Where have I been? GLAD YOU ASKED! I have been on VACATION!
Michael’s conference this year was in California, so we made a vacation out of it! We took the train to California, went to his conference, then went to Joshua Tree National Park, then headed back to the coast and spent time with friends. We, of course, took the train back, so it was a very relaxing two weeks. (I’ve got a ton of book reviews I finished writing and posted
need to post, because the train is perfect for reading, when you’re not staring out the windows at the passing scenery (which I did quite frequently).
Despite most of our trains being delayed at some point (including spending the night in Toledo) I still greatly prefer taking the train to flying. And with a roomette, we had a place to lie down and included meals, so WAY better than flying.
Because everyone has asked, here are the sordid details:
Capital Limited: Pittsburgh (11:59 PM) to Chicago Union Station (8:45 AM) – This leg is always delayed and running late. Plan for it. Also, I think next time I want to leave from Cumberland, because the Pittsburgh Amtrak station is AWFUL. Plus, we’d leave earlier and get back later. This will be our plan next time we take the train.
Southwest Chief: Chicago Union Station (3:00 PM Fri) to LA Union Station (8:15 Sun) – This was two nights on the train, with meals included. It went through: Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado (south-east corner), New Mexico, Arizona, and California. We went through a LOT of desert, which I found fascinating to see.
Coming back we took:
Pacific Surfliner: San Diego to LA Union Station – This had long stretches of views of the ocean, which I really enjoyed. We got this last minute, so our marvelous hostess didn’t have to drive from San Diego to LA.
Southwest Chief: LA Union Station (6:15 PM Mon) to Chicago Union Station (3:15 PM Wed)
Capital Limited: Chicago Union Station (6:40 PM) to Pittsburgh (5:05 AM)
The total cost for both of us was ~$2,000, and (with the exception of the Surfliner) included the roomette with breakfast, lunch, and dinner (as applicable to that part of the journey). And the roomette was a single fee, not a per person fee. Plus, our luggage was free.
So the trip was, essentially, 3 1/3 days each way, and we got to see parts of the country with which we were unfamiliar.
Currently, a non-stop flight from Pittsburgh to LA is ~$570 / person and takes 5 hours.
Flights with layovers are currently:
United, 6h 40m, $336
US Airways, 5h 45m, $360
That’s with no checked luggage and no sustenance included.
Here are some of the views I enjoyed: (Please note, all pictures were taken from a moving train, through a thick window, with a cell phone.)
Because I turned on location services for most of them, you can click through to Flickr to see where most of the pictures were taken.
So, is it more expensive? Yes. Is it worth it? For me? Hell yes. Especially being able to actually see the landscape as we went by.
ADDENDUM the First:
Because it might be helpful, here are two pictures of the roomette, both taken by Michael (obviously).