Most Americans focus on time when they travel … how long it takes to reach their destination. Here’s a conversation I’ve probably had a hundred times over the years when someone learns that I’ve just traveled halfway across the country by train:
Them: Really? By train? From L.A. to Chicago?
Me: That’s right.
Them: Wow! (pause) How long did it take?
Me: Two nights. I left L.A. Tuesday at dinnertime and got here Thursday afternoon.
Them: (pause) But you could have flown in four hours!
“Them” doesn’t get it. There are any number of reasons for choosing to take a long-distance train instead of flying. First and foremost, flying has become an ordeal. Security hassles, cramped space, lousy service, no food, and it’s expensive. Furthermore, you really don’t see anything when you fly, while the best thing about long-distance train travel is what’s passing by right outside your window.
How about this, for example. This photo was was taken by Mike Danneman. That’s the eastbound California Zephyr descending through the Flatirons with Denver off in the distance. Folks on this train have spent the past three hours gazing out the windows as the Zephyr followed the Colorado River through a series of spectacular canyons.
(By the way, this photo will be on the front cover of the 4th edition of my book, ALL ABOARD–The Complete North American Train Travel Guide. The last I heard, it’s due to land on bookstore shelves around the middle of December.)
The Zephyr departs the Bay Area in the morning and spends several hours in the afternoon crossing the Sierra Nevada range in California, passing above Donner Lake. This beautiful winter scene photo was taken by Steven Welch.
I also find travel by long-distance train to be very relaxing. I like the privacy of being in my own roomette. I read, I come up with ideas for this blog, I think about what went wrong with the Red Sox this year, and I look forward to my next meal in the dining car, which is when you meet and get to know a little about some of the other passengers.
But my top three reasons for preferring long-distance train travel?
1- The scenery.
2- The scenery.
3- The scenery.