Named after the streamlined, diesel-powered passenger train of the same and buoyed by the west wind from which it was inspired, the California Zephyr travels an exceptionally scenic route daily from Chicago to the San Francisco area.
The scenic California Zephyr route is 2,438 miles long and boasts views of the upper Colorado River valley in the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
by Earl Smith
Las Vegas, Nevada
Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by trains, particularly Amtrak trains. I used to ride my bike and train spot on the Grand overpass near my house in St. Louis. As I grew older I would ride downtown to the station to see the Ann Rutledge and I was on the very first run of the River Cities from St. Louis to Carbondale.
Back then the poster train of the network was the California Zephyr. I vowed that one day I would ride the Zephyr and 1/15/11 was the day.
My son Jordan and I embarked on the 50-hour journey from Chicago to Emeryville in Roomette #9. It was Jordan's first overnight train ride and at age 8. I was a little concerned that his attention span may hinder the trip. I was so wrong. Jordan was very anxious to board the Zephyr. Once onboard we settled into our room and then set out to explore the train. Jordan was fascinated by the train and the scenery that sped by us, but the best was still yet to come.
We traveled back and forth between our room and the Lounge Car until it was time for dinner. Jordan had his very first steak that night and to my surprise he not only ate it all, but he loved it. He liked it so much he had steak the second night as well. All the meals that we had aboard the train were freshly prepared and delicious.
Jordan claimed the upper berth the first night which was fine with me because I stayed up to the wee hours of the morning watching darkness go by. The next day we departed Denver right on schedule and spent the day conquering the Rockies. This was some of the most awe inspiring beautiful scenery that I have ever seen in my life. We spent most of the day in the Lounge Car relaxing and enjoying natures beauty and to my surprise Jordan did not get bored even once.
The next day, sadly our last, we departed Reno once again right on schedule and proceeded to roll through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Now this was a surprise as the scenery was just as beautiful there as the Rockies. We had planned to spend the day in our room relaxing, but quickly went to the Lounge Car to secure space for another beautiful encounter with nature.
Along the way Jordan and I spent time with a lot of very nice people and he even made a friend on the trip. The crew that we came across was exceptional and very professional. Alex, our Car Attendant was very attentive, caring and engaging. She is a asset to Amtrak. Others that receive honorable mention are Elliot our waiter in the Dining Car, Nikolas the Lounge Car server and Roland the 0532 Sleeping Car Attendant. Everyone on and off the train from the Conductors to even the station personnel were very friendly, courteous and professional. Jordan spent the last hours of our trip mopping around the train saying his goodbyes to the crew members that he came to know and like.
Upon our 40-minute-early arrival in Emeryville, Jordan departed from the train in tears, but very thankful for the memories that he will have and cherish for the rest of his life. Once he gathered himself his first question to me was Dad when are we going to ride the train again? Now all my co-workers at jet Blue no less want to take train rides — go figure.