Last week we took the full three-day ride, from California to Chicago on the famous California Zephyr. And for you, dear reader, I documented the heck out of it.
The train was 30 minutes late and we were very eager to get on board when it arrived. After checking our bag, we raced down the corridor to our cabin.
The cabins were way smaller then we expected. Still, I liked them and was impressed with their economic use of space.
The rooms temp control, which only kind of sort of worked. And the cabin's only outlet which red "120 volts- Razors Only." We went ahead and charged our phones anyhow.
We were very excited to see the view out the lounge so we quickly deposited are bags then headed to the "Sight Seer lounge" car.
Well the train moved along California and sketching the scenery. I have never had to draw so fast and it was an interesting unique challenge that I came to really enjoy.
After watching the view for awhile it was time to head to the dining car to get lunch.
An odd thing about eating on the train is the communal tables. Each one is a four-top and they fill every seat in order of arrival. Every meal we were placed with two strangers. Often, but not always, another couple.
The first time we got Lucky
The staff was generally super awesome. Most hailed from Chicago. This is Al who was our attendant.
Then back to the dining car for dinner.
That was followed by cards in the lounge and then we went back to the room. To try and sleep. It did not go well.
I slept on the top bunk. It was very cramped, and the bed was above the window so there was no view (except of the ceiling). Large straps came down from the top and latched on the bottom to keep you from falling out. The bed was sturdy but as hard as a floor. I slept not at all.
Tired of trying to sleep I got up at 5:30 AM. I climbed out of bed and walked down the hall to the coffee machine (which was also usually stocked with orange juice and bottled water) .
Breakfast is served early so we headed to the dining car around 6;30. We were not so lucky with table mates this morning....
The first man was polite enough, though not interested in talking. The second we had seen the night before passed out on the table in the lounge. He had a gray hood covering his face and never looked up. He would alternately be shaking and start falling asleep- leaning against me. He smelled very sour.
I shoveled my food in as fast as I could and gave Julie the sign to hurry out into the lounge.
More painting as the world brushed by. Having all of the sketching time throughout would be my favorite part of the train trip.
Then it was back to the room where we tried to nap.
I wasn't quite able too, but Julie was. Instead I did some more window sketching.
It was about this time that the landscape started to settle into a similar pattern for the rest of the trip. Cornfields mostly.
Then our last dinner in the dining car.
This night, knowing it was going to be a long one we set up our laptop and watched Darjeeling Limited in our cabin (we wanted to watch a "train movie while onboard."
It is possible for me to fake being social for a bit, but after a while my introvert tendencies take over and I crave solitude.
That, coupled with the uncomfortable breakfast the day before, we decided to eat breakfast in our room the last day.
The train had been running late since the beginning of the trip. At every stop it seemed to get a little further behind. One of the consequences of this was at big stops we were not allowed to walk around the town for 30 or so minutes, like we had been told.
instead, we were allowed to stand out on the platform near the train for two or three minutes to get a breath of "fresh air"."
During consecutive stops I did this drawing of the coupler/passageway between each car.
Later I drew the same area from the inside.
At this point of the journey it was extremely rocky for the rest of the third day. Which ended up making reading tricky and my sketches to get even more jittery than normal.
That was the last sketch I drew, at one of the stations before our final destination in Chicago.
There were still a few hours left to go, but the train was rocking at such a capacity that we were no longer able to do anything except watch out the windows. All of the delays added up to the train arriving at our final stop in Chicago five hours late. We pulled in at 8:00 instead of 2:00 a very big difference when you have been on a train for three days.
The tragic part of that is the extra time really soured us on the trip towards the end. A pity, the first two days felt like such a fun grand adventure. I would still recommend anyone interested to go ahead and book passage– But maybe only for two days/one night, not three.