Ever since read­ing Derek Low’s blog post about his cross-coun­try Amtrak trip, Matt & I had talked about doing the same. Last month pre­sent­ed us with a per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to give it a go, so we packed our bags, plus a new mir­ror­less 4k cam­era, and hit the road > air > rails.


DC

We flew to DC to begin our trip. Arriv­ing in the ear­ly morn­ing, we had the day to explore the capi­tol, which despite heavy rain for most of the day was still a great time, con­sid­er­ing how much there is to see indoors.

Not pic­tured is Matt & I on a con­fer­ence call with a client, walk­ing around the U.S. Capi­tol Build­ing with our ear­buds in, try­ing to find a qui­et place to talk with­out look­ing too sus­pi­cious.

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Chicago

We kicked off the first leg of our train ride on Fri­day evening, leav­ing DC for Chica­go. After stash­ing our bags at our seats, we made our way to the obser­va­tion car to enjoy the views rid­ing through the West Vir­ginia moun­tains while work­ing on a cou­ple new ideas.

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We arrived in Chica­go the next morn­ing. This was both of ours’ first time in the Windy City, so we made quick work of the essen­tials: a vis­it to the top of Willis Tow­er, a stop by the bean, some Ital­ian beef w/ an old friend, a show at Sec­ond City with anoth­er, a game at Wrigley field, a cou­ple hot dogs of course, and some deep dish piz­za car­ried on to our train the next morn­ing.

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Denver & Boulder

Nei­ther of us had been to Col­orado before either, so this stop was a lot of fun. We met up with a friend and part­ner-in-app-build­ing-crime who host­ed us and showed us around town. Noth­ing like sweat­ing through a hike at Red Rocks, then an hour lat­er, climb­ing up a steep snow-cov­ered incline dur­ing a minor ice storm to see a glac­i­er.

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Riding driving through Colorado and Utah

This was the high­light of the trip: the fabled train ride leav­ing Den­ver up through the moun­tains, then descend­ing into the scenic increas­ing­ly-desert­like flat­lands of Utah. For many parts of the trip, there are no roads in sight, so you’re see­ing land­scapes only oth­er­wise acces­si­ble by a long hike or horse ride.

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The beau­ty of cross-coun­try trail trav­el is being whisked from one scenic vista to the next from the com­fort of your chair. It is also per­haps its only weak­ness: some­times you see some­thing you want to explore. About halfway through the ride to Salt Lake we real­ized we’d pass with­in just over an hour of Moab and some of the most beau­ti­ful canyons in the world — unfor­tu­nate­ly not on the path of our train route.

Luck­i­ly, the train stops in Grand Junc­tion, which is a great jump­ing off point for just such a detour. So we ditched the train and rent­ed a car at the air­port, one of the last rental cars, appar­ent­ly. Head­ing out of the air­port we noticed a moth­er and her child try­ing to get home to Moab but strand­ed with­out a ride. So we picked up a new friend, and by chance, an awe­some tour guide for dri­ving through the canyons.

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After leav­ing Moab in the late after­noon, we found din­ner and a motel in Green Riv­er, a mere 20 minute dri­ve from a span of desert which hap­pens to be one of the dark­est places on Earth, a Class 1 on the Bor­tle scale. So late that night, we made our way out.

The next morn­ing we head­ed out to catch up with our train in Salt Lake, but not before dri­ving through some of the most beau­ti­ful parts of Utah, and tak­ing advan­tage of hav­ing a car for a bit to get out and enjoy the views.

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Salt Lake

We didn’t have much time here, only a hand­ful of hours from the time of drop­ping off our car, and catch­ing our 11:30 PM train to San Fran­cis­co. But it was enough time to check out the Mor­mon Tem­ple, and sit in for a rehearsal of the amaz­ing Mor­mon Taber­na­cle Choir.

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San Francisco

At our final stop on the trip, we planned for stay­ing a few days to give us plen­ty of time to catch up with friends, and take advan­tage of some unique­ly San Fran­cis­co oppor­tu­ni­ties, like a pan­el on the future of trans­porta­tion at Uber HQ, and a boat ride around Alca­traz and the Gold­en Gate Bridge.

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At last we said good­bye to San Fran­cis­co, and to a great near­ly two-week trip across our beau­ti­ful coun­try.

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