Shot in Jan 2020. A last romantic view of this beautiful country, travelling across America by train, before things got harder. I am sure things will get better again.
“I would just fly… train travel in the US is terrible… you’re not going to enjoy it… have fun getting all your stuff stolen… why are you doing that?”
I’m definitely not the first person to make an Amtrak coast-to-coast video, but judging by some reactions I got along the way, you’d almost think I was. I can’t say I wasn’t a little worried by how few times we heard “amazing, I would love to do that some day”.
But anyway, here it is, we travelled across the USA from New York to LA without flying.
Travelling overland across America from New York to LA is definitely a fun experience that I would recommend, you see so many cool things that you would miss by flying, and you meet a lot of interesting people. Eco-travel is definitely going to take off soon, too. Obviously it’s not the cheapest option for backpacking the USA on a budget, but I would say that for the money you spend, the experience is worth it. A ticket for the California Zephyr between Chicago and San Francisco is about $175 – not a cheap thing to buy, but if you’re travelling around and looking to make some cool memories, 100% good value.
Of course in the video we get to see all the touristy stuff that people who’ve never seen the US do, like the Staten Island Ferry, the Smithsonian Museums, San Francisco Pier 39 and Golden Gate Bridge, Monterey Bay Whale Watching, Cloud Gate, Griffith Observatory, etc.
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We did fly in to and out of the USA (I mean there’s kind of no other option if you do wanna travel), we landed in JFK and left from LAX.
• We got the Greyhound from New York City to Washington DC, which was pretty terrible, and made me start to believe everything I’d read online. But we did get there.
• The Amtrak Capitol Limited from Washington DC to Chicago was so much fun, our first taste of the long-distance train rides and showed us so much cool snowy scenery from the North-Eastern United States. We met some cool people and got to hear a lot of Amish hymns. We sat in the cheap seats, without a bed, and just brought our own food and a duvet. It’s not perfect, but it was a cool experience and you’d be surprised how peacefully we slept, definitely nothing like I had been warned online (your things will be stolen, you’ll be beaten up, you’ll be 8 hours late because of all the passengers getting arrested…)
• The Amtrak California Zephyr in winter was absolutely incredible, and the whole time I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. You can see it in the video, just watching the mountains go by, looking out for eagles and elk, and making new friends. This would be worth it just for fun, but it was actually the transport we needed for our journey… if I had just been sat around in an airport instead of doing this, I would be very mad with myself right now. If you have any questions about riding the California Zephyr on a budget, ask me below. All my favourite pictures from the trip are from this day, either of the scenery out the window or of us outside in snowy alpine train stations stretching our legs. You can definitely ride the California Zephyr in the seats, without a room and without a cabin. If you also stop in Salt Lake City, fyi the California Zephyr leaves at 11pm, and the station is NOT open to check in your bags until 10pm… basically it’s the only train, so they just open for it. This left us with our bags in SLC for the day. (For the journey between Chicago and SLC, westbound, sit on the left. Bag a table by one of the left-hand windows, thank me later)
•The Amtrak Coast Starlight was another cool journey, we didn’t sleep on this because we just did San Francisco to Salinas, and Salinas to Los Angeles. Again we sat in front of the massive windows and watched America go by.
If you’re lucky enough to save up, quit and go (if the world goes back to normal), I hope this has inspired your USA train travel on a budget backpacking trip 🙂
Microphone I use at home: https://amzn.to/2MtTGTF
My 40L travel backpack: https://amzn.to/3b3Ywkh
Hard drive I use for footage: https://amzn.to/3syP7He
0:00 – Intro
0:30 – New York City
4:47 – Greyhound to Washington, DC
5:30 – Washington, DC
10:10 – Capitol Limited DC to Chicago
12:51 – Chicago
18:00 – California Zephyr Chicago to SLC
23:00 – Salt Lake City
27:55 – California Zephyr SLC to SF
29:46 – San Francisco
35:20 – Coast Starlight SF to Monterey
36:03 – Monterey
39:11 – Coast Starlight Monterey to LA
40:35 – LA
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#travel #californiazephyr #amtrak
inspired by Kraig Adams