My Top Three Reasons for Preferring Long-Distance Amtrak Travel.
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.
I have a copy of your 4th Edition Book and have sucked down its contents with much glee. Thanks for all the information you have shared in the book. Can’t wait to get on the train in March and cross the country on 4 different trains.
I do have a question for you… What is the average stop time as the trains cross the country? I have a friend in Topeka that I would like to say hi to and give a hug while we are passing through. For all the reading I have done, I can’t find a stop length. Can you help me?
Well, if she’s a really, really good friend, she can meet the westbound Southwest Chief at 12:30 a.m. or, if you’re going to be headed in the other direction, she can give you a quick hug at 5:18 a.m. I’m sorry to say, the train won’t be stopped for literally more than a minute or two in either direction. By the way, you can get all that information by going to http://www.amtrak.com, then clicking on SCHEDULES. Many thanks for the kind words about the book.
Hubby and I have been considering a 50th anniversary train trip and have questions since we are considering a Syracuse to Jacksonville or El Paso destination. We’d like to know how to break up the journey, possibly spending a night at one of the city stations, then boarding a different train to resume the trip. If we book a cabin is the charge inclusive for both of us, or do we need to purchase a regular ticket as well? Thanks in advance for comments.
This will take a longer reply than goes here, so I will respond directly to your email later today. Thanks for asking about this. I’m sure I can help.
I travelled on AMTRAK in 2006.LA- Albuquerque-Chicago-Cleveland-Washington DC-Philadelphia-New York-Chicago-Salt Lake City-Oakland. It was just fantastic.This spring and Summer I am going to travel AMTRAK again.I am excited about my journey on Empire Builder through Glacier National Park !
Weve travelled across the USA many times from East to West on all the long distance Trains. The amazing scenery and people that we meet has made such a wonderful difference to an Australians view of Americans. Every dinner time is an experience in meeting people that otherwise we wouldn’t meet. We rarely fly over the USA. Were so happy that Train travel between the cities is still available, affordable and frequent Services by happy people from the sales office to the attendants and flowers in the bathrooms.
I am traveling in a group of 4 from NY to Colorado later this year. The best reason for choosing train travel is a an often over looked reason. That is, time permitting, the journey to your destination should be considered part of the vacation, not a means to it. Therefore, the journey should be sipped, not gulped. The majestic scenery that you can see aboard a train is priceless.
You’re absolutely right and, in fact, that’s exactly what I tell people … that the train journey is part of your vacation experience and what’s more, as a bonus, you have no hotel or restaurant bills for that part of your vacation. Have a grand time on your trip!
Yes, all of the above and also IT IS NOT FLYING!