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Author Topic: X-Country Trip...Seeking Advice
MdmMim
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A few years ago, with the help of the wonderful posters on this site, I planned a trip from NYP to LAX--an amazing trip on the SWC!

Now, once again, I yearn for another x-country trip, still going from NYP to CHI, with LAX as the final destination. I loved the SWC! I loved the desert and Raton Pass! But I wonder if I should try the northerly route.

I am planning on traveling in Aug 2011. Does anyone have any thoughts on the other routes? CZ or EB?

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train lady
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We have gone 2 different ways. 1 Empire Builder to Seattle and then the Coast starlight to La. 2)The CZ to SF and again the CS to LA. All were great
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HillsideStation
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Aside from the CZ and EB a third option to LA is the SL from NOL. Departing from New York you can take the Crescent or from Chicago the Texas Eagle to make the connection. That said: The CZ is our first choice for trek to the Golden State. The ride out of Denver is something not to be missed as is the descent through the Sierra's from Reno.
The ride on the CS from Emoryvile to LA is also a highly scenic route especially along the coast north of Santa Barbara.
Not to make your choice more difficult; but the EB is one of Amtrak's class acts and we're sure you would find it immensly enjoyable. The icing on this cake is the CS ride from Seattle/Portland.
Whichever choice you make you will find it a good one. Enjoy.
Best regards,
Rodger

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RR4me
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I've traveled the CZ several times from CHI to MTZ in California. It is a spectacular trip. But if you have the time, I would recommend the EB to Seattle, then the CS down to LA. Combined, that trip is my dream trip.
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Henry Kisor
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Choices, choices, it's SO difficult. My view:

The Empire Builder indeed is a class act, especially (or, rather, comparatively) in the dining car, but the scenery from Chicago to East Glacier Park is blah. That's why I'd take the Zephyr from Chicago to Sacramento, stay there a day to enjoy the California Railroad Museum, and pick up the Coast Starlight in Sacramento for the trip to Los Angeles.

Or you could take one of the San Joaquin route trains from Sacramento to Emeryville and spend a day touristing on the San Francisco waterfront, then pick up the southbound Starlight at Emeryville. (Of course, you could take the Zephyr through to Emeryville if you didn't want to stay over in Sacramento.)

Returning, you have a choice between the Southwest Chief and the Texas Eagle (both are fine trains) to Chicago, or taking the Eagle/Sunset Limited to New Orleans and the Cardinal from New Orleans back up to New York.

If you want to go in sleeper, make your reservations NOW -- August is a busy time and sleepers may already be full. Coach will fill up fast but seats should be available.

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notelvis
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And to follow up on Henry Kisor's suggestion of the CZ to Sacramento and then onward the following day with the Coast Starlight, the Vagabond Inn in Sacramento is across the street (and a parking lot) from the Sacramento Amtrak station. It's a traditional 'motor hotel' but the rooms are clean, the place is decently maintained, the staff pleasant, and it provides remarkable convienence and value for the Amtrak passenger. (Amtrak crews also layover at the Vagabond) There is a Denny's adjacent to the hotel and the Historic Old Sacramento area (with railroad museum) is a safe, easy walk from the hotel.

In making arrangements, note that the Vagabond Inn is a regional chain with multiple locations...you want the one in downtown Sacramento.....whatever they call it now.

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Presume this is the Vagabond Inn being addressed (as I recall, the train station is near Old Town)?

http://www.vagabondinn-sacramento-old-town-hotel.com/

Even if I have personal reservations about Trip Advisor, i.e. a "tearing apart' of a hotel in Boca Raton that both my "rather discerning" Sister and I found perfectly acceptable, they seem to think that "it's not a bad place":

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g32999-d79759-Reviews-Vagabond_Inn_Executive_Old_Town-Sacramento_California.html

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Ocala Mike
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quote:
Originally posted by Henry Kisor:

Returning, you have a choice between the Southwest Chief and the Texas Eagle (both are fine trains) to Chicago, or taking the Eagle/Sunset Limited to New Orleans and the Cardinal from New Orleans back up to New York.


Have to get the blue pencil out on this, Henry; I know you meant the CRESCENT from NOL, not the CARDINAL.

Anyway, with all this talk about x-country trips by rail, I only wish I could talk the bride into taking another long trip with me on Amtrak. She still has a bad memory about our last one, as she lost a battle with one of those "shoilets" in our bedroom!

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Jerome Nicholson
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Definitely the Zephyr! The scenery crossing the Rockies leaving Denver and the Sierras from Reno will give you memories for a lifetime. Make sure you have plenty of memory in your camera when you leave Chicago!
If you've never been to San Francisco, of course stay there for a couple of days. If you have, Sacramento is worth a stay.
The daylight trip down the coast to LA is beautiful, and if you have the extra funds, maybe consider a bedroom so you can experience the Pacific Parlour Car. Though you won't be spending any time in the bedroom. If you opt for coach, make sure you have a seat on the right side of the train.

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Henry Kisor
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CRESCENT, dammit! Not the Cardinal! Not the Cardinal! Where was my head when I wrote that? I will leave the error standing as a reminder to doublecheck my math every time . . .

Thanks, Ocala Mike.

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sojourner
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Mdm Min, My advice is to go out via Washington DC and then the Capital Ltd, take the Zephyr from Chicago, then overnight in Sacramento, then go down to LA on the Coast Starlite.

Then going home, you can take the SW Chief if you are pressed for time; but if not, I recommend the Coast Starlight back up, overnight in Eugene or Portland OR, then catch the Empire Builder east out of Portland to Chicago (if you overnighted in Eugene, you can catch an early train into Portland or even a bus, it's not too far), then the Lakeshore Ltd home to NYP.

The Zephyr is the most gorgeous train ride in the USA, in my opinion. And the Emipre Builder and Coast Starlight are currently Amtrak's two best l-d trains. And they are pretty lovely scenerywise too.

I would not recommend the Texas Eagle/Sunset Ltd, either through Chicago or through New Orleans. The scenery in West Texas is pretty endless and dull compared to the other routes. And New Orleans in August . . . hot humid and hurricane potential . . . it's not the time of year to do that, IMO. What's more, going this way takes an extra day too . . . so if you have the time, better to go up on the Coast Starlight and spend the extra time in the Pacific NW that time of year. (And if you don't have the time, come home on the SW Chief.)

How early can you get to Penn Station in NYP? Because, if at all possible, I'd catch an earlier train to DC than the one you will be automatically offered for catching the Capital Ltd . . . That is, use the multitrip function on the website (NYP to WAS, then WAS to SAC) or tell the Amtrak agent you want to leave NYP earlier. Doing this shouldn't cost more if you book far in advance. I am assuming you will be taking a sleeper roomette to Chicago, yes? Then the latest I'd leave NYP is 8:10. And if you live in Manhattan, you might even do the Carolinian or the 7:20 REgional!!! But as long as you leave before 9, you should have enough time for a lovely stopover in DC, with lunch, a Mall walkabout, lots of fine free museums. . . need to get back to Union Staiton around 3:15, maybe not till 3:30, to catch you Capital Ltd. And if you have a sleeper on the Cap Ltd, you can leave your luggage in the ACELA Lounge in DC to do the walkabout. . .

I would not leave on a Friday or Sunday, Regionals to WAS will be higher . . . also Sunday (and Saturday) will be fewer trains to DC . . .

Have a great trip

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by Henry Kisor:
Or you could take one of the San Joaquin route trains from Sacramento to Emeryville and spend a day touristing on the San Francisco waterfront, then pick up the southbound Starlight at Emeryville. (Of course, you could take the Zephyr through to Emeryville if you didn't want to stay over in Sacramento.)

That is Capital Corridor between Sacramento and Emeryville, not San Joaquin.

Look up the information on line. There are Amtrak California buses to a number of San Francisco destinations from Emeryville.

If you have no urge to tourist San Francisco, you can also pick up the Starlight in Sacramento. On the other hand, if you have no urge to tourist some of the places here, you are probably comatose anyway.

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Henry Kisor
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Argh. Not my day. You are correct, George. I misread the San Joaquin timetable.
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Ocala Mike
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You do have to be careful in here, Henry. Some groups will throw you UNDER the bus for errors, but this one could make you RIDE IT(with the A/C out and the shoilet backing up!).
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TwinStarRocket
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In August the eastbound Empire Builder gives you the most daylight time to view Glacier Park, -one of the most scenic segments on Amtrak. Just be up at dawn and stay in the sightseer lounge until at least East Glacier. It is worth postponing breakfast for the scenery. After Cut Bank, the scenery does not change much and you have plenty of time to enjoy the train.

The trip up the Columbia River Gorge from Portland as the sun sets is also beautiful.

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amtraxmaniac
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Its ok Mr Kisor-your accurate the other 364 days a year.

I'd skip the Sunset Limitted. The Bayou is nice if your lucky enough to catch it in the daytime hours, however the rest of the landscape is blah. I'm not sure how much improvement ther's been in time management, but it used to be one of Amtrak's tardiest trains (running in excess of several hours late). I concur with Mr Kisor-detrain the CZ at Sacramento and spend a day in Sacramento. Of course August might not be a good month in Sacramento if you are not accustomed to heat (your looking at close to triple digits in August). If your trying to beat the heat-detrain the CZ in EMY and spend a day in SF. Also, a little appreciated gem on the east side of the bay is Jack London Square. The Amtrak Station is actually in Jack London Square.

I plan to take a trip in the next few years on the CZ eastbound to Denver and check out some of the tourist railways in Colorado. Getting off for a day or two in Denver might even prove rewarding.

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MdmMim
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I knew you would have some great responses for me! Lots to consider, and I am glad I have time to figure this all out. Scenery is a priority for me. I will be traveling with my grown daughter, and this will be her first X-country train trip.

Thank you all! I will post back when I decide our route.

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train lady
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Mim, you might also want to consider the Cardinal from NY -DC then on to Chicago on the Capital or through to Chicago on the Cardinal
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SilverStar092
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The good news is your trip is in Aug. 2011 so there's time to plan. I suggest booking in Sept. '11...the rez system allows you to book about 11 months ahead. I also endorse the CZ/Starlight route over all as it is the best routing for scenery. There are pros and cons to taking the Lake Shore, Capitol, or Cardinal to CHI...any will be nice. If you return by rail, the Starlight/ Empire Builder is the way to go with the SW Chief a solid backup. NO matter what, take the CZ westbound as the best scenery will be all in daylight.
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