I don’t know which of us actually voiced the idea first when some intriguing sounding vintage buses cropped up for us on the other coast of the country. Taking a cross country train trip has been something we’ve always wanted to do.
So when we started looking at ways to get to the west coast – ranging from taking the borrowed Winnebago Le’Sharo to catching a flight – hopping on a train just seemed right.
We’ve both done some shorter term train travel in our past. For me, my first major train trip was from Helsinki to Leningrad when I spent a high school summer traveling around the former Soviet Union. And we’ve each taken the Coast Starlight along the California coast and various commuter length rail trips.
The more we researched our options for getting across country, the more we both fell in love with the idea of sharing a long train adventure together.
We’re currently in St. Louis where Kiki can stay with her grandparents, and will be heading back to South Carolina this week for me to teach a class. We’ll deliver the Le’Sharo back to her owners near Savannah, GA (stay tuned for some tales about what we learned from that experience!).
From there, we decided on a train route that would take us up the east coast to Washington, DC, across to Chicaco and then catching the scenic California Zephyr into San Francisco. And then up the coast to Oregon to view our next bus contenders. A total of 5 nights on trains!
The rail fare for this trip (not including a roomette on the 2-night California Zephyr segment) came to $584 each. And that’s only 1-way. Not exactly cheap transit. But not bad for an adventure.
The Amtrak Rail Pass
And then I remembered meeting Brett ,aka The Amtrekker, several times in our respective nomadic wanderings. A few years ago, he ditched his day job, bought an Amtrak rail pass and spent a long time traversing the US crossing items off his bucket list (we first encountered him at ‘Ride an Ostrich’).
My research discovered that a 15-day/8 segment pass would only cost $389/each. Nearly $400 in savings!
And with our desired route using up 4 segments, it would leave us ample return trip options if we needed it. We called Amtrak to confirm that our itinerary was available with a pass, as there are only a limited number of seats for pass holders on each train. No problem.
We ended up purchasing the 30-day/12 segment pass at $579. It was still slightly cheaper than the booked fare, and would give us a lot of flexibility. Leaving us 8 pre-paid segments to see other buses and/or have other adventures.
So, we’ve each packed a backpack with the intention of being ‘out there’ for a month traveling by train. Exploring the country by rail, searching for our vintage bus and seeing what serendipity has in store for us next.
We can’t wait!!
If you live near an Amtrak rail station, and would be open to hosting a couple cool technomads for a night or two – give us a shout. Who knows, we may just be able to route to you during our rail adventure!