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Tuesday, December 4, 2012


by Mauverneen

I’m not a comfortable flyer. I don’t like it. I don’t like the long lines, the long wait, the cramped seats, or the thought of hurtling through the air at 500 miles an hour. I much prefer the leisurely pace of a train ride.

The California Zephyr goes between Chicago, IL and Emeryville, CA.  In between, you cross the Mississippi River, follow the Colorado and Truckee Rivers, ride through canyons, pass through 29 tunnels, cross the Continental Divide as you pass through the six mile long Moffat Tunnel and see some pretty spectacular scenery.
Tunnels ahead, river below

Denver lies at the edge of the plains, spread out below you as you perch on the edge of the Rockies.
In summer you see campsites along the rivers, canoers and kayakers wave as we pass, and even in the dead of winter, the train has been ‘mooned’ somewhere near Glenwood Springs. The hot springs of the pool at the resort there steam in the winter cold and at Grand Junction you can get ice cream in the little shop.  In winter, there are skiers at Granby and Winter Park and the snow along the tracks and down on the frozen rivers is criss-crossed with footprints and animal tracks. You can spot deer year round, as well as eagles fishing the waters of the rivers.

Colorado scenic

 I have made the trip in both directions, several times. In winter and in summer. I much prefer the winter. The snow gives the canyons and plains a magical quality – an ‘other worldness’.

Mysterious in the snowstorm
On the train, I enjoy relaxing by a wide window, able to view the scenery as it glides past, able to go to the dining car or the snack car or the domed view car where it seems that everyone has a camera. I enjoy having my meals at a table, conversing with interesting strangers, or a snack in a seat that’s actually comfortable, where I can put my feet up and read or take a nap. I enjoy falling asleep to the rhythm of the train on the rails and the sound of the whistle as we speed past small towns.
Frozen sunset
I have met people from around the world in the lounge car and the diner. Tourists who want to see some of the beauty of this country even though there is not enough time on their trip to experience it all. Families and college students heading for a ski weekend, retired people who are seeing the country at their leisure, and folks like me who don’t like to fly and are going to see their families.

Only in a ski town

I’ve never travelled all the way to San Francisco on the train, but I think I’m going to have to add that to my agenda.  I would love to see the Sierra Nevada covered in snow.

Snowy Lonesome
If you have the time, taking the train is a great way to travel. It’s relaxing and I actually look forward to the trip, unlike dreading an upcoming flight.

If you go:
Depending on the length of the trip, check into a sleeper. It seems pricey at first glance, but when you break it down and realize it includes your transportation, sleeping accommodations and your meals, it’s not so bad. But I’ve done those 1900 miles in coach too. You can always tell who’s done the trip in coach before – the ones carrying their own pillow and blanket.
Check out where the train goes on

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