All aboard Amtrak’s California Zephyr

My ride.

My ride.

Some people have a Bucket List. I’ll admit I’ve never seen the movie mainly because I thought the expression was stupid. Then again, a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” is hyperbole and few experiences in life are once in a lifetime unless they involve you dying at the conclusion of it.

However you want to label it, a few weeks ago I crossed an item off my Bucket List. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I rode coach on Amtrak’s Capitol Limited from Cleveland to Chicago before boarding the California Zephyr all the way to San Francisco. And back.

I had to be in California for an event and I had a few options on my mode of transportation. Time was not an issue, which is key to train travel. A plane will always get you there faster. This is a fact. But if you have the time and the patience, riding a train is an experience like no other. Full disclosure: I received no compensation or special treatment from Amtrak. My train was delayed 6 hours upon arrival in Emeryville, California (the last stop in Oakland before a bus takes you into San Francisco) which should be proof of that. We hit a deer. The buck stopped there. Wow, that was awful. Sorry.

Chicago to San Francisco is about a 49-hour trip. I purchased a sleeper car which means I slept (sort of) for two nights during the journey. If you’re in a sleeper car you are served three hot meals and given access to a shower while on the train. Pretty sweet. It’s a bit of a challenge taking a shower aboard a moving train but the meals are better than expected. I had grilled salmon for dinner and was relieved venison was not on the menu.

Many people ride the train like it’s a big party, socializing and meeting others. The people you meet have fascinating stories. It takes a certain kind of individual to cross North America on rails. Being an introvert, I spent most of my time staring out of the window at this gorgeous place we call the United States, writing away in my private space. Here’s the slideshow, a bit of a sampling of what I saw from my seat.

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This special episode of the TheHorrorWritersPodcast was recorded on the train, somewhere in the middle of Nevada. Although I share seven things I learned about the craft of writing while aboard the train, anyone might find it interesting. If you really need help getting motivated, in the podcast I talk a bit about my editor, Rebecca T. Dickson, who is also a writing coach. Check out the podcast and show notes for more details.

I’ll have a few guest bloggers this month as well as some other interesting news. Stay tuned…

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3 thoughts on “All aboard Amtrak’s California Zephyr”

  1. I’m going to have to listen to this episode, J, because I need all the train writing tips I can get to follow in your footsteps :). My wife and I have already talked about a “me riding, her flying” trip out to San Fran. Thanks for the inspiration!

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