2010 Amtrak Vacation


Coast Starlight

Southwest Chief

San Francisco, CA

Laughlin, NV

The California Zephyr Amtrak Train Route

     Our trip starts in Flint Michigan,We'll be riding the 365 Blue Water train to Chicago.   In Chicago is where we change trains to The California Zephyr.   The California Zephyr runs daily from Chicago to Emeryville California(San Francisco) and back.

      This part of the trip we have booked a Roomette as this will make the 52 hour trip a little more relaxing.   Though we have the room to sleep in at night or sit in all day, I am sure we will spend plenty of time out and about.  I know I plan to be in the observation car taking picture a good part of the day.


Some Scenic highlights of what we'll see:

  • Rocky Mountains
  • Sierra Nevadas
  • Moffat Tunnel
  • Colorado's Gore, Byers and Glenwood Canyons
  • Winter Park
  • Truckee River
  • Donner Lake
  • San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez

Amtrak Links
Amtraks California Zephyr web page


Trip Planning Map


Train Schedule


Our Trip

After arriving at the train station on time from Flint, we proceeded to the Metro Lounge to ditch our bags and get some coffee.   The Metro Lounge is for anyone that books a sleeper.  There are many benefits for booking one of the many classes of sleepers, ours as stated above was a Roomette.  First off your meals are included($45 value each day per person), plus they have free coffee, juice & water just out the rooms on the upper level.   The last benefit is that you have more bathrooms in the sleeper car and you get to use the shower facilities.   Riding coach will save you some green, but no shower for you well your on the train.   For us we got 12 meals total, about a $180 value, plus coffee, water and a shower every day for a cost of just $270 extra. Oh, plus we slept  horizontally.

    They took us right from the Metro Lounge to the train, about 45 minutes before the 2pm departure.   I took us about 2 hours to get comfy with the room, but by morning we had decided we would upgrade to a roomette for the trip home.

   The first days travel was snowy and uneventful.   I did not take any pictures as there was not a lot to see.
  We retired early as we where whipped from the early morning we had.   

    The Roomette once converted to sleeping is fairly roomy, well at least the bottom bunk.   The bedding is firm and mildly comfortable.  The ride was a bumping one, but I managed to get 6-7 hours of sleep.   I was told the next day that we where moving along at 80+MPH.   JoAnn said she was comfy in the top bunk, though she would have liked a little more width.

    The 2nd day was sight seeing day.   So I was up at the crack of 5:45am.......Yes, I said AM.   I wanted to get my shower out of the way and have breakfast before Denver.    We arrived early and stayed about 45 minutes.   Man it was cold there.  Though I did manage to  get a few photos of the station building.

The Denver Union Station  The Denver Union Station

    I spent at least a third of the day in the observation car talking to strangers and taking pictures of the scenery.
  Our first big train delay the whole trip.   We had a 2 hour delay in Grand Junction Colorado.
The tracks that Amtrak uses are only leased and many of the delays are waiting for cargo to pass.   Today's delay was actually scheduled maintenance on the rails.

   Wow, you sure can get tired fast doing what seems like nothing.  I was out by 9pm.  Though I woke up numerous times and turned thru the night, I still managed to get a good 6 to 7 hours again.   I repeated the same process over, shower at 5:45 and breakfast by 7 am.   This will be the last day on the Zephyr with a scheduled arrival in California at 4:10, though at this point we are running a few hours late.   I have walked thru the train will my video camera and also have taken a few shots looking out of the train, hopefully some of it will turn out ok.

   The sky is overcast and gray so here I sit typing away.   Since I have been back in the room the sun is trying to fight its way out of the clouds.   Yes we will do another Amtrak trip in the future.   I lost track of the schedule but at this point we are heading very slowly do to a signal problem.   Our next stop is Reno, which we will be arriving late. How late, I am not sure but I am guessing 2 to 3 hours or more.   Time to roam the train and talk to some more strangers, slowly they are becoming fellow travels and no stranger then I.  The sun is winning.

    Well we made it to Reno, 4 hours late but we made it.   I knew before we left that the train runs late because of the freight trains and maintenance, I was just hoping not to late.   Ok now we get to go through the Sierra Nevada's, time to take some pictures soon.

    It was not the best day for taking photos but I managed to take a few while we had some sun.    Going through the mountains was a lot of fun.   I spent the first half while the sun was out in the observation car.   At one point we had to pull over and wait for the snow removal train to go by and we also went by the Amtrak train going in the other direction.
Taking photos through the windows was not easy, between the glare and the dirty windows it was a challenge.
I took many shots I tried holding the camera right to glass and that did help.
Sierra Mountains 

    Well this section of the  trip has come to an end, arriving in Emeryville 4 hours late at 8:35 pm.
Our Chauffeur(Mary P.) was waiting with a big smile on her face.
She will be our tour guide for tomorrow as we get chauffeured around San Francisco.

    All in all it was a great train ride so far and we are looking forward to San Francisco and the the next train leg of the trip.
  Food is pricey and only fair in Quality.  Service on the train overall has been friendly and helpful.   Not over the top, but adequate.   So far we have enjoyed train travel and look forward to future trips by train.

Next portion of trip

Califorina Zephyr Photo page