Chicago over the Rockies and High Sierras

Trip Start Apr 15, 2013
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Trip End May 29, 2013


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Where I stayed
Californian Zephyr (Train)

Flag of United States  , Colorado
Monday, May 13, 2013

Sue Start
Back on the Californian Zephyr we settle into our larger sleeper with full bathroom facilities.  We are comfortable and enjoy the extra space and viewing areas. The scenery is spectacular through the Rockies and Sierra Nevadas. Forever,  changing. From huge dry craggy, outcrops, to lush ravines and rivers, snow-capped mountains sometimes a backdrop to deserts at other times part of ski resorts with huge forests of pine. Stunning scenery and a great opportunity to talk with many Americans and learn more about this country, the people, government etc.  We feel we have gained a lot from this experience.The trip takes longer because of mechanical problems but we are not phased.  Luckily we don't have any tight deadlines.
 
Larry Start

We pick up the California Zephyr in Chicago Union Station.  The Texas Eagle, leaving around the same time is having mechanical issues, but we are okay. Our room is great.  We paid quite a bit for our sleeper, but we realised we needed a toilet for overnight and the only option was dear. We have a separate shower and toilet and the day time arrangements have a long couch (enough room for 3 or 4) and a smaller seat.  This way we can shift around, rest or sleep and see scenery out of both sides.
 
 We are soon out of Chicago and the prairie is our companion. All along the way small rural communities can be seen and many of these are poorer with a tendency to be untidy or less maintained than those along the Hudson. The highlight was the crossing of the Mississippi. We had known of this river for ever and was certainly a grand waterway. It doesn't usurp the Murray though as my favourite River.

The train has a lounge car with a great viewing area and drinks service, that is great for pre-dinner drinks.

While we think our sleep is better we are still tired the next day, after our first night. We are full of expectation, as we start in Denver (the mile high city) and climb from there, Climb the train does, zig zagging the way up the mountain with the locomotives often visible sweeping around one bend and the other. Snow start to be visible in the distant mountains, but soon becomes a track side presence. For no time of this full day's travel was the scenery anything less than spectacular. There were mountains, canyons, rivers, rapids and, yes snow.  The day slipped away very quickly.

The last day on the train starts in Nevada, past Salt Lake City.  By now we are aware of mechanical issues with the train and we are 2 hours behind schedule, with many attempts to rectify the situation. We are in the desert, but then are beside a dryish river that just has a slight canyon where it has eroded away the surface. Later we come to the Truckee River.  This has serious water in it and we will follow it for some time. This river also contributes to riverside trees and other vegetation.
We begin the climb into the Sierra Nevadas. Snow, again becomes visible, and the landscape again transforms into picturescue. Unfortunately we are engaged in deep conversation as the highlight of the day appears. The beautiful green Lake Tahoe in the valley far below the train. It is a very worthy focus of our attention, but we feel unable to turn away from our new friends.

  By now, the mechanical issues have forced a freight locomotive to take the lead from the stylish Amtrak locos and we are expecting a three hour delay.  

 The entry into San Francisco is wonderful as the train hugs the waterline most of the way, including crossing a long bridge.

After 2 days and some hours we have arrived and enthuse over a trip that never saw us bored and mostly kept us entertained with the movement and scenery.
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