Amtrak Cross-Country Train Ride Gets Grade A

I dislike the term “bucket list” because I don’t plan to kick one anytime soon. But I am a fan of keeping a “goals list” because I do believe we can speak things into being. So…one of my long time goals has been to take a cross-county train trip. And so at the tender age of 58, last week I did just that.

The last time I took a train trip of any distance, I was probably 6 or 7 years old. From adulthood, I have longed to board a train and see some scenery…a LOT of scenery.  

I took the Amtrak train from Houston to Los Angeles, and another from Los Angeles to Seattle. These routes are called the Sunset Limited and the Coastal Starlight, and encompass some of America’s premier visuals in panoramic scenery. All total, I was about 75 hours on the train. It was long, but so very worth it.

For those who don’t care for the details of which I shall shortly regale, here is the skinny on why I give an overall grade for Amtrak of an A. Everything was great, much better than expected many times. The only reason for less than an A+ was because there were many delays. For the most part they were unavoidable. I was very forgiving because, frankly, if you are on a super tight schedule, you probably aren’t taking the train. So here are some pretty pictures, then I will get into the meat of the matter.

So I guess my first surprise was just how engaging every aspect of the experience was for me. I expected to do a lot of reading, writing, (like, serious writing such as blogging, poetry, recently born narratives, etc) and perhaps some idle chatter. But from the moment I arrived at the Houston station, I was enthralled by the experience of people, motion, visuals and general novelty. I could not concentrate in any way. I was like an ADD jack rabbit without my meds.

So here are my contributions to Life Aboard a Train, USA style.

I first arrived at the Houston Amtrak station about 2 1/2 hours early. It is not necessary to arrive more than 30-40 minutes, unlike the airport. You check in at the window, show an ID, and you’re done. Nothing checked or searched. It was quite liberating. Interestingly, there were a half dozen Homeland Security folks hanging around the area. I don’t know if this is normal or not. But I liked to think if there were bad guys/gals around, they might have passed on by with the presence of the Feds. When the train arrives, you get in line as follows: handi-capped and seniors, then a regular line, and finally those in sleeper cars. You are given an assigned seat if you are riding in coach, which I was. I was SO excited as I boarded that train!

I was lucky; on this train the very next car from mine was the observation car, which has the cafe in the lower level. I marched on down, got a drink from John, a most pleasant and cordial host, and sat at a table in the obs car as we pulled out of Houston. I watched the sun go down somewhere far west of the city. For you geography buffs, we followed old Highway 90 for much of the trip, even out into far west Texas.

So this post is turning into a rather unweildy process. I shall end this here and I ask you to read the next installment of the series. I’m not being coy, just practical in blogging management. Please read on!

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About dorothyhagan

Teacher and author. Have taught ages Pre-K to 60, ESL and GED, public and private schools. Published The Edge of the Grace Period in 2000. The Offshore Triumphs of Karla Jean was published in 2012.
This entry was posted in Amtrak, Coastal Starlight, Sunset Limited, Traveling, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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