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The Romance is Real – Cross Country by Train

Me – in my “on train” office on the Capitol Limited

In 2011, Dan Burgoyne and I took Amtrak trains from Baltimore to Truckee, California – and again. It was considered one of our greatest journey reminiscences, and I discovered how romantic practice travel may be …. and how terrible too. General, we liked it. Listed here are my reminiscences and a few recommendations on how one can make a trip for 2 by practice the most effective vacations ever.

September 17, 2011
I all the time thought journey by practice can be romantic.  So this yr I booked a visit from Baltimore to California on two scenic Amtrak practice routes – one on the Capitol Limited from Baltimore to Chicago, and the opposite on the California Zephyr going from Chicago to Truckee California with two stops in Colorado.

The Train Journey Experience for a Writer

I’m scripting this submit at 11:00 pm from the lounge automotive of the Capitol Restricted Amtrak practice… somewhere near Pittsburgh. I’m sitting in a booth-style seat with my laptop on a desk and my legs stretched out across the bench. Dan is sleeping. I can see the town lights from these extensive windows. The automotive is quiet now save for the sound of the practice on the rails and the occasional whistle once we strategy a crossing. Tomorrow is our anniversary. What an excellent present we’re giving to one another with this journey.

We boarded our first practice of the day at 2:00 pm this afternoon. We’ve met some fascinating individuals, had a steak dinner within the eating automotive, learn for awhile, I wrote for awhile, and we took within the sweeping landscapes of Western Maryland and West Virginia. The sunset just as we have been coming into Cumberland.

Train journey up to now is every part I hoped for. No cramped quarters, tons to take a look at and pleasant individuals. But most of all there’s time. Time to assume. Time to write down. Time to note the small print. There’s something concerning the rocking motion, the cities slipping by, and the whistle within the distance that gets the thoughts going.  The romance of rail travel depicted in previous photographs, tales, and films begins to return alive.

Every little thing seems to slow down. You notice issues just like the accent of the conductor, the odor of steaming beef wafting out of the dining automotive. The embroidered turkey on the camouflage ball cap worn by a bearded, man in overalls. His sixty-something wife is sporting grey sweatpants with rhinestone zippers. Okay, I eavesdropped. They’re on a gaggle tour going to Branson MO, they’re ultra-conservative, hate “O’Bama-care,” and evidently attend church day-after-day.

There’s man sporting an eye fixed patch.  His shirt is loud, printed with all types of manufacturers of beer. His cap says “Life is Good.” He sits alone in a lounge chair watching the world go by.  His face is somber – virtually melancholy – out of sync together with his festive garments.

This is once I want I might write fiction. All of the characters you’d ever need are on a practice.

The sycamore timber within the woods operating alongside the monitor catch the western sunlight in a approach that makes them glow.  Wild goldenrod brushes up towards their trunks.

I by no means observed stuff like this once I fly or drive or walk.

Two strains – one from a music and the opposite from a e-book come to mind …

“I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it.” ~ Paul Theroux from The Great Railway Bazaar

“If all our flights are grounded, Libby we’ll go to Paris, and wish we were back home again or sailing on the ocean, just a window and a drink to set our dreams in motion.” ~ Carly Simon Libby

I’ve obtained my window and my drink, and my goals are certainly in movement. As the little cities cross by, my husband muses about what it will be wish to reside there, increase a household, make pals, call it residence.

The Capitol Restricted follows the Potomac River passing by means of Level of Rocks, Brunswick, Harpers Ferry and Cumberland … all towns that grew up across the railroad and nonetheless thrive immediately. I’ve been to all of these locations, however they appear totally different from a practice. Once we got here into Harpers Ferry the tourists milling around the practice station have been amused by our practice – prefer it was an attraction.  Youngsters (and a few adults) waved from the platform like they knew us. We waved again.

At dusk, Cumberland was spectacular with its skyline spreading out on each side of the tracks.  Its courthouse, churches, bridges, and homes stacked up the mountainside provides it a sense of place.  This is complemented by much motion and exercise.  Individuals appear to be shifting with some great function.

I’m finally tired.  Going to stretch out in my coach seat and try to get some sleep. We must be in Chicago slightly after 8 am.

September 18, 2011

Oh, my God, I hate sleeping in a chair. Although the chairs are vast with ample leg room, I’m an individual who has to lay right down to sleep. By 2 am I was ready to know on the door of a type of sleeper automobiles and off $500 for the mattress. Dan stopped me. Then he gave me an Ambien. And I lastly fell asleep around 3am.  We acquired into Chicago within the early morning and had a number of hours to layover till we boarded the California Zephyr, that apparently presents probably the most scenic journey in all of America. Once


At 1:15 we boarded the California Zephyr and left Chicago, beginning our route out west. We’ll journey by way of the night time across the Midwest and are available into Colorado by morning. We’re set to deboard at Grand Lake, Colorado, the place we’ll spend two days visiting the Rocky Mountain National Park, then get back on the Zephyr and proceed to Grand Junction. After my horrible sleeping (or lack of sleeping) experience on the Capitol Limited, I booked us in top notch for this leg.

Amtrak Firstclass will get you a roomette, which is a personal little – and I mean little – room (room-really isn’t the appropriate phrase … perhaps area) with two large seats (dealing with one another) and an enormous window. At night time the two seats collapse into a single bed and a bunk drops down from the ceiling. Then a glass door encloses the 2 (now collapsed seats) with inches to spare. This enclosed area is referred to as “a roomette.”


This Amtrak Roomette is no more than two slender bunk beds in a closet. Giant individuals may really feel cramped – but we’re giant and I liked it. As I appeared up on the prime bunk (pull down) from the underside bunk, I surmised that the highest bunk was about as broad as one and a half ironing boards.  I decided I should in all probability sleep up there since Dan is greater than I and he has a nasty back.  Once I climbed up to take a look at the highest bunk, I saw that it has this harness that you simply latch over yourself to maintain from falling out because the practice jostles in the night time.   Dan and I laughed out loud imagining how we have been going to get our fats our bodies into these bunks.

Zephyr Top BunkPrime bunk of the Zephyr – harness and all

THE ATTENDANT AND MEALS (and the attendant will deliver you your meals)

Top notch additionally will get you all your meals free of charge in the dining automotive, or when you choose, the attendant will deliver your meals to your roomette.  This attendant’s job is that will help you with anything you may need, answering questions, coordinating connections, serving to with changing the roomette from two chairs to two bunks.

Our wonderful attendant’s identify was Bob Fudge.

Once more, we laughed out loud, making remarks concerning the Keebler brothers and “Fudge Bob” who may present us with a Crabby Pattie later. (Sorry, Bob, in case you’re studying this).  Bob was good in each method.  Once I climbed up on the top bunk for the night time, Bob walked by and stated, “What are you doing?”  I replied, “Getting into bed.”

Bob looked at Dan and stated, “Look, I’ve been doing this for 25 years and YOU are going to end up in that top bunk.  You can either get up there now while everyone is still friendly and talking to each other … or you can wait for the fight you two will eventually have and then get up there. Believe me, buddy.. you’re going to end up in the top bed.”

I’m typing this publish from the comfortable smallness of my Decrease bunk. Dan is loud night breathing above me. I’ve obtained the window view, and Nebraska, dimly lit by the waning moon is dashing previous my window because the practice rocks us to sleep. Typically it’s somewhat too rocky. I’m glad Dan determined to put on his bunk seatbelt. 🙂


We met an Amish man named Joseph within the Lounge automotive who was traveling again to his house after visiting family. He and a young man have been discussing the current state of the American financial system. Joseph had long grayish hair but was bald on prime. You can see where his wide-brimmed hat normally rested on his head, as his hair was perfectly mashed where his hat had been. Joseph’s beard was chest length and he wore traditional Amish garments – black, no buttons or zippers.

Joseph requested the younger man if he had a pen. The younger man only had his iPhone. So Joseph requested if either of us had a pen. I gave him one. He struck up a conversation about enterprise, business and the way the Amish trip.

Amish Girl Aboard the California Zaphyr

Joseph informed us that a lot of Amish journey American trains. They travel for trip, to visit relations, to work. They consider touring by practice maintains their simple way of life. The Amish also journey to Mexico on the trains for medical remedies. Since most of them haven’t any insurance and should pay for all medical bills out of pocket, Mexico is a viable choice because it’s typically one third or one forth the cost of the same remedy in America – and Mexico works with our rail system.

We came upon that Joseph was a farmer and a wooden craftsman providing elements to a producing firm that makes guitar stands. He remodeled 20,00zero these elements last yr from the store outdoors his house. That’s manufacturing with easy tools and no electricity, no telephone, no automotive, no truck. Joseph had an amazing sense of humor and was an attractive conversationalists. He was humble, warm, and fascinating. He asked for our handle because he needed to recollect us. He gave us his tackle and provided his residence if we ever needed to visit Wisconsin. I informed him, “If we’re ever in Wisconsin, we’ll call you.”

Joseph replied, “Well … if you want to call me, you have to call real loud.”


Canyon in Colorado seen by train

The rest of the journey was fantastic and we stored that sleeping automotive for the period. We stayed two days in Grand Lake and Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park and two days in Grand Junction. Then we headed for Truckee and spent three days there.

After Truckee, we boarded the Zephyr and spent three straight days on the practice getting again to Baltimore.

Dan Burgoyne on California ZephyrDan Burgoyne in sightseeing automotive of the California Zephyr


Go top notch, ebook a roomette or better. There are full rooms with loos that you would be able to ebook. It’s expensive however consists of your meals, and experience is value the additional money.

Don’t spend greater than a day on a practice. E-book your motels in destinations ahead of time. Lease a automotive and see the sights. More than at some point on a practice will get previous, the food is the same and you’re paying a lot of money for a not-so-awesome travel experience. If I do this once more, I’ll fly to Chicago (the Amtrak hub) then e-book trains to an endpoint that permit me to stop after someday and spend a couple of days in a single location. Then I’d fly house.

Amtrak Rail Passes for Finances Travelers.  When you’re on a finances and also you don’t thoughts sleeping in a chair, the Amtrak US Rail Passes are an ideal deal. You will get 8 segments (boarding or deboarding) over 15 days for just $459. You ebook ahead, however its low cost journey should you work it right and convey your personal meals.

Reserve a automotive at every cease. We reserved a automotive in Granby because we knew we needed to drive via Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park and the encompassing areas.  However we didn’t lease a automotive in Grand Junction and Truckee because we have been staying proper in town and figured we’d spend plenty of time in the town and use the public transportation system.  This was dumb.  Renting a automotive for a number of days is low cost, especially contemplating the pliability it provides you.  Automotive rental corporations will typically meet you on the station together with your rental automotive – even in very small cities.  Having the automotive employed and the lodge booked prematurely makes a wonderfully clean transition.

Go together with individual to individual contact when dealing with Amtrak. Our expertise with Amtrak was fantastic as long as we have been chatting with individuals and never making an attempt to do something on-line.  Speaking with Amtrak jogged my memory of communication with the government.  Each individual is aware of his or her job, but there is little collective understanding.  I booked my rail move on-line and made all of the phase reservations.  Once I obtained confused I referred to as Amtrak and realized the whole transaction was void because the segments couldn’t be reserved online (regardless that the web software allowed the consumer to order them).  After I finished reserving all the segments on the telephone, issues went completely.  Similar was true with upgrading to a roomette.  Simply ask the conductor. The Amtrak employees are very useful – a minimum of that was my expertise all across the country.

Why Take the Train?

Take the practice for the added journey experience.  There’s virtually nothing good about flying today – besides velocity.  Automotive travel may be exhausting, tense and expensive.  And touring lengthy distances within the US by automotive typically puts the driving force on Interstate Highways and Turnpikes where nearly all of scenery is comprised of concrete, asphalt and metal freeway signs.

But trains snake by means of the American landscape, typically going locations the place there are not any roads.  On the route from Denver to Truckee there are elements of the mountains and desserts that nearly no one sees until they’re touring by practice or paddling down the Colorado River.  A practice experience is enjoyable.  It’s a mode of transportation that turns into a part of the travel experience as an alternative of penance main up to the travel expertise.

View from the California Zephyr Amtrak TrainView from the window of the rushing California Zephyr Amtrak Train

Dan and I liked our rail vacation and hope to experience the Adirondack, Coastal Starlight and the Sundown Limited in the close to future.

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