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