Distance travelled: 469 miles
Journey duration: 9 hours
States travelled through: California
The shortest journey of all – a mere whippersnapper at nine hours in length. Thankfully it was all in daylight too, so I was able to see the wondrous Californian coast. I’d done a small road trip along route 101 the last time I visited San Francisco, but our time had been limited and we only made it down as far as Santa Cruz.
I almost caught this train for its entire journey from Seattle to LA, but had decided against taking the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle, taking the California Zephyr instead. The Zephyr was my favourite train of all, so I wasn’t too upset at not taking the Starlight the whole way. Continue reading
Distance travelled: 1038 miles (Chicago to Denver), 1400 miles (Denver to San Francisco)
Journey duration: 18 hours (Chi to Denver), 33 hours (Denver to SF)
States travelled through: Ilinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California
The California Zephyr is a famous American train, first entering service in 1949 when the attendants were called ‘Zephyrettes.’ It ended up being my favourite train journey of all, even though it was one of the longest. The scenery is SPECTACULAR (capital letters are justified here) and I was fairly open mouthed the whole way. This was one journey where I was determined not to miss a second of the view and I stared out of the window until darkness fell, somewhere in Utah. Continue reading
Distance travelled: 675 miles (San Antonio to Little Rock), 634 miles (Little Rock to Chicago)
Journey duration: 17 hours (SA to LR), 14 hours (LR to CHI)
States travelled through: Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois
The Texas Eagle holds the delightful title with me for being the train with the longest delays. Apparently there were some engineering works on the line somewhere but whereas in the UK they will close the line to do this, it is not needed for a daily train. Cue long periods of just waiting on the tracks while the workmen up ahead got all of their equipment out of the way so the train could move. Continue reading
Distance travelled: 573 miles
Journey Duration: 15 hours
States travelled through: Louisiana, Texas
This journey is one of the longest in the US, taking 45 hours to travel between Los Angeles and New Orleans. It is also one of the least frequent long-distance trains, running just three times a week, compared to daily for most other routes. I travelled to San Antonio to visit friends and the journey time was half that of the Crescent, prompting a big ‘WOO-HOO ONLY 16 HOURS ON THE TRAIN’ reaction.
The Big Apple to the Big Easy
Distance travelled: 1,377 miles
Journey duration: 30 hours
States passed through: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, DC, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana.
After spending a week in New York, I was ridiculously excited to go to Penn station and pick up my reservation tickets – this was a trip I’d wanted to do for years. I was hungry and wasn’t sure what the food on the train would be like, so I bought a KFC meal before boarding and remembered that in the US, they serve biscuits rather than fries with your chicken. This is a whole other post, but let me just say that these ‘biscuits’ upset British people more than you can imagine. (Don’t argue with me on this – just google scones.)
Thirty hours seemed like a long journey but I was ready for it. Yes, you read that correctly – the journey takes thirty hours from New York to New Orleans. If you tried that in the UK, you’d either end up in the North Sea somewhere or the middle of the Atlantic. How I love this small island nation (except when it votes to leave the EU.) Continue reading
I first visited the United States in 2002 after splitting with my first serious boyfriend, convinced that going away somewhere fabulous (and distant) would take my mind off him. It worked, and has since become my preferred coping mechanism for break ups – end it, book a nice holiday, remind yourself there’s a whole world out there. San Francisco was the destination for that first visit more than a decade ago and it was exactly what I needed. An open-minded, free loving city with fantastic restaurants, bars, views; and a notorious former prison island as a main attraction.
Despite falling in love with America on that first trip, it was another nine years before I would visit again when I was invited to a friend’s wedding in New York State. Not only did I get to go to New York City and Niagara Falls for the first time, I was also able to see a British friend living in Boston who had moved there to teach. It was this holiday which made me realise how much I loved the States and wanted to visit as often as I could. New York City in particular became my second favourite city after my beloved London, and I ended up going there every year for the next four years. But I always felt I was missing out on the huge expanse of land in between the east and west coasts and knew I wanted to see more. Continue reading
You don’t want to hear the story of why I ended up booking two hotels for my week on Samui, but it really worked out well and I got to see two different sides of the island. The airport was tiny as you might expect, but clearly lovingly looked after with flowers everywhere and quaint shops selling Thai gifts.