WDP — Cross-Country Trip

You’re going on a cross-country trip. Airplane, train, bus, car, or bike?

Been there, done that. I’ve flown across the country countless times, driven in a car at least a dozen times, ridden on a motorcycle twice, and taken a train twice. What I’ve never done is made a cross-country trek in a bus or on a bicycle.

When I was still working, most of my cross-country trips were via airplanes because time was of the essence. But since I retired, I haven’t set foot in an airplane and don’t plan to. I’m too old to think about biking across the country and I have no interest in taking a cross country bus trip. And even sitting in a car for five to eight hours a day doesn’t sound very appealing anymore.

And then there’s the train. A few years back, I had to go to Boston for personal reasons and decided, since I didn’t have any time constraints, that I was going to take a train from San Francisco to Boston instead.

Of course, there is no train that goes directly from San Francisco to Boston. But there is one that goes from San Francisco to Chicago, the California Zephyr. It runs daily from Emeryville/San Francisco to Sacramento, Reno, Salt Lake City, across the Rockies to Denver, and through the plains of Nebraska to Chicago.

That trip takes just north of 51 hours, so I booked something called a “roomette,” which is essentially a small, cubicle-sized room that converts to a sleeper at night. The accommodations also included three meals a day in a dining car and priority access to what they called a scenic-view lounge car.

From Chicago To Boston, I booked the Lake Shore Limited. From Chicago, it heads through South Bend, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Albany before arriving in Boston 19 hours later.

There was a lot I liked about my cross-country train experience:

  • The scenery along the California–Nevada border (the Sierra Nevada Mountains) and on the Utah to Denver leg (the Rocky Mountains) was spectacular.
  • The other passengers were very friendly. Seating in the dining car was “family-style,” and, as a person traveling alone, I was seated with three other travelers each time. I met some very nice people.
  • Most of the passengers along the San Francisco to Chicago leg were vacationers, either old-timers like me, or families traveling with kids.
  • Most of the passengers along the Chicago to Boston leg were kids going home for the weekend from college, a number of Amish families for some reason, or business people. Fewer families, fewer oldies than on the other train.

I only have two gripes about my cross-country train adventure. First, the trains don’t run on time. The train from San Francisco arrived in Chicago 5 1/2 hours late. The train bound for Boston left Chicago 35 minutes late and arrived in Boston 3 1/2 hours late.

My second gripe is that Amtrak’s funding has been cut way back, so most of the train cars are older and, while they are generally in good repair, they could use some sprucing up. (Duct tape holding certain parts together in the sleeping rooms and rest rooms is a dead giveaway.)

So, back to the question of the day. If I were going on a cross-country trip and time to get to the destination was not a factor, I would definitely take the train again.

17 thoughts on “WDP — Cross-Country Trip

    • Fandango March 20, 2023 / 10:34 am

      It’s a fun experience.


  1. Misky March 20, 2023 / 10:39 am

    I want to take the Flying Scotsman to Edinburgh one day. Some day. It’s usually booked a year in advance, so other people seem to have the same idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ganga1996 March 20, 2023 / 10:48 am

    Thanks for sharing the experience. Hopefully they would amtrak more and the current generation can enjoy this transportation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. JT Twissel March 20, 2023 / 12:04 pm

    I used to take the Zephyr from Martinez to Reno (and sometimes to Helper Utah) and back. My one take away is to never take a three day train on its final stretch – the crew is exhausted and it shows in their service! I wish Amtrak would do something about that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango March 20, 2023 / 12:52 pm

      More funding for railroads is probably not in the cards, which is unfortunate.


  4. Taswegian1957 March 20, 2023 / 3:21 pm

    As a lifelong railfan that would be my choice too. I have watched many YouTube videos about Amtrak train journeys. The California Zephyr is one I have long wished I could do, ever since I read a story called “The Golden Spike” in Primary School. I have heard about the massive delays on long distance trains. I don’t think governments really like spending money on rail infrastructure sadly. It’s the same here where our most iconic passenger trains are now in private hands and have become an “experience’ rather than a way to get from A to B.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango March 20, 2023 / 3:38 pm

      It is a shame that governments don’t invest in rail much anymore. My wife and I took a train halfway across Canada, from Vancouver to Calgary, on a private railway called The Rocky Mountaineer. It was an “experience” and a great one, too. But it was our vacation, not, as you said, a means to get from one city to another.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Taswegian1957 March 20, 2023 / 3:44 pm

        Friends of mine have done “The Rocky Mountaineer”. It’s another one on my railway wish list. I do enjoy the tourist oriented trains but they are more expensive. I’d be equally happy on a “normal” train just enjoying the view from the window.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Marleen March 21, 2023 / 12:51 pm

    In the past, driving or shared driving — car, van, or the like. (I’ve give on a bus as well, when I was [in my considered opinion] too young to be in such a thing. Kinda like a train. I haven’t taken a train until recently. I’ve sent an adolescent son alone on a plane… which I don’t say to differentiate that he was a boy but to say I think that’s a bit safer, if direct, and to say I’ll think about whether I was wrong.) Mm, I’ve additionally ridden on a motorcycle from one big city to another on major highways. (That’s stupid!) Now, a train.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marleen March 21, 2023 / 1:20 pm

      Maybe I should take a break — too many weird typos and deficiencies right now (here and within a different comments thread). Not “give” on a bus… ridden.

      I have a cousin who went to some other city with her mother, for a conference or business meeting or such, when said cousin was like fifteen. She, cousin/sista’ was a tourist while my aunt was busy. Cous went in taxis and stuff alone. Jeez. But she was fine. Learned to find bus routes and so forth.

      I’ll say this. On my recent trip relatively far (from one state to another and back rather than within a city), I had to kick in my latent dominance to find our way through the train station (a major union station). I found myself later saying, “I grew up in st, Louis, not Okee-homee.” Looking back, it’s not even overwhelming in any way in terms of size. Damn.

      I kinda don’t get it, as he also grew up in D.C. and Pittsburg, and has traveled extensively both as an army brat and as an adult in a hustling-bustling industry. Shit. And you know what? That controlled anger is exactly what it took. Get this. A man at THE information desk told us to take “the escalator up.” We had just then come down the escalator, which both ways faced his desk directly. We go back up, thinking we missed something. We wander around, and I’m thinking this guy who wants to think he’s a genius is going to figure it out eventually. Well, I’m not THAT patient, used to be. At some point, I refer to the man as something like “jackass” (under my breath to my companion, not to the man or anyone else). Now, I know we’re not on the same page. The response is “That’s too harsh.” Bullshit! Now we come across someone else official who says to take the escalator up. Imagine, now, Rihanna attitude (minus saying the word bitch).

      Liked by 1 person

    • Marleen March 21, 2023 / 4:17 pm

      I have, actually, flown across the country. Whatever for, it was unremarkable other than two trips to Hawaii — and doing time on aircraft was a little miserable even though I have no fear of flying. Never have taken a ship or cruise line, so I might do that were I going back.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Carol anne March 28, 2023 / 5:42 pm

    that is fascinating! America is huge! I can’t imagine being on a train for over 50 hours and then another one for another 19 hours to get to where I’m going!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. leigha66 March 29, 2023 / 12:52 am

    I am hoping within a year or so, to be taking a train to Florida with my boyfriend. Neither of us have ever traveled by train but look forward to it.

    Liked by 1 person

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