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California Zephyr by myself

Bristol, United...
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California Zephyr by myself

Hi,

I have booked a return flight to Chicago and plan to spend a fortnight in the USA. I really want to ride the Zephyr to San Fransisco, coach class and I was wondering if this was a good idea to do by myself. I'm happy travelling alone but am not sure when it comes to lunch, dinner etc, would I sit by myself in the dining car? Would I end up sitting next to a family for 3 days in coach class? Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

Bucks County...
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for Philadelphia, Train Travel, Bucks County
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1. Re: California Zephyr by myself

If you don't have sleeping accommodations, you may not be able to eat in the dining car, as meals are provided with sleeping accommodations, so those folks get first priority. You would be seated last, if at all, and you may even be stuck eating in the club car (very limited menu). If you do get into a dining car, you will certainly be seated with others, but that is part of the fun of train travel. In the seating coach, you would also probably be seated next to someone, as the Zephyr usually sells out. Who your seatmate would be is just luck.

Quainton, United...
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2. Re: California Zephyr by myself

You'll be absolutely fine in the dining-car, meals aren't bad at all and are not expensive, you'll be seated with other travellers and (unlike on a British commuter train!) people will strike up conversations with you.

They'll also talk to you in the lounge car, where I expect you'll spend much of you time during the day when not eating or snoozing in your reclining seat.

This is a fabulous journey, and not even expensive in coach seats, go for it.

Chicago, Illinois
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3. Re: California Zephyr by myself

I'm assuming that you're travelling eastbound to Chicago from San Francisco and flying home from Chicago. Try to swing at least a roomette accommodation for that trip. You will find it much better. Are you going to stop off at Reno, Salt Lake City, Glenwood Springs, Denver or Reno on the way or are you travelling straight through? If you are traveling straight through then a roomette. If you are doing it in legs then you could look into Reno-Salt Lake City and Denver - Chicago in a roomette and the route between SF and Reno, and Salt Lake City and Denver in coach. That might save you some money. Your profile doesn't give an age but if you are young, you might look at Amtrak's Rail Pass. It is a way of buying tickets for less. You still have to make reservations but use the discount card for purchase. Look at amtrak.com under the Deals menu. It is good for chaircar only but that may work for you. The chairs are two and two, large, upholstered in cloth (not slippery leather) and have leg rests when laid back into sleeping position like a big lounge chair. Unlike airplanes, there is plenty of leg room. The CZ is very popular all times of the year so the chances that you will have people sitting next to you in the chair car is high. The best times to travel with out the family with kids is when school is in session like September through mid-November and January through mid-June. Family ridership is high in the summer and holiday season (Nov.20 - Jan 5)

As far as dining is concerned, Amtrak practices community seating so you will be seated with other people for meals. It really offers an interesting exchange and chance to meet people from all over the US and our visitors. The people are strangers but you're all on the train so conversation is easy. It usually starts with the inane "Is this your first Amtrak trip?" and the inevitable ice breaker "How far are you travelling?" I even had a conversation with a young guy who was mute. He taught me some sign language! You, having a noticable lack of a US accent, will have no trouble getting into a conversation. We're seeing an influx of Australians the past three years so be prepared for someone to have a bad ear and ask if you're from Australia. Most of us can't tell if someone is from Texas twang or Tennessee drawl let alone Minnesota or Canadian "Yah, shure ya betcha". Sleeper Car passengers get their meals included in the higher price of their ticket so they are given the first choices of reservations. The Stewart will canvas the coach car for dining reservations so coach car passengerrs don't always get the best dining times. Coach passengers purchase their food a la carte.

The other meeting place on the train is the Viewliner Lounge/cafe car. There are floor to ceiling windows for the entire 50" ft length of the car and chair, sofa and table seating. The cafe downstairs in the Lounge/cafe car serves snacks, cold sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers, sodas, beers and alcohol at "reasonable" prices and you don't have to opt for community seating as practiced in the formal dining car.

The CZ is the most scenic of the cross-country amtrak trains. You've chosen well. Hopefully you will spend at least three days here in Chicago.

Bristol, United...
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4. Re: California Zephyr by myself

Thanks for all the advice. Sounds like a great trip. I am on a limited budget so i'm thinking of doing the whole journey in coach without stopping. I'm sure this isn't the best way to do it but I can't afford anything else right now. Being a teacher, and only able to travel in the summer, flights were very expensive and very last minute.

I'm 24 and enjoy meeting new people so am very excited about booking the trip. I am flying in to Chicago, taking the train to Emeryville and that's as far as I've planned at the moment. I will be flying back from Chicago two weeks later so any suggestions as to what to do in-between would be very helpful.

Chicago, Illinois
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5. Re: California Zephyr by myself

Coach isn't that bad. Our family took it between Chicago and Oakland twice a year when we were kids. Now that I'm no longer a kid and can afford sleeper class I splurge. You'll meet all kinds of people. There are noise rules in the coach cars that have to be observed for the other passengers sanity. Each car has an attendent on duty. Headphones must be used on all noisemaking gadgets. Cell Phones don't always work across the Great Plains so there are periods of forced silence. You can get up and move around on the train so you're not stuck in your seat.

In the Bay Area, enjoy SF. That will take a minimum of 3 hectic days. If you want to get out of the city, look at the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) route into the suburbs and CalTrans down the Peninsula to Palo Alto, Stanford, and San Jose. Also look at Amtrak's Capitol Corridor Service to Sacramento and the San Joaquin Service to Merced/Yosemite. You might want to look into a day at the Santa Cruz Board Walk. Post questions about this stuff on the SF forum.

6. Re: California Zephyr by myself

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