Long Distance Train "Fun"?

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Old Nov 1, 17, 6:39 pm
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Long Distance Train "Fun"?

Hi all--

Spouse is turning 40 next March. Got the crazy idea of taking Amtrak Sunset Limited all the way from LAX-NOL via SAN. Would get a Bedroom sleeper for this trip.

Would this be a "fun" experience for us? Or will this be a mistake--two nights on a rocking and honking train...

I was trying to think of something unique to do. Would return by Air after a few days in New Orleans.

Looks like I can transfer some SPG points at a pretty good rate and get this for free, especially if I sign up for the Amtrak credit card and get the bonus.

My parents took me on a train trip from Portland to Montana as a child which was supposed to be "fun" and it was horrible, but we didn't have a bedroom and I was a kid who got bored easily.

Not sure what long distance train people do all day long.

Yay or Nay?
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Old Nov 1, 17, 8:27 pm
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I've done that route. It's not the most scenic of the transcontinental Amtrak routes (the California Zephyr through the Sierras and the Rockies of Nevada/Colorado is much more scenic), but it's a nice ride in its own way.

What do train people do all day? Well, as a sleeper passenger on Amtrak, you get three square meals a day included, and it often feels like as soon as one meal is done, they're calling you for the next, so eating consumes a massive amount of your time each day. You can bring a good book or a laptop to do some work, if you want (though note that cell phone service through western Texas borders on nonexistent), but I personally find staring out the window at the passing scenery to be absolutely mesmerizing. You can also take up a seat in the sightseer lounge car and, if you choose, strike up a conversation with your fellow travelers, some of whom can be fascinating (a few odd, but mostly fascinating).
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Old Nov 1, 17, 9:27 pm
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Did the CHI-SAC trip... and was a bit concerned so I took some new books and a laptop loaded with movies etc..... Didn't need the entertainment.... YMMV but as jackal said, its not hard to find the time just gliding away.....
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Old Nov 2, 17, 3:50 am
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If you want a shorter ride that maximizes scenery, DEN-SAC is a good one. Depending on time of year, the less-scenic SLC-Reno segment (within the longer DEN-SAC journey) is traveled in darkness.

Last edited by 3Cforme; Nov 2, 17 at 10:28 am Reason: clarity
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Old Nov 2, 17, 7:39 am
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Bring some wine in your luggage. Kick back and relax while you watch some scenery, read, movies, etc. If that sounds enjoyable for you all, then I'd do it.

If you're using SPG points for the hotel, I recommend the W French Quarter on Chartres St (not the other W on Poydras)
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Old Nov 2, 17, 7:50 am
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Some people enjoy relaxing and watching the world go by. For them, a long train ride would be enjoyable.

Some people enjoy moving around, activities, exercise. For them, a long train ride would not be enjoyable.

I think you need to discuss this with your spouse and make the decision based upon your personal preferences.
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Old Nov 2, 17, 7:59 am
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Recently did the SW Chief Chicago to San Diego (connecting to Surfliner at LAX to SAN). This was just for fun. I also had not been on an over nite train since childhood. I had a blast. Had a bedroom compartment and enjoyed the extra amenities and privacy. I slept great. The motion and sounds of train(s) lulled me to sleep. Enjoyed meeting people in the dining and lounge car. Showering both days in the bedroom’s small shower was a logistical adventure, but part of the fun. The car attendant assigned to our sleeper car was friendly and very attentive. The SW Chief arrived 45 mins. early to LAX. The only thing I can criticize was the main server in the dining car was a bit sullen and not very friendly. No smiles, no charm. He obviously just wanted us to order quick, eat and get out. Otherwise it was a “fun” trip. We did fly home, so it was just a one way Amtrak trip.
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Old Nov 2, 17, 8:17 am
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Originally Posted by davesam12 View Post
Showering both days in the bedroom’s small shower was a logistical adventure, but part of the fun.
FWIW, even when I'm in a bedroom (with its own shower), I use the larger public shower downstairs. I've had good luck with not having to wait to use it, and the fact it's the size of a normal shower just makes it much easier to handle.

Originally Posted by 3Cforme View Post
If you want a shorter ride that maximizes scenery, DEN-SAC is a good one. Depending on time of year, the less-scenic SLC-Reno segment is traveled in darkness.
I second this, but as mentioned, going westbound out of DEN is the better option.
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Old Nov 2, 17, 9:08 am
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Everything jackal said (both in post 2 and post 8) is spot on, with the possible exception of the downstairs shower being normal. It is much less cramped than the shower in the bedroom, but I wouldn't call it normal.

I would take the trip again without hesitation, but I have ridden many Amtrak long distance routes and can entertain myself. Some years and many thousands of miles ago, I rode the Zephyr from Emeryville to Chicago, and while I enjoyed it, I was ready for it to end. Maybe a person develops an ability to ride long distance, but needs to develop that ability.
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Old Nov 3, 17, 11:34 am
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Los Angeles to San Antonio was our first long distance trip in a sleeper car. We found it very relaxing to see the country by train.

Since that trip, we've been on about 6 more long distance trips including California to Boston (CZ and LSL).

As a previous poster stated, seems like you spend lots of time in the dining car. The time passes pretty quickly.
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Old Nov 4, 17, 12:51 pm
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I take the Crescent overnight every now and then. I usually stay holed up in my room and try to read a book, but just watching the scenery is enjoyable and takes up a lot of attention.

The Superliner trains such as the Sunset Limited are much better since they have lounge cars with seats facing nearly wraparound windows.

I think a long train trip with a spouse would be fun, but I'd take the Coast Starlight to Seattle instead. The scenery (particularly towards Seattle) is beautiful and the lounge car might be better (Google "Pacific Parlour Car").
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Old Nov 5, 17, 6:15 pm
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I'll say the same thing I say to friends who ask about train travel. If you can relax and enjoy the view and not worry about what else you could be doing, train travel is great. If you need to stop and see things, you need to feel like you are accomplishing something, or you worry about being two hours late on arrival, avoid Amtrak.
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Old Nov 6, 17, 3:52 pm
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A few years ago I went the other way LAX-SEA on the Coast Starlight. Lots-o-fun*, and a neat trip too. Very scenic and about 36 hrs so not too bad if 2+ days might be an issue.

As for what to do, anything really. I brought a few bottles of wine and enjoyed my beverages watching out the window (bigger comfy chairs).

*We had an "incident" on the train and made an unscheduled stop in Eugene. My apologies re this linked thread - I never went back to post more (oops)

Cheers
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Old Nov 8, 17, 11:15 am
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We talked about doing the opposite route, NOL-LAX. But I think that we've decided that with a six year-old we'd rather do something like ATL-NYC just before xmas would be a better option (and I get to go to NYC for xmas!)
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Old Nov 15, 17, 9:30 pm
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I think you have to look at long-distance train travel as sort of a mini-cruise. I find them very enjoyable. I used to have trouble falling asleep on the trains, but now I sleep quite well on them. I bring my own personal supply of adult beverages and some snacks. I'm going to download the Sirius/XM app on my phone and listen to that(realizing that there are gaps in cell coverage between Martinsburg, WV and Pittsburgh). I usually also bring an analog AM/FM Sony pocket radio. If I'm going in the middle of the week, I'll bring my laptop and some work papers.

The dining car staff can be quite gruff and off-putting; generally, the sleeping car attendants are quite good, and I generally tip them $20 when I get to my destination.
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