just passing by constantly.
You follow the Colorado River for something like 200 miles, sometimes it’s in deep gorges, other times you’ve got a road running alongside you.
There’s just so much to see.
Several times I actually tried to pick up my book and do something different, but I was just dragged back to the sight of the window straight away.
I really can’t stress how amazing this trip is, and everyone on the train seemed to feel the same.
The vistas you see change every few minutes and they are utterly spectacular.
In the evening we pass into Utah, just in time for some astonishing sunsets – again it’s just amazing to see.
Overnight we travel through Nevada and we reach California early in the morning after a final breakfast on the train.
We watch some amazing Nevada deserts passing by, so different from the day before and yet so spectacular.
In case you’re wondering, the train stops regularly every hour or two throughout the entire journey; you can get off at many of the stops even if it’s only for five minutes.
Some people like to do this for a cigarette or whatever, but I just liked to do it to have my photograph taken next to as many different station signs as possible.
Some of the places I knew well, some I couldn’t even pronounce.
And then we finally reach our destination in the evening, which is such a shame, but it’s a beautiful approach to Emeryville, which is the station for San Francisco.
The remaining passengers on the train say their goodbyes to each other.
It really is a quite fantastic trip; I would really recommend it, and if you get the chance just do it!