Sunday, December 13, 2009

Railborne wanderlust strikes again

Amtrak's combined Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited at El Paso.

In another week I will be freed from three months of what amounted to house arrest, the need to stick close to home in order to attend every Monday-Wednesday-and-Friday cardiac rehab class at the hospital.

Let me tell you, cardiac rehab has to be one of the most brain-numbing pastimes extant: Forty minutes on an elliptical trainer or exercise bike plus fifteen minutes with dumbbells and stretch cords while watching a dozen other geezers gasp and wheeze through the routine. Every day the same old thing in front of the same old nurses.

Otherwise I'm not knocking it. (Or the nurses, who are all top-drawer.) I feel better than I have in years.

All this has lighted a fire under my wanderlust, a yearning best satisfied by train travel.

And so I've been researching an Amtrak trip, preferably on trains I've never ridden, sometime in the next few weeks.

The one that seems most interesting is a six-day journey from Chicago to Los Angeles and back.

The trip begins on a Tuesday in Chicago, when Amtrak 421, the Texas Eagle, departs Union Station at 1:45 p.m., heading south for San Antonio. There, early in the morning Thursday, the through cars of the Eagle hook up with Amtrak 1, the westbound Sunset Limited from New Orleans, and at 8:45 a.m. Friday the combined train ties up in Los Angeles Union Terminal.

At 6:45 p.m. the same day, the trip continues back to Chicago on Amtrak 4, the Southwest Chief, arriving in Union Station at 3:20 p.m. Sunday.

Exactly 4,984 miles and five nights in a rolling sleeper room, one of my favorite places to get some writing done. No hotel expenses at all. (Hygiene is not a problem; Amtrak's sleeping cars all have communal showers.) All meals are included in the price ($833.10 at this writing) of the sleeper ticket, but the long layovers at San Antonio and Los Angeles would allow me to go out and gather decent supplemental tucker.

Both the Texas Eagle and the Sunset Limited would be inked onto my scorecard of Amtrak trains, and it would be the first time I'd ridden the Southwest Chief all the way from terminal to terminal.

(Here are RailPassenger USA's route guides (with lots of photos) and maps: Texas Eagle, Sunset Limited, Southwest Chief.)


1 comment:

  1. Good luck with the Sunset Limited. I've never ridden it but a friend has, said it has a reputation of getting to LA several hours late. One year this same friend and I put about 10K miles on Amtrak, with one being Birmingham - DC - Cgo - Emeryville - San Jose to Seattle - Cgo - DC - B'ham. Empire Builder's aux engine quit in Minot, ND with temp being 20 degrees on the platform! Limped into Cgo real late so we had a wonderful 2+ days there at Amtrak's expense. Except to eat, he stayed in the hotel but I took my white cane and went wandering tho stayed within a mile of the hotel. Maybe you can write a murder mystery with the train as the arena!