Across this Land

2016-06-21 18.49.55I have relatively few items on my bucket list, but traveling by train across the United States was one of them. When I was 5 or 6, my grandparents took the California Zephyr from Chicago’s Union Station to San Francisco. I remember being fascinated by the letters and postcards they sent along the way, as well as the exotic gifts they brought me from California– including a pair of blue Chinese-style silk pajamas which might have been my first exposure to anything Asian.  My dad also loved train travel and his highest compliment for a cup of coffee in a restaurant was that it tasted like “dining car coffee,” a reference to the exquisite meals that used to be served aboard trains in the United States.

2016-06-22 06.49.32Although I had taken the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle once a long time ago, I had never traveled the entire length of the U.S. from New York to California.   So, this past week, Marty and I boarded the Cardinal, which runs from New York to Chicago via the Smoky Mountains, and then the Zephyr from Chicago.   Altogether, the trip took three nights and four days.

2016-06-21 12.47.27The scenery along both routes is both beautiful and informative—the majesty of the Smoky and Rocky mountains, the grandeur of the Colorado River, the eerie Ruby Canyon which is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon, and miles and miles of industrial corn fields and ethanol production facilities on the heartland stretch, as well as orchards and occasional wind farms when you reach California.  The train riders included a wide variety of people, from families to international travelers, who, like us, wanted to experience the full length of the United States from the ground.

2016-06-21 09.38.52The conditions of travel, however, are not those of former days. This was no surprise to me as I have often traveled by train since moving to the east coast, and am familiar with both the equipment breakdowns and delays associated with Amtrak (both of which occurred on this trip, as well).  Overnight travel poses additional challenges as the sleeper car rooms –even the largest ones–are about the third the size of a cruise ship cabin, and don’t allow for much maneuvering, and parts of the track, especially on the Cardinal, are quite rough (the Zephyr route is much smoother, especially through the western states) leading to disturbed sleep.  In addition, because of the extreme heat in the west, there were stretches where the train could only go 15 miles per hour due to the expansion of the tracks and safety concerns. The food is not bad, although certainly far from the service and ambience provided in my parents’ and grandparents’ era.   For part of the trip, likely because of the medication I’m on, I was also not feeling that well, which didn’t help. Despite the beautiful scenery, the hot shower and comfortable bed that awaited us in San Francisco were most welcome.

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “Across this Land

  1. Wow! I knew you were taking train trip, but had no idea it was to be cross country. Flying back?

    love

    On Thu, Jun 23, 2016 at 1:08 PM, The Age of Wander wrote:

    > nreisig posted: “I have relatively few items on my bucket list, but > traveling by train across the United States was one of them. When I was 5 > or 6, my grandparents took the California Zephyr from Chicago’s Union > Station to San Francisco. I remember being fascinated by the” >

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  2. This is on my bucket list too. My parents loved traveling on trains together from MI to N Dakota as my Dad hated to fly. He & a friend hitched a train from N. Dakota to CA taking odd jobs to pay their way. He talked about that trip with Great Fondness! I am glad to know you continue to realize your dreams! Love you…

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  3. Enjoyed that very much! Would love to travel by train for a long distance. When I was 8 and then when I was 12, Mom and I rode the New York Central and affiliates from Toledo’s Fearing Street Station to El Paso, TX, where my brother Frank picked us up. It was a great adventure for a small person. I got to go up front with the conductor, saw lots of sights, etc.

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  4. Nancy, I enjoyed your photos and descriptions. How are you getting back to the East Coast?
    I think that you can take a train that goes from the Western to Eastern Canada 🙂

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  5. This took me back in time to the time when train travel seemed romantic. And fathers brought their little girls presents, because trips were a big deal. And the world was an exotic adventure (well, I guess all that is still true somewhat). It’s wonderful to read your adventures. Love to you both, and wishes for a god trip back.
    Roberta

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