I’m off on a trip again. I left Albuquerque around noon today on the Southwest Chief heading east. We seem to be making decent time, but I have been on the train for barely two hours.
I am in a sleeper car. A little roomette. Personally, this is the way to go if you are overnighting on the US railways. I think every train traveler (usually when you are a newbie) thinks they can hack it overnight in the coach seats. Most folks I meet who are train travelers have an experience to recount in graphic detail of their overnight in coach. The story is never pretty and most learn after that one time that the extra money for your own space and the small room to stretch out is SO worth it. I have done the coach seats overnight twice. Once from St. Louis to Waco, TX (as a newbie train person) and once from NYC to Chicago (because it was a last minute trip & there were no rooms left I could afford.) I remember aching legs (I’m rather tall), lots of coughing, constant cell phine noise, being really hungry because the food wasn’t very convenient and I didn’t like to leave my bags, and not getting much sleep at all. None of those make for good journeys and I can see why people scoff at the idea of train travel in America when this is the prevailing experience. But, there is a better experience awaiting you. Get a roomette. If you plan ahead, your prices will be very reasonable. The cost includes your meals. Train food is not the equivalent to plane food, by the way. Dining car meals are great. I just had a black bean and corn veggie burger with cheddar cheese, kettle chips, a soda, a salad, and chocolate lava cake for lunch. It was delicious. Can’t wait for dinner! You meet people on trains. The dining car is setup so you can’t NOT meet other travelers. You enjoy a good meal with your fellow riders and learn all sorts of things. At my lunch table were three people all heading to different places for different reasons. It is another highlight of train travel – this meeting of others.
One caveat to this is that I tend to prefer solo travel to group travel. I like meeting new people on trains and then going back to my own little room to read or listen to music and then wander to the lounge car for the giant window views. It is a calm way to see the country. You have no control over the speed or the timing, so you just have to let go and enjoy the ride. I think days when you can do that are some of the best days in a life.
One new and awesome update to this particular route is the inclusion of WiFi on board! I’m pretty stoked about that. I can publish this from the western wilds as my train goes by some buffalo. Seriously. The conductor just told us to look to the right to see three buffalo. Why would you choose any other way to see the country?