Day 4. The End of the Journey.

Dec 27. Day 4. Utah to Emeryville.

 

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Beautiful Sunrise

 

Good morning. We’re at the last leg of this journey. Somewhere past Salt Lake City to Emeryville, California. Breakfast today would be in the cabin, as Jackie preferred to catch on some extra hour of sleep. I finished the egg omelette plus pancakes, while Jackie had the bacon. Nice meal to start the day.

This would be the most scenic leg of the journey, with more snow capped canyons and valleys ahead. Also ahead is the well known
Donners Pass (follow the link to get the story).

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Donners Pass

We spent the whole morning in the sightseer lounge enjoying the views. We played cards to kill some idle times. I would be writing these entries offline on my smartphone, publishing them when  cell signal becomes available.  Besides the canyons and valleys, the train also passed by several small towns, scenic in their own ways.

Lunch would be the last meal on this trip.  We were joined by an elderly couple who were coming back to San Francisco from a visit to their children and grandchildren in Truckee, CA.

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Truckee, CA

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Colfax, CA

We saw the end of snow covered lands when we hit Colfax, CA, almost finished with our lunch at this time.  By the time we hit Sacramento, CA, the views outside became more of a regular city train trip.  Jackie and I spent the rest of trip in the cabin, biding time playing more cards and having more personal small talks. The train was about an hour late getting to its final destination – Emeryville.

We reached Emeryville past 5:30PM.  Dennis unloaded our luggage, and bid goodbye.  A wonderful cabin attendant he has been.

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Emeryville Station

We took an Uber ride from Emeryville to downtown San Francisco.  This would be the end of the 4-day train journey, but not the end of the adventure.  We have a new city to explore, Jackie and I.  This will be another story.  Till next time.  Goodnight.

 

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Day 3. Scenic Views Ahead

Dec 26. Day 3. Denver to Utah.

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We woke up in Denver, Colorado, MST. Had an extra hour of sleep because of the region and time  change. This would be the start of the scenic views of the journey.

Breakfast. Went to the dining area and had our names on the list. This time, we were joined by Chris and Will, mother and son, doing a skiing trip from Omaha to Salt Lake City. Since I’ve known their names, you should’ve figured that we had some conversation with them. In fact we had an extended interaction with them after breakfast since we both ended up in the same table in the lounge car. The lounge car was crowded this time.  We spent most of the time with Chris and Will in the lounge car. They taught us a card game I’d given a name slap-jack (can’t recall the real name of the game). We enjoyed the company with them.

Lunch was around 1PM. This time with Saurabh and company (sorry, I forgot her name), 2 Indian IT folks from Chicago. It turned out they were doing the same kind of train adventure from Chicago to San Francisco.

Jackie and I spent the afternoon back in the lounge car, playing a variant of Rummy card game, while enjoying the scenery. Had a great time this afternoon. It’s better to describe the scenery with pictures. I’ll try to include some here.

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We made an early dinner reservation – 6:15PM. This time we’re with the company of Mary and Brandon, a grandmother and grandson. Just like the other table companions we had before, it was a pleasant and enjoyable experience. We were informed by the dining crew that they had ran out of salmon as well. We had salisbury steak and chicken for dinner.  Delicious, but we would have preferred the salmon and the pad thai noodles.

After dinner, we went back to the cabin. Played some more card games while having the desserts. Asked Dennis, our wonderful cabin attendant, to set up our beds when we took the shower. Tucked in a little earlier than usual, getting ready for the last day of the journey.

I will end today’s entry here. Tomorrow will be another scenic ride to Emeryville, the final stop of this train trip.

Once again, good night and see you tomorrow.

Day 2. Aboard the California Zephyr.

Dec 25. Day 2. Chicago to Denver.

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California Zephyr Superliner

This is the 2nd day of the journey, aboard the California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco. The California Zephyr is a Superliner train, a double decker train, bigger than the Shoreline Limited. Again, it has comfortable coach seating cars, sleeper cars, a sightseer lounge car with a cafe bar, and a dining bar. The big difference is the sightseer lounge, on the upper deck, with reclined seats and tables, and all around views from both sides of the car. You’d have a wonderful view of the scenery from both sides. The Chicago to Denver leg would be a precursor to more scenic views from Denver, Salt Lake, Sierra Nevada, Truckee, Sacramento – the last leg of the trip.

We left Chicago at 2PM CST. Checked in to our cabin, again a Roomette but this time without the private mini toilet and sink. Bathrooms – toilets and shower – are shared among passengers of each car. We have our cabin on the lower deck, close to the luggage and bathrooms area. I find this better than cabins on the upper deck because we have easier access to our luggage, and the shower. There is also a toilet room on the upper deck, but shower is just on the lower deck.

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Sightseer Lounge

We checked out the sightseer lounge and it was really a nice place to hang out to have the most enjoyable view of the scenery as the train traverses its course.  We stayed there for a bit, and not long after, dinner reservations were announced. We made our reservation at 7:15PM.

Dinner is communal seating. You share the table with other passengers, with the idea of striking a conversation and exchanging stories just about everything. Our first night’s dinner on the California Zephyr was quiet, with our table mates preferring not to have a conversation with us. Works fine with us as we were also on the same side.

Menu options are the same, which is the downside of this trip. You have the same choices from the first day to the last day of your trip. But I’m not complaining. By the end of this trip we would be 10 lbs heavier.

We had salmon and enchiladas for dinner (they ran out of noodles).  Both were delicious. Opted to have the desserts to go, which we ate back in the cabin. The leftover desserts became the pre-breakfast food the next day.

Btw, we took shower in the afternoon before dinner. Each sleeper car has its own shower room for the passengers in that car. Coach passengers do not have this amenity, but I think with a little out-of-the-box thinking, they can find a way to have access to this and have a quick shower (not that I’m giving anyone any ideas).

I will end this post here. We’re still aboard the California Zephyr. Goodnight and see you again tomorrow.

Day 2. Skydeck at Willis Tower

Dec 25. Day 2. Chicago Union Station.

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We arrived in Chicago at 9:45AM CST, with a 4+hour layover before the California Zephyr leaves at 2PM bound to San Francisco. Part of the upgrade package we have on this trip is the access to the Amtrak Business Class waiting lounge, similar to Airline lounges at the airports. Free luggage storage is also included. We checked in our luggage and decided to visit the Skydeck at Willis Tower, aka Sears Tower. It’s a short walk from the station, on Adams street side. The Skydeck is a scenic view of the whole Chicago area from all angles – South, East, North, West – from the building’s 103rd floor. The West side has the special section called the Ledge – a retractable glass flooring area to have a view of what’s directly beneath you. It’s like floating in air right outside the building. It was a bonus experience to this journey. Dare to stand on the Ledge, they say.

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Took a short walk around the street corners after the Skydeck viewing and went back to the station. Weather was a bit colder than New York. Grabbed some McDonalds for quick lunch at the waiting lounge. The lounge has a WiFi connection providing us the time to catch up on news and greeting friends a merry and joyful Christmas.

Again, Merry Christmas.

Day 1. Aboard the Lakeshore Limited

Dec 24. Day 1. New York to Chicago.

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The 1st day of the journey takes us from New York to Chicago, via the Shoreline Limited, a Viewliner train.  A Viewliner train is a single decker train with coach cars, sleeper cars, a dining car, and a lounge car.  It departs from NYPenn station at 3:40PM EST arriving in Chicago Union station at 9:45AM CST the following day, Christmas day.

Coach seats on the Amtrak trains are similar to Business Class seats on airplanes, comfortable enough for long haul trips. Sleeper cars are upgrades which have rooms or cabins for families wanting a more private setting. We have a Roomette upgrade on this trip, a cabin in one of the sleeper cars. A Roomette has 2 seats facing each other convertible to a small sleeping bed come night time. The other bed folds down from the top making the cabin a bunker style bedroom. From the experience, I’d say the sleepers provided a comfortable sleeping condition.

The Roomette in the Lakeshore Limited train also provides a private toilet and a folding mini sink. One person has to leave the room if the other needs to use it. It’s more of a convenience rather than a luxury, having the option not to share toilet with the other passengers.

The trip from New York to Chicago was uneventful. Peaceful. Spending quality moments with my daughter. Windows sightseeing of sunset and vast flatlands in the New York region.

Dinner was served with menu options of steak, fish, noodles, and vegetables. I chose the steak even though I am not a big meat eater – might as well try it since it came with the package. My daughter chose the fish – salmon with mashed potatoes and veggies. Garden salad for appetizers, main entree after, ending dinner with chocolate mousse and strawberry cheesecake. Dinner was served with the same silverware used in restaurants. The food was surprisingly good!, from appetizers to desserts. Even better than some local restaurants I’ve tried.

We went back to the cabin after dinner and our beds have already been set up by our cabin attendant, Alvin, who was very accommodating and helpful. All the staff we have encountered were polite and courteous.
We woke up somewhere in Indiana the next day, still on EST. Breakfast was served before arriving in Chicago. We had egg omellete and pancakes for breakfast, and again as good as any breakfast you’d get from a typical restaurant.

We arrived in Chicago on time, 9:45AM CST. Deboarded the train and checked in to the lounge for the connecting train to San Francisco, the California Zephyr, a Superliner train, which departs at 2PM CST.

This ends the 1st leg of the journey. Merry Christmas!