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Is the California Zephyr really a once in a life time experience?

Is the California Zephyr really a once in a life time experience?

Old Apr 18th, 2016, 01:00 AM
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Is the California Zephyr really a once in a life time experience?

I would like to take the train from Boston to San Francisco, sleeping in a roomette and stopping off for a few nights in Chicago. I've seen some people describe this particular train trip as a once in a lifetime experience? Do people agree? I'm traveling from NZ and will be spending quite a bit of money, so I want to make sure the train trip is worth the money. Thanks
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Old Apr 18th, 2016, 02:43 AM
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I'm sure at least one person here on fodors will tell you yes.

My opinion is no. To me there are far better things to do with my money and time then spend days riding on a train.

I would pick the destinations I want to see and find a faster way to get there.
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Old Apr 18th, 2016, 02:54 AM
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If I wanted a longer train experience, I would fly to Denver spend a few days then take the train to California.
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Old Apr 18th, 2016, 05:34 AM
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I've done the ride before and it's a gorgeous ride pretty much from Denver on, there's no question. I've taken numerous trains across Canada and across the US, and if I had to pick one that was most eye-poppingly gorgeous, the California Zephyr would be it. Since you're getting a sleeper car, your meals are included, so you'll be eating with others in the dining car for each meal, which typically is a pleasurable way to meet people you'd probably never meet otherwise. There's also the park car you can walk to that sometimes has rangers talking about the history and geology of the region.

There are people who don't like the long-distance US train experience. I understand and respect their reasons (delays, cramped quarters, food not to their satisfaction, unable to sleep, etc...). But for me, to this day, the California Zephyr stands out as one of the most eye-opening and enjoyable experiences I've had in my life. I almost felt like friends with a few of my fellow passengers at the very end, hugging after we got off Emeryville-San Francisco bus!
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Old Apr 18th, 2016, 05:50 AM
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I very much enjoyed riding the California Zephyr. See:

https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com...fornia-zephyr/

Although I also took the Lake Shore Limited from New York to Chicago, you could skip that if you're in a hurry.

But I should also put in a good word for Via Rail from Vancouver to Jasper:

https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com...ils-to-jasper/
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Old Apr 18th, 2016, 06:20 AM
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See my answers on your other thread.
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Old Apr 18th, 2016, 06:38 AM
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The Zephyr is wonderful but I wouldn't train across the whole country. Not only is that more expensive -- it is loooong and the farther you travel the more likely there will be delays.

I'd probably start from Denver.
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Old Apr 18th, 2016, 06:44 AM
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As you pointed out in the OP, there are two kinds of people in the US: Those who like riding AMTRAK and those who do not. Count me as one of those who do to the extent that I take at least one cross country train trip every year.

As Daniel and other have said, the Zephyr is one of the best trips for scenic beauty AMTRAK has, especially between Denver and Sacramento.

I second the comment about the Canadian between Jasper and Vancouver. I also highly recommend ViaRail's train from Jasper to Prince Rupert. for scenery, IMO it is better than all the others mentioned.
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Old Apr 18th, 2016, 09:22 AM
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I haven't taken the Zephyr yet (that trip is in June), but I have taken Amtrak across the country on the 3 other routes. The key is to enjoy watching the world go by slowing & not really caring when you get to your destination. If you're really looking forward to getting to SF, the trip will seem to drag on forever, especially starting from Boston. I love traveling by train (and driving old back roads across the country), but it's definitely not for everyone.

By the way, a roomette is comfortable for 1 person, but a bit tight for 2 adults, especially at night. The upper bunk from Boston to Chicago is fine (and actually I think more comfortable than the lower bunk), but west of Chicago if someone has to take the upper bunk it's tight. Also, with the beds down, only 1 person can (barely) stand in the room. I recall from some trips others being surprised how small the roomettes really are, so wanted to make sure you were aware.
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Old Apr 18th, 2016, 11:03 AM
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Thank everyone. Going to investigate taking it from Denver
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Old Apr 18th, 2016, 03:30 PM
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Your other option is to take it eastbound from San Francisco or Emeryville. Are you still planning on going to Boston first?
It is really more than a once in a lifetime experience for me.
I have taken the California Zephyr at least 5 times since October 2001 sometimes with my DW and other times alone.
In March 2015 I took a solo trip in a roomette on Amtrak Guest Rewards points from Sacramento to Galesburg Illinois.
On my return trip also on points, I took the Southwest Chief via Los Angeles to get on the Coast Starlight back home to Oregon.
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Old Apr 18th, 2016, 04:27 PM
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I think when the segment of the Zephyr was run by the Denver and Rio Grande Western railroad and there were "Zephyrettes" on the train and the equipment was maintained, it probably was, for many, quite a memorable trip.

Frankly, sitting on a plane isn't exactly an exhilarating experience, either, unless you are one of those people who likes everyone to know how many frequent flyer miles you just spent. And those clouds are really "memorable."

We did the current edition of the Zephyr a couple of years ago. Great scenery but the food was mediocre at best and the train was delayed numerous times and we arrived at our destination many hours late.
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Old Apr 26th, 2016, 10:26 AM
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Hi, pykiwi.

I take the amtrak from Chicago to downstate Illinois to visit family at least 1-2x/month. These are 2 or 4 hour rides, and I dislike it immensely.

Granted, the scenery I'm looking at is ugly, but the worst aspect is the people around you. If you can stay in your roomette the entire time, that would solve that issue, but any time with the other travelers is frustrating. Listening to their inane phone conversations, smelling their greasy food, hearing their loud/crying children, really grates when you're trying to work or read. The wifi is spotty...often doesn't work. It will not allow for streaming (like Pandora radio or cable providers). The train itself is dirty. Delays happen a lot. I would really urge you NOT to attempt this cross-country unless you are a really relaxed individual with a lot of patience.

I have a very low tolerance for noise, so I dislike train travel in the US. The trains I've taken in Europe, the UK and in Japan were different than American trains. In my experience, people conducted themselves with a little more consideration toward fellow travelers.

Many people like slow travel, but I would rather fly to the beautiful areas of the country, and drive around to see your own scenery. (And you come from New Zealand... you know gorgeous scenery already.)

I have heard the scenery is very beautiful out west on the Zephyr, though. It really depends on how patient you are.

Good luck with your planning!
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Old Apr 26th, 2016, 01:28 PM
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I kind of am a train person, and I'd say taking the Zephyr from Chicago to California is definitely a once in a lifetime experience. Take it once and you'll never want to do it again in this life.
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Old Apr 26th, 2016, 05:57 PM
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As I said in the other thread, I've ridden long distances on the California Zephyr at least 5 times. Most of my miles were in coach but the most recent was in a roomette from Sacramento to Galesburg IL on AGR points.
I will say that we were 20 minutes late pulling into GBB but they gave me a nice cherry cheesecake as a parting gift as I got off the train.
I hope to ride the California Zephyr at least once more in the next 5 years - probably on Amtrak Guest Rewards points.
If you want to do work on an Amtrak train, get a business class seat in a "quiet car".
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Old May 3rd, 2016, 12:21 PM
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For me it was a once in a lifetime experience because I am not getting back on that train in Chicago! Denver to Sacramento was the best segment.

This was the first time I was on a US long-distance train. The scenery was so-so for the first 2 days, it was almost boring, got better at the end.

Food was included for my roomette, but we started to run out of desserts first, after that out of main dishes.

The rail is shared with freight, so the trains are chronically late.
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Old May 3rd, 2016, 04:48 PM
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Traveling on Amtrak is not a pleasant experience--I am sorry to say.

HTtY
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