Saturday, June 12, 2010

Overall Thoughts of the Trip

Well, I've had a chance to sit back and post the pictures that I am going to post from the trip. I've also had a chance to think about things and now I am going to put together my thoughts from the trip.

As I said when I posted my first post from the trip, I'd had never really been out west except for when I was younger and my trips out to Southern California through work. On those trips, I always flew so I never really had an opportunity to see the West. So when I first heard about taking the train, I heard about the California Zephyr leg. I thought that would be cool to see, so I looked it up. As I was researching, I found out about the Empire Builder and the Coast Starlight. Both sounded cool as well.

I couldn't decide which leg I wanted to do, so I decided to do all three of them. Given the train schedules, I decided to stay a couple days at the ends of each of the legs. So that meant a couple days in Seattle and San Francisco. I did some looking up and I found fairly inexpensive hotels in the downtowns of each city, so this meant I could walk around each city. When I go to a new city, I prefer to walk around it because I feel that I get to know it better and get the feel of the city.

So the hotel was set, the train tickets were set. I looked up the baseball schedules in each respective city and found that the Mariners and Giants would be at home, so I got tickets for each. The Mariners would be extra special as they were playing the Tigers. So now I had everything set.

Let me step back a second. Back in February, I decided to take the train to Chicago to get a feel for the train. It didn't feel too bad, so I decided I would tough it out and not get the sleeper car.

I was getting a little nervous before the trip. What if I didn't like the distance cars? What if I couldn't sleep? I would be stuck on the train for 2 and a half days and feel miserable. I didn't really want that. So anyways, it didn't bother me too much as I had the tickets and the hotel set, so there wasn't much backing out.

The trip to the train station in Ann Arbor was uneventful and I was giddy. I would be going on my trip and it was really the first time I'd taken a serious vacation in a long time. There were no problems at the station and the train left without a hitch. I looked out the window for a little bit and tried to get pictures of some of the things I missed the last time. For the most part I had seen this stuff. So I decided to pop "The Blues Brothers" into the laptop and watch it. For as many times as I've see that movie, I still laugh at it. This time it had a little more relevance as I was heading to Chicago.

I got to Chicago, checked my larger bag and then got some lunch. Wandered around the immediate station area as I had a layoever but only a couple hours. Snapped some pictures (of course) and then went back to the train station.

Then I boarded the Empire Builder. This was it. For the most part this was the beginning of the trip for me. Also for the most part, I would be going through new territory once I crossed over the Wisconsin border. So I had my camera ready. Wisconsin was pretty neat but it looked familiar. Then I crossed the Mississippi at LaCrosse....Now I was in the west. I only saw a couple hours of Minnesota as it was getting late. Minneapolis was dark. The next morning would bring more adventure.

North Dakota. This still looked familiar to me, although we were getting up in the mountains. Montana was where it started to get really interesting for me. This was the mountains and Glacier Mountain was awesome.

Seattle was pretty cool and I had a pretty full slate there. As was San Francisco. The Coast Starlight was a bit of a letdown after the Empire Builder. The staff seemed a little more surly and it felt more like the train from Ann Arbor to Chicago.

After San Francisco, it was the Zephyr and that was awesome. I'm not sure which one I was more impressed by, the Empire Builder or the Zephyr. Both trains had their good points. So if I had to pick one...I couldn't.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. So in conclusion, I would love to thank the wonderful people at Amtrak. For the most part, the train was a very pleasurable ride and I felt very relaxed even though I covered close to 6000 miles in 9 days.

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