Skip to comments.Cross country train trip
Posted on 09/04/2012 3:13:37 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
As some of you may know, I've been dealing with the needs of my 99 year old mom this summer. She fell in May and broke her leg. Her recovery has been remarkable, but it is not possible for her to remain at her home alone any longer, and we have moved her into "assisted living". We found a very nice facility where we moved her during the past 2 weeks.
The problem is that she is in California, where she wants to remain, and we are in Wisconsin, where we need to remain to run our business. We are just completing our 3rd trip to CA this summer and will have to make several more. We flew twice, and this time we drove. It's a hard 3 day drive. I'm on my way home, and I am writing from Cheyenne, WY, with 999 miles yet to go.
I am wondering if there is anyone out there in FReeperland who has made this trip by train in the modern era? I looked up the schedule, and it sounds do-able and sort of fun. However, I haven't ridden a US train since I was in college (the first time) back in the dark ages. What is it like now?
I can make the trip from Milwaukee, WI to Fresno, CA in as little as 2 days by train, depending on the route I choose. The fare is amazingly reasonable. If you order an overnight compartment, that doubles the fare, but the meals are included. The gas, alone, on our current drive has amounted to more than $800, not counting meals and hotels along the way, so cost is not a consideration. Plane fare just to San Francisco is also about $800, and I have to drive another 200 miiles afterward.
I'd like to know if there is anyone out there who has made a trip like this in the past 5 years? How are the meals? Accomodations? Does the vibration of the rails drive you nuttier than being confined to a "coach" airline seat? Are there car rental facilities at the end of the line?
I am imagining that the trip would be scenic and relaxing for the "driver" (my husband), but what is the hidden downside? Are the seats crummy? What about the bathrooms? Showers? Food? Do they still have porters to help you handle your luggage? What about when you have to change trains? Does the RR hel you with the bags? Or, can you check them straight through, like a plane flight? Are the seats comfortable?
I am considering going via Oregon in October, which should be beautiful. The train tracks cut through parts of the country that the car traveler never sees. But, what is the downside?
I don’t mean to sound harsh, but why don’t you both either move out to CA temporarily if her time is short or make plans for her to join the both of you?
I think it is very important that you must make choices when it comes to the generation that raised you and your spouse. They certainly made choices that brought the two of you together.
I don’t like the way that our people put their parents in homes. I think the Japanese have it right. I saw both of my grandparents pass a long time ago, but I know that they were as well off as possible since they spent their last days in my parent’s home surrounded by the people that loved them rather than trying to make friends with the hospital staff.
It is important when a person passes that they have the ability to say the things that are important to them. Somehow emailing your last wishes and your life’s regrets just doesn’t seem the same.
you can never know when that time is. If gas vs train is an issue, then maybe you aren’t giving up as much in your business as you think. Maybe you are giving up more than you think by not making a way to be with family.
Two cents please.
Having said that, I enjoyed flying more. The train seemed too slow for really long distances.
Give it a try! We traveled to San Diego that way and had a wonderful time. The only downside is the time involved. The sleeper cars were worth the money and the food was surprisingly good. Folks were friendly and attendants were helpful for the most part. As for car rental, find a company like Enterprise who will pick you up. We are planning another West Coast trip this Fall.
I haven’t been on that route, but I did travel on Amtrak from Mineola, Tx to Alpine, Tx in 2008.
It took about 24 hours. The same route could be driven in around 10 hours. The accomodations were fine. But just being on the train for so long left me feeling tired. The views of the country side were great. There was even a seperate “viewing” car that you could go and sit in and watch the scenery go by.
The people on the train were friendly. There were lots of opportunities to chat with people throughout the whole trip. The conversations that I had with various passengers made the trip enjoyable for me.
The food was expensive. And you had to order your meals at particular times. It seemed that they weren’t set up to actually feed everybody on the train. On my trip, we were suppose to arrive in San Antonio around 10:00 p.m. and depart again at 5:00 a.m. I figured that I would be able to get a decent meal when we stopped. Big mistake. The train was delayed for several hours on the side of the track, and we pulled into S.A. about 4:00 a.m. Most of the passengers scrambled over to a Denny’s and wolfed down a quick meal.
If your going to ride the train, make sure you allow for extra time because I’ve heard of lots of stories about delays. Plan on bringing some food/snacks as a backup.
Sorry. You have no idea what you are talking about, so your advice is ot worth 2 cents.
Don’t do it!
My in-laws just did a group sightseeing trip out of Chicago heading West. I think they were on the Empire Builder, looking at the AMTRAK site. They said it was a disaster - always behind schedule, slow, uncomfortable. They’ll never do another train trip, at least on AMTRAK.
Thanks for sharing your experiences and good advice. You are making me more and more excited about trying this mode of US travel for the first time in more than 50 years. There was a time that we could make this drive in 2 days by driving `100 miles/day, but we just don’t have the stamina for that any more. 900 miles/day is about our limit.
Oh another thing: Brother and I could have brought in a nurse/companion to stay with my mother, but contrary to popular belief, that could be very expensive, particularly if it involves 24-hour care.
Under the circumstances, my brother and I made the best decision for Mom's care. It was an adjustment for her and she didn't like the food, but she made friends easily, played bingo and went on group excursions. She had a blast. Brother and I didn't abandon her either. We visited often and she spent holidays away from the home with us.
The good thing about the facility was that it was multi-purpose. As her health declined, she moved from assisted living to skilled nursing. We didn't have to move her from one facility to another. It was a Catholic organization, and the Sisters took excellent care of her. She was never made to feel like she was a burden.
My brother and I did what was best for Mom. So please, don't try to lay guilt trips on those of us who can't keep our elderly parents at home.
For that distance, if your time is worth anything, you must fly. A commuter flight will fill the gap. It’s expensive, but so is your time.
I would look into video conferencing as an additional way of being with your mom. It has gotten as cheap as a laptop and a high speed connection. “Get with the times”. If the home your mom is in is any good, they’ll help you with this. If they don’t have a suitable network, then there is something wrong. If they don’t have a suitable laptop, one of the employees certainly does. If you need help setting it up, look around for the youngest person you can find.
The one good thing is that, unlike air travel, you don't have to go through all that god-awful security, at least not yet. I could also take my bag on board without a check-in fee. And employees were very helpful, particularly since I had trouble getting on and off (I have a disability). Our train had a really nice lounge area with these huge windows, perfect to take in the sights. The seats were comfortable, not cramped like an airplane. I was also able to snooze during parts of both trips. Noise and vibrations didn't bother me.
Unless you get falsely accused of murder... ;)
"That man's dead... And you killed him!"
fwiw, my nephew traveled from Cleveland Ohio to San Fran by train, and thoroughly enjoyed. and he’s kinda high maintenance.
I have talked with several people that have taken them in the recent past.
They said as long as you can handle the delays, timewise, it's better than air travel.
The seats are comfortable, but not sleeping seats unless you pay a little extra. The food is, at least, adequate and sometimes you get a good cook and it's great. The rails were not a problem, for the most part. And the scenery was fantastic.
I agree with the person that said if you get a car at the end call Enterprise. I rented a vehicle for work extensively. Went with Enterprise and was, almost, never disappointed.
Best views of the “real” country you can get. Almost always late...I would say based on my observation, avoid the Charolette, NC Amtrak Station...:)) Last time I was there this distressed young lady was sharing her plight in life...just didn’t have enough income..her solution: have another baby...doesn’t it feel good that a hardworking business owner like you are forking over many dollars for such drivel?
I agree with you 100%.
Fly.. It is faster, plus the taxpayers will not have to pay for your travel if you take Amtrack..
I was in the Amtrack viewing car at happy hour when they played that movie!
You will like it! You should do it at least once. Get a roomette, then you get all kinds of privileges such as getting your bags checked for you. This will happen in the big Chicago Amtrack hub when you get there.
Also, with a roomette ticket, you get to hang out in the nice Amtrack lounge there in the Chicago hub, free snacks and cold drinks.
You’ll have newspapers and free coffee every morning. Remember to pack slippers. Also take your own booze if you drink and a flashlight.
the trains west of the Mississippi are better than the east. Western trains are newer and have double deckers with the great viewing car, but not in the east because of the old tunnels.
I think you’ll enjoy it. Anyway, try it at least once.
You do realize that we the taxpayer pay for Amtrack...
We are currently dealing with my father living with us for most of the year, the other part in CA with bro. When my mother died, my brother and I agreed that he would not live in a retirement community or home. He’s in good health though will be having a back operation soon during which I have to be the care taker. My husband agrees with this but we both miss our privacy and doing our own thing but the alternative is constant worry and unhappiness.
Having your aged parent living with you is a very tough decision and is probably not the best idea for everyone. Many times I wish we hadn’t done it. Having them close by might be the best for all.
Good luck to anyone in this situation, it isn’t easy.
Good for you...
As in my earlier post, I sometimes think Dad might be happier with folks his own age, etc. We deal with the grumpy comments about what to watch on TV, music we listen to, etc and he’s pretty “easy” compared to others we know. He has a group of school mates he sees once in awhile but that’s it..he’s constantly around. I don’t work so I get the honor...certainly not any of the gratitude (saved for sainted, divorced brother).
NOONE has the right to criticize you and your brother for the choices you made for your mother. You do the best you can under the circumstances. If your mom had specific ideas as to how she wanted to live in retirement, she might have planned ahead to make sure that happened. That’s what I’m planning so my son won’t have the probs I have.
Have done the trip from Chicago to LA on several occasions. No real specific problems. I would highly suggest you get a sleeper instead of simply going coach. The sleepers are comfortable and the meals are included in the pricing. Non-alcoholic beverages are available at no charge also. The food is OK but nothing like it was when the foods were prepared on-board.
They do have “red caps” to assist you at the stations with baggage and porters to provide assistance while on board. And “yes” you can check your baggage for the distance. You can get meals service in your cabin if desired.
Delays...you can expect delays. I’ve experienced minor delays (15-30 minutes) and a couple of long delays...once in Nebraska (snow storm) and once in Colorado (forest fires).
My only suggestion would be bring your own snacks, your laptop or CD player and some good reading material.
Enjoy the scenery and have a stress-free trip.
The flights to Fresno, CA are horrid. Nothing direct, and they are always late. Seats very cramped. I decided to go just as San Francisco this summer and then rent a car and drive 200 miles south. But it does occupy nearly an entire day both ways.
I can drive in 3 days, but I’m not home yet on the end of this trip and tired of driving. 2 days by train with someone else doing the driving sounds like a good compromise to me. As I said, the fare is no more than a couple of plane tickets, and it might be fun.
The idea came to me when I ran into the cousin of an old HS classmate at our hotel in Fresno. He said that he takes the train up to Fresno from LA all the time and recommended it. Of course 200 miles is not the same as 2300 miles.
I find that when doing the trip planning, it depends on your dates as to what is available, so I’ll have to juggle departure and return dates around a little to get the best route and time.
I wonder if they have WiFi on the train?
I have made the trip from L.A. to Chicago about 5 times on the Southwest Chief and also went from Portland, Oregon to Chicago 3 times on the Empire Builder. The Portland to Chicago trip (Empire Builder) was the most scenic because it passes through Glacier National Park where I saw Elk and Moose. Really a great ride all the way and the section that runs along the banks of the Columbia River for about a hundred miles was unbelievable.My trips were always west to east so I don’t know what you will see on an east to west trip.
The trip is tiring because it takes about 40 hours or more but my trains were never late at the final destination. Maybe I was just lucky.
The roomette will add about 661 dollars to the cost of the trip in addition to the original fare of 156.00 on a hypothetical one way trip on Oct. 16th to L.A. It is way too pricey for me at 817.00 but as you said the meals are included. I slept fine in the oversize seat and actually had to apologize to the people around for my loud snoring.
Either trip is a lot of fun and I wish I had some excuse to make the trip again. I couldn’t leave before today.
But Amtrack is funded by the taxpayers.. Basically I’m paying for your trip..
Yes, but it is also true that airline travel is very heavily subsidized by the government. (Don’t get me started on highways and bridges which are a giant subsidy to the trucking industry.)
I’ve always wanted to do the Trans-Canada Trip.
Well, I’ve traveled from Seattle to Dallas by train once. Won’t do it again. Here’s the lesson, though: only travel in this way if you have your own sleeper car for the duration, and I can’t emphasize that enough. You do not want to be mingling with the dregs you will encounter should you take that ride. It’s more of an ordeal than it is an adventure. Trust me on this. I’d stick with the flying knowing what I do about that.