A Customer's Train Travel Journey: 11 Days and 7,000+ Miles Around America
The U.S. is a really big place — there's no denying it. From dramatic views of deserts to mountains to incredibly flat plains, canyons, and oceans, “the rest” of the country is so diverse that taking an around America, coast-to-coast train journey is the ideal way to get to know it better. For one customer, the vast, varied landscapes, small towns and big cities, and onboard experiences proved to be quite memorable. Terry and his dear friend George took an 11-day, 7,000+ mile long-distance train vacation around America some years ago and now he is considering doing that trip in reverse with his wife.
An around America train journey (like a road trip) is linked to the American psyche. It offers a glimpse at many of the most enjoyable aspects of travel: the excitement, the fun and freedom, the adventure and exploration, the friendships forged, the sights seen and experienced, the destinations visited, and the memories made.
Train vacations have a universal quality. Many people will take to the rails at some point in their lives, but each person will experience their train vacation differently. Whether or not they have a favorite destination in mind is rarely the point; the iconic around America train journey is an end in itself. It's a different mode of traveling. It's not a to-do list. It's more of a rite of passage.
The key is to take the journey slowly. Meet people from all walks of life. Get pleasantly lost. Along with seeing plenty of what the U.S. has to offer — with an emphasis on discovering breathtaking landscapes you wouldn't otherwise — the real joy lies in making your own experience out of the trip. In the below Q&A, Terry shares some of the highlights from his epic around America train vacation. Follow along and get inspired to book your very own! What was your favorite part about this train journey? Who did you travel with? Terry: The friendly nature of the entire Amtrak staff and the acquaintances we met along the way. I had many great conversations and enjoyed the scenery. I took the trip with my friend George. He was a railroad buff and part of a travel group of wives and husbands. If I take this trip, again, I will sorely miss him.
Which destination(s) did you enjoy most? Why? We actually only spent the night in two cities — Los Angeles and New Orleans (though these were definitely highlights). In New Orleans, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Bon Ton Cafe. If you go, try the bread pudding! The Empire Builder leg along the Columbia River to Portland, Oregon, was also a favorite. Which trains or routes did you find the most memorable? Amtrak's Sunset Limited from Los Angeles to New Orleans was the most varied and offered the best views of just how different North America's landscapes are.
The main reason you love traveling by train? Once settled in, train travel makes the journey easy. Everything is at hand and the food is very good. One could either stay onboard or stretch their legs at station stops. We stayed in a Sleeping Car. For those who want side trips, that is also possible.
What would you tell your friends and family about your Amtrak Vacations experience?
I'm sure they'll want to take reading material because they think they'll get bored. But, if you are like me, you'll unpack the same books at the end of the trip (unread) because there is so much to see and so many wonderful people to meet.
What places or experiences are on your travel bucket list?
My wife and I have been to every continent except Australia (including Antarctica). That means our bucket list is very short. If I were to retrace this Amtrak route clockwise that will qualify for me (maybe not for my wife).
What kind of people did you meet on the train? Any memorable stories from your conversations?
We met warm, friendly travelers on every leg. Here are just a few:
- A couple from New England headed to the West Coast to visit relatives on the Empire Builder
- A grandfather and granddaughter on the Coast Starlight headed back to Los Angeles
- A couple from New Zealand on the Coast Starlight headed home and invited us to their beach house
- A young woman on the Sunset Limited headed to a new job opportunity in New Orleans
- A mother and daughter headed home to New Orleans on the Sunset Limited
- The wine tasting Amtrak guy on the Coast Starlight offering samples to passengers
If you do take this journey again, only in reverse with your wife, what are you most looking forward to?
It is hard 'going home again,' so it is my hope that this trip might come close to the enjoyment of the first. I will be 80-years-old and I'm close to running out of miles. The train offers much easier travel than other tours, such as cruises and flying.