Well that was an interesting trip! I had a blast seeing the people and things I saw when out and about in the longer stops (Seattle, Chicago, New York, and New Orleans), had some interesting conversations with a wide range of people, and saw parts of the country that can really only be seen by train! The only main downside of the trip was the stress that came with occasional delays and the lack of communication as to why we stopped. I bought each train leg already, and every delay made me question whether I was going to make it on time for the next train.
I will be posting all of the details in separate posts, but here is the rough sketch of what my trip consisted of overall:
Capital Corridor: San Jose->Emeryville (the first train)
Coast Starlight: Emeryville-Seattle (the late train)
Seattle: Visits with family, Space Needle, Glass Museum, and geocaching.
Empire Builder: Seattle->Chicago (the conversation train)
Chicago: Giordanno’s deep dish pizza and Sears Tower.
Lake Shore Limited: Chicago-> New York (the dirty af train)
New York: dinner, gigantic milkshakes, chatting with the bartender and manager until past closing time, visiting more friends and a surprise visit to the college I graduated from!
Crescent: New York ->New Orleans (the Grindr train)
New Orleans: Bourbon street night life exploration with two friends made at the hostel, then Cafe du Mond, then more food.
City of New Orleans: New Orleans-> Chicago (the uneventful train)
Chicago: Chipotle and bird incident.
Southwest Chief: Chicago->Los Angeles (the smoking train)
Capital Corridor: Los Angeles->San Jose (the slow and oh-my-God-last train)
Amtrak doesn’t own the tracks; they rent the track usage from freight, the money making trains. Amtrak has to give freight trains the right of way whenever necessary, which of course messes with the schedule and therefore makes almost every train behind schedule at least on some level. Some were more behind than others. In addition, there is always going to be the risk of mechanical issues and other incidents, just like any other mode of transportation. When planning a trip like this, it is best to wait until you get to your destination before booking the next train ride to save you a lot of stress and worry. I realize not everyone can just do that, myself included, as many need to tell their job how long they are will be gone. I wanted to go all the way around the country only by train, and I planned it to a tee to complete the journey in twelve days.
By the end of the trip, as you will see in the video I am compiling, there was an obvious mood change, particularly on the last day. I just wanted to get home so I could go to Burrito Factory with Michael, as we had been talking about it almost since the third day of the trip. I was honestly sooooo tempted to say, “Screw the last train ride, I will waste the money and buy a flight from LA to San Jose just to be done.” But I would feel cheated, as that would 1) defeat the entire purpose of this trip, and 2) waste of money unnecessarily. I sucked it up and accepted that burrito factory was not going to happen that night and I enjoyed the company of my awesome seatmate. The biggest delay I had was 6.5 hours (that is how the trip started actually) and I think the only other major delay issue was my last ride from LA to San Jose, and I got home 1.5 hours later than scheduled. All in all, there weren’t a ridiculous amount of delays which is nice, but it was still more stressful than it could have been if I didn’t have to worry about making my next train departure. They do leave some (clearly not always enough) time cushion in their schedules for delays, and there are parts of the route where they can speed up and make up at least SOME lost time.
I was using Snapchat the entire way as I do when I travel, so if you have Snapchat, add me at alyxmichele. I also saved the pictures and videos and am working on editing everything into one video for those who didn’t get to see everything.
The next posts to come out will be my diary-like writings on my day-to-day experiences, breaking down everything from the people I met, the things I saw, the food, the train qualities (some differed greatly! 😦 ), and everything else, like I did with China and Iceland.
Most of the bathrooms were well kept and clean, but there were two trains (one in particular) where that was not the case. I had been contacted prior to this trip by a company making Restroom Sanitizing Survival Kit for a product review, and although I will talk more about that later, I will say I am very glad to have had a pack with me.
What I wish I brought: More snacks. Me and food…we just get along. I didn’t buy the breakfast meals on the train because I apparently rightfully assumed they would be gross. I had almonds and cranberries in my bag, but I finished them sooner than I thought I would. I also wish I had actually put music on my phone so that my headphones weren’t just a waste of space.
What I could have left at home: My headphones and iPad. I forgot to put music on my phone before the trip, so there was really no need for the headphones. I will be sure to get my sh!t together with the music for South Africa. As for the iPad, I was busy talking to people so I just used the note app on my phone instead of on my iPad. Also the WiFi sucked so I wouldn’t really be able to post anything even if I tried.
What I would have done differently: Bought the next rain ride after arriving at each destination, rather than booking everything two months in advance. I would have also had my train to Seattle go directly out of San Jose, rather than taking a separate train to Emeryville. But then my trip would have really started horribly due to that 6.5 hour delay and I wouldn’t have talked to the girl I met on the train from SJ to Emeryville. Everything happens for a reason!
Would I do again? No, unless there is someone significant who really wanted to, but even then I probably wouldn’t plan on going all the way around.
Would I recommend? Yes, but take into account what I would do differently. Much less stressful that way, and therefore much more enjoyable as a whole, I can guarantee!