What do we want? Traaaaaains.

I seem to be contemplating taking a train from Boston to San Francisco.  My boyfriend’s family lives mostly California and I have been convinced to visit them.  I would like to visit them, really.  I’ve met some of them already and they’re very nice people.  But they live in California, which is very far away.  I’ve decided that a once-in-a-very-long-time long vacation is worth it…I’ll try to cut back as much as I can otherwise and donate more time and money to appropriate charities, and get as much out of that trip as possible.  This will probably happen next summer in between the summer and fall semesters.  I should have enough vacation time saved up, and if not, I can take a few days of unpaid leave.  My supervisor will almost certainly let me do it if we’re not completely swamped and I give her enough forwarning and get my act together.  We’d spend a few days in San Francisco, then take the train down to Los Angeles and stop for a day or two on the way at some scenic spots, then spend a few days in the L.A. area, getting in pretty much all the friends and relations who will feel miffed if told that they will probably never meet me, as well as as many of the appealing bits of California as possible.  (Redwoods.  Must see redwoods!  The one other time I’ve been there we didn’t have time to see them and I was Deeply Disappointed.)

I’d thought that I’d have to fly.  Planes were exciting the first few times, but even ignoring the environmental impact, I just don’t really like flying.  So I looked up how long it would take and how much it would cost to get there by Amtrak…just for kicks.  As it turns out, it’s totally doable!  For two people, it’s about $650 round trip via coach (better than air fare!), or about $2000 round trip for staying in a “roomette” — essentially a tiny two-person hotel room in a train, complete with meals — on one or both of the longer legs of each trip.  Business or first class would be somewhere in between, but I don’t find those seats to be roomier enough than coach to make a difference.  And it takes a little over three days, which means that if I can afford the roomette, which I can if I start budgeting now, it’s worth it.  I don’t want to be starting an important vacation with a three-day sleep debt.  We will bring books and games and chat with fellow passengers and take pictures of the scenery.

The exact route would be Boston –> Albany –> Chicago –> Somewhere Else in California –> San Francisco.  The Chicago-California leg is the “California Zephyr”, which goes through what look like amazingly beautiful stretches of the Rockies that will be worth the extra price and time compared to flying.  It does mean that I’ll be turning a two-week vacation into a three-week vacation, which is pushing the limit of what I can reasonably ask for in terms of time off.  But I’ll give everyone plenty of warning.

Really, traveling across the country by train is sort of a political statement.  It requires a certain amount of disposable income to be able to spend that much time and money on a vacation, but it is still saying that there are people who will chose to spend that disposable income on something other than that “non-negotiable” American lifestyle.  I will write updates from the train and post them when I get internet again (Incidentally, Amtrak?  Internet on trains would not be all that hard to arrange.  Please get on it.  People will pay considerable sums of money to have this luxury.).


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