Sleepless on the Rails

The guy seated across from me is complaining about people snoring on Amtrak. He’s homeless (of sorts) and has been residing on Amtrak, using the $500.00 USA Rail Pass, for almost a month. He depends on Amtrak trains to provide a place to sleep and was hoping to go from Emeryville to Chicago, then to New York, and finally all the way to Florida. The current hurricane situation back East put an end to those plans. As we chatted, it became clear that he was now worried about finding a place to sleep. He said that he had a credit card, so he might be able to book a men’s hostel or some other accommodation. But, … his funds were limited.

Texas Eagle in El Paso

I caught the train with him in Emeryville, California. I had just spent thirty two hours on the Texas Eagle, including a three hour layover in San Antonio, Texas, waiting for my Texas Eagle car to be attached to the Amtrak Sunset Limited train, making its way from New Orleans. We arrived to Union Station in Los Angeles, at five in the morning.

Pre travel hotel and laundry

That gave me plenty of time to book the Coastal Starlight, from Los Angeles to Emeryville (near Oakland and San Francisco). I also booked Hyatt House, in Emeryville. The hotel is directly across the train tracks from the Amtrak Station. Once there, at 9:30 pm, I was able to do laundry, after paying $3.00 to wash, $3.00 to dry, and $4.00 to purchase one single use package of laundry soap from the front desk.

Save the best for last

The California Zephyr would be my final segment, using the USA Rail Pass. Once you take your first train, you have one month to use all ten segments. After a restful night’s sleep, I quickly made my way across the train tracks and on to my seat in coach. You’re not allowed to upgrade the rail pass, to business or sleeper class. The bulk of the train was made up of sleeper cars. I can totally see why. The views from California Zephyr are amazing. I’m very happy that I was able to take it. I almost didn’t.

As pretty as a picture!

With only two segments remaining, I originally planned to take the Texas Eagle, to Los Angeles, and then blow my final two segments going down to San Diego and then back to Los Angeles. I changed my mind, after receiving an email notifications about the temporary cancellation of the Pacific Surfliner (LA to San Diego). With more than enough time to take the Coastal Starlight from LA to Emeryville, I booked the Zephyr.

The California Zephyr is Bucket List worthy!

I decided to only take the train to Denver. After taking the Crescent, from Greensboro, North Carolina, to New Orleans, followed by The City of New Orleans to Chicago, the Empire Service to Buffalo, NY, and on to Niagara Falls, crossing the border into Canada, taking Via Rail to Toronto, then to Windsor, then back to Toronto, on to Montreal, and finally to Halifax, flying from Halifax to Chicago, taking the Southwest Chief to Los Angeles and then back to Chicago, taking the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle and back again, then finally leaving Chicago, taking the Texas Eagle to Los Angeles and then the Coastal Starlight to Emeryville, I could not bring myself to take the California Zephyr all the way to Chicago.

Rocky Mountain high!

I have always wanted to travel around the USA by train. After a month on the rails, I would suggest that if you’re planning to do the same … bring a pillow (or two). There’s a lot of metal between you and a good night’s sleep, in coach. Be prepared to walk up and down stairs, to use the restroom. Make note that the food in coach is microwaved (badly) and not very good. Bring snacks, bring lots and lots of snacks. And, … be ready to meet some really interesting people.

More train stories to come! I’ll post additional photos on the GhettoGirlTravels accounts via Instagram and Facebook. XOXO — GGT

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