Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

The Way to Travel

The bus (Centerville Amtrak station)-to-BART (Union City)-to-Amtrak (Richmond) connection worked as advertised. I'm glad I did aim one bus early, however, as the bus ran a few minutes late and I had to wait what seemed an eternity at Union City BART to use the restroom. Had I also had time pressure to make connections, I would have been much worse off. As it was, I got to Richmond with 40 minutes to wait around the platform, but that's much better than missing the train, given that there's just the one train per day.

I would of course prefer an all-rail routing, but the bus-to-BART run isn't so bad, and as long as the bus actually shows up it's okay. I continue to mull over how to make this work for me, particularly in the winter months when wrestling the Rolling Stone over Donner Summit can get dicey. Once I get the RV back in full roadable condition (meaning both fuel tanks working), I will do more investigation, including making sure that there are parking spaces at Fremont/Centerville into which the RV will fit.

Today's eastbound California Zephyr was not especially overcrowded (so I got a pair of seats to myself). The diner is not open for breakfast, but I got a breakfast sandwich and a coffee from the lounge car, and chatted amiably with the attendant when he wasn't waiting on other customers.

Sacramento is usually when we pick up a couple of docents from the California State Railroad Museum, who provide color commentary in the lounge for the trip up the mountain; however, they must have been short of volunteers, because we didn't collect them today. I've been over the route enough times that I could almost give the commentary myself, although they wouldn't like me doing it because I'd probably go off-script too often. I wouldn't mine giving it a try, though. I think I have a good Announcer Voice.

The dining car opened for lunch around Roseville, and I was seated with a couple from San José who are on their 30th wedding anniversary making a big train trip: Emeryville to Omaha (overnight there to visit family); Omaha-Chicago-Buffalo-Toronto (California Zephyr-Lake Shore Limited-Maple Leaf); three days in Toronto including a trip to Niagara Falls; VIA Rail Canadian to Jasper; three days in Jasper; Train to Vancouver BC, then fly home. Sounds wonderful. They've never been on a long train trip before. I gave them such advice as I could for this first leg of their trip, including "stake out a good seat in the lounge car early for the Sierra Nevada and Glenwood Springs legs of the trip," and "don't get too fussed about missing anything sleeping across Nevada and parts of Utah; the trip is timed so that the nice parts are during the daylight hours."

Speaking of the nice parts: the eastbound Zephyr includes some views through the Sierra Nevada that you don't get on the westbound trip. For example, shortly after Colfax the train goes around "Cape Horn" with some spectacular views of the American River Canyon. Some of the trees have finally been cut back as well; for a while, they'd grown so thick that they cut off the vista, which was unfortunate. Eastbound you miss this because the normal eastbound track goes through a tunnel that custs off this corner with its precipitous view.

I'm composing most of this entry while snaking our way up the mountain, but I can't post it because on this stretch there is no cell phone signal. We're on the opposite side of the mountains from the I-80 corridor where the cell phone towers are. Not that I mind. I'm mostly looking out the window. As a touch-typist, I don't need to stare at the keyboard to write.

The Sierra Nevada is famously a lot of evergreen forest ("bloody conifers," as flick once said), but it has its share of deciduous trees adding fall color to the trip. It's surely nothing like New England's fall foliage trips, but it's not without interest.

There's snow on the ground as we approach the summit at Norden. That wasn't there when I came west a week ago. I understand snow started falling shortly after our train went through last Sunday. Not a lot of snow, but it's still here in the sheltered spots.

I finished this entry as we approached Truckee and the cell phone (and internet) signal returned. Time to button stuff back up and give Lisa a call to tell her it's time to consider driving in to Reno to collect me.
Tags: amtrak, lisa, rolling stone, rv, trains

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