Amtrak adventure question
Replies: 10 - Last Post: Nov 14, 2012 10:26 PM Last Post By: masstsnk
Nov 10, 2012 8:13 AM
Amtrak adventure questionHey everyone,
There will be 3 of us looking to travel from Vancouver down to Sacramento via Amtrak and then taking their renowned train journey from Sacramento to Chicago.
Has anyone done this? Or more specifically, with their 15-day/8 segment rail pass?
We want to stop at Seattle, Portland, maybe Salem, but then we're not sure which stops to get off at when travelling across central America. This map shows the few train stops it will make when going across:
We read that the journey through Nebraska and Iowa is quite dull, and that Denver is beautiful, but we're looking for getting off at stops which will enlighten us to weird, bizarre parts of central America where we'll come across said people and bizarre little family-run food shops on the side of road. Or dusty, baron roads. Or weird events you see happen in local villages like in episodes of Louis Theroux.
Essentially like you would find on a road trip except that we're not driving and thought the train journey could be the next best option.
Thanks for the help of anyone who's done it or had experience travelling through central America!
Nov 10, 2012 10:20 AM
Nov 10, 2012 6:33 PM
Nov 11, 2012 5:40 AM
3Fron Denver, you could take local transportation up to small villages in the Rocky Mountains. You did not state whether this is a winter trip or summer trip -- ski season? Boulder may interest you. Glenwood Springs has hot springs and is close to Rocky Mountain National Park. There is also a shuttlebus from Denver along Highway #285 past Buena Vista, Salida/Poncha Springs at Highway #50, west over Monarch Pass to Gunnison. There is a free shuttlebus the 30 miles north of Gunnison to Crested Butte, at 9,000-ft elevation, which is surrounded by 14,000-ft peaks -- a ski resort and Wildflower Capitol of Colorado in the summer. An old mining frontier town that has been preserved and gussied up. There are hostels in Salida and Crested Butte. There is whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River out of Salida and on the Gunnison River. There are many mountain bike trails in the mountains above Crested Butte, plus Jeep trails -- Jeep rentals in Crested Butte and in Poncha Springs.
Edited by: trekker502
Nov 11, 2012 8:59 AM
Sorry for lack of details in my previous post:
We can't drive as our driver is under 21 and so it will cost too much. We're not looking to ski. Maybe hiking. We're looking to walk around and explore on foot. That's all we can do. And to get to these places by Amtrak.
Carracar and Trekker502, thank you. These are great ideas and I'll show my two friends your suggestions. Glenwood Springs sounds brilliant - especially the hot springs and the mining frontier town.
Don't suppose there are any ghost towns you know of on this route?
Nov 11, 2012 10:07 AM
5I applaud your desire to try to visit the roads less travelled, and not just hit the big destinations. I have travelled on Amtrak both routes you are taking a few times, and have wanted to do the same as you and stop along the way. But the logistics can be quite daunting. Seats available for train pass users are very limited. Last Summer I tried to book several segments between Chicago and Sacramento using a train pass, and was told there were no seats available for the next 3 months. And I was travelling alone, there are 3 of you. .The train gets to many of these small towns in the middle of the night, and leave again 24 hours later in the middle of the night. Many stations are open only for an hour or two before/after departures, so you will have nowhere to stay unless you get a motel room for two nights. Getting out to the "dusty, barren roads" or "food stops on the side of the road" can be hard unless you rent car for the day, IF there is a rental place in the town you are stopped in. Plus you also dont mention what time of the year you will be here, which can make a big difference on suggestions on where to stop. And if you are trying to use all the segments, that gives you less then 2 days per stop (adding in time on the train).
After saying all that, a few possibilities for stops to look into include Elko and Winemucca in Nevada, which are 24 hour towns/city which have a unique gambling culture not found many other places in the USA. Reno is also a good stop, much larger the the 2 other towns, but with much better foodie possibilities and with more interesting events held there, plus local bus service to small towns/areas nearby like Lake Tahoe. I second the suggestion for Glenwood Springs Colorado, and its hot springs resort and culture. Denver, as mentioned, is a good transportation hub to get you by bus to the more of-beat areas nearby. Salt Lake City with its dominate Mormon lifestyle might be of interest to you. I cant really help with Iowa and Nebraska, unless you want to stop in Ottumwa Iowa for the fact that it was the hometown of the fictional charachter Radar O 'Reiley from the long running tv show (and movie) M*A*S*H.
Nov 11, 2012 10:30 AM
6Congochris, sorry I didn't see your reply.
Thank you for your applaud.
We're thinking of doing the trip next week or two.
So there are only a certain few seats which rail pass users can reserve? Not any unreserved seat?
I'm aware about there being one train a day and that waiting could be long with delays. And I was thinking (well my friends might not come to all places with me as they like to spend longer in each place and I might see more places in less time) just staying for one day/night and then getting the next train onwards.
I was thinking of getting the 12 segment pass and doing (the places in capital letters I'd quite like to see):
SALT LATE CITY
DENVER (with maybe a flight to Vegas and Grand Canyon and back)
Thank you for your advice and yes, I don't think I'll be stopping at Nebraska or Iowa
Nov 11, 2012 4:06 PM
Nov 12, 2012 9:42 AM
Nov 12, 2012 10:33 AM
9The Amtrak pass sounds atractive at first, but they only allocate a tiny percentage of seats on each train for pass holders. Even if the train is only half full, they will say that passholder seats are unavavilable, so many people end up not being able to get the itinarary they want, or all the stops. Before buying the pass, you should call/contact Amtrak with the dates and places on your proposed itinarary to make sure they have available seats for passholders, and if so book all segments ahead of time. I believe you can then alter/change tickets later if you want to stay later of leave earlier, but only if there is an available passholder seat. Also be aware that some stretches, like the Seattle to Portland run has several trains daily, not just the one daily you mentioned. Also prices on this popular stretch might be cheaper then another stretch of comprable kilometres elsewhere, which might be an option if you cant get a reservation using yoiur pass. Right now your biggest obstacle will be the Thanksgiving holiday, on Thursday Nov 22nd. the few days before and after this date ar some of the busiest travel dates of the year, and seats get sold out and are more expensive. For example, a tix from Portland to Seattle the day before Thanksgiving is $56, whereas a week later it is $32. As for your proposed itinarary, Theres really not much to see or do in Chemult. Chico however, is a good prospect. It is very compact and easy to get around and a very fun University party town, and home of the Sierra Nevada Brewery
Nov 14, 2012 10:26 PM
Lake TahoeBook now
(2 star Hotel)
From US$215.00 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$89.00 per night
Salt Lake CityBook now
(3 star Hotel)
From US$169.00 per night