We love trains and train rides. For the scenery and for the vacation it spells for us. We are able to spend quality time with each other without any engaging ring tones or emails. We are also lucky that Medha enjoys it as much as we do. She basks in the 100% one-on-one attention she gets when we travel by train.
We took the California Zephyr from Denver to Chicago on one of our innumerable trips from New Lenox to Louisville last year. It was supposed to take just 14 hours but took almost 17 hours. Since Amtrak does not own the railroads, they are at the mercy of the railroad companies whose freight trains get first preference. We don't mind the delays as we give up all semblance of control and enjoy the train ride. However, I was a little apprehensive as that was a year ago and the route from Denver to Emeryville, California is 36 hours long. But it was so much fun that I would do it again in a heartbeat.
The bedrooms were sold out so we booked two roomettes instead. Luckily for us, these were across from each other so we were able to hop over from one side to the other whenever the scenery changed!
The train glides through the Front Range into the Rockies and the spectacular scenery begins...
We crossed the Continental Divide when we went through the 6.2 mile Moffat Tunnel, at an elevation of 9000 feet.
The Colorado river then joins the route and runs alongside the train through most of the route in western Colorado...
...with views of the river basin...
...and white-water rafters, who gave us the Amtrak salute, if they were rafting through calm waters. It was Medha's first exposure to mooning and she just kept yeowing, after the initial wide-eyed jaw-open silence.
...and mesas and canyons...
...through rocks from a hundred years old to over a million years old.
I felt like I was looking into a set for Mackenna's Gold.
The Colorado river bade us farewell near the Utah border and the relentless desert of Utah began.
The lack of scenery and the fading light outside allowed me to teach Medha how to knit. She took to it rather quickly, having woven potholders with looms before.
I took the opportunity to finish the scarf I have been knitting for about five years now and started on my next five year project, a crocheted airy diamond Afghan.
The Sierra Nevadas started soon after Reno...
We also passed the exquisite Donner Lake area that nestles in the Sierra Nevadas.
The gradual descent and the approaching signs of civilization signaled that the first truly relaxed and amazing part of our vacation was over. We reached Emeryville, California with a renewed respect for Mother Earth and her natural beauty.
We stayed for a week, camping at Big Sur, checking out Slow Food in San Francisco and experiencing the city. We flew back with a stop at Las Vegas, which I have awarded the dirtiest and most horrible airport in the USA. The landing and take-off at Vegas were very bumpy. So bumpy that the landing at Denver seemed rather smooth in comparison. We reached home so exhausted that we felt like we needed that proverbial vacation to recover from the last one. But it was really just the last leg that drained us. If I have to do it again, I will fly out to California and return by train, relaxed and rejuvenated! But, it's good to be home again.
I will be posting pictures of the rest of our vacation on Inner Lens. These will include pictures of our camping trip at Big Sur and the city of San Francisco.