One of the great ways to travel around the United States is Amtrak. It is forgotten about by many but it is still an option that should be considered. In many ways, it is the best way to go if you are going to a place they service.
I was on their website a while back and saw they had a one way trip from Kansas City to Los Angeles for only $79. I could not pass that up and I was planning a trip to Los Angeles anyways. I do not believe I could even get a promotional on a flight for that price!
The other thing that made me consider using the train to go to LA was that I was a short drive from the Union Station in Kansas City and I would arrive in the heart of Los Angeles on the other end. It was convenience on both ends. There was no need for me to get the airport shuttle which can be a pain in the butt sometimes.
I wanted to see if keeping the government run train service was actually a smart investment or not. (As if, congressmen give a rip about how I feel about things!)
My Amtrak Experience
I drove over the the Kansas City Union Station where I would wait for the train to come in from St. Louis. The one I was waiting for is called Southwest Chief. It runs from Chicago all the way to Los Angeles.
Union Station on Pershing Road just a stone’s throw from the Crown Center. It is a well known facility so if you ask anyone in Kansas City, they will know where it is. It will be pretty empty when you get there as the train is a late train. If you are there earlier in the day, check out the Science City project. It is very cool to say the least.
Around midnight, the Amtrak train came to the platform and I boarded. They helped me find my seat and I was out cold in the comfortable chairs that they offer. It was not like a airline seat. It was more like a Lazy-a-boy. It laid back to about a 40 degree angle to so. It would like a chair relaxing after eating a thanksgiving dinner at grandma’s.
The next morning, I walked around to see what was on the train. The best part was watching the sun come up over the plains of Southwest Kansas in the observation car. I loved the wide glasses that the car had to see what was going on as we passed by. It was amazing to see and it was probably the highlight of the trip.
Below the observation deck was a little snack shop that was open in the afternoon and early evening to get basic junk food. It was a little pricy but you can expect that. If I remember right, I paid a $1.25 for a can of Coca-Cola. It would be smart to stop by Quik Trip on the way to Union Station to pick up some stuff to snack on for the trip. That is what I normally do.
They also have a dinner car as you would imagine. It was over-priced. I had breakfast there for about $10. This did not bother me because I knew that food on board would not be cheap. It just comes with the territory. I wanted to limit myself to one meal on the train to save money. There is no need to spend money that I could use for travel once in California.
There was a stop for an hour in New Mexico where you can get out and do some shopping real quick. I picked up some snacks and had dinner at a local restaurant there. I had some tacos at a local taco shop run by some Mexicans. It was great Tex Mex and if I remember correctly, I paid around $7 for them and a drink.
The next morning around nine in the morning, you will be pulling into the Union Station in Los Angeles! This is where the nervous system of the subway system for the city is based as well. I grabbed the subway over to Santa Monica after getting off the Amtrak!
Thoughts on using the trains across America!
It is a long trip. There is no way around that. If you have the time, you should consider it. All in all, I am glad that I used it and since then, I try and use Amtrak more often when I am on the road. It is much better than driving on long trips!
I have drove to San Jose, California. I have flown to San Francisco. I have taken a bus to Portland. Now, I have taken a train to Los Angeles. Of all them, this trip was by far the most comfortable. Sorry, leg room is a pet peeve of mine. Southwest Chief won that contest.
The other benefit that I see is that when you get a price like I did, it is hard to beat the value. It was the bang for your buck without question. While some could point out the price of food on board should be factor in; I would counter that with the amazing views along the way and two nights that I did not need to book a hotel!
All in all, I enjoyed the trip and I have used the Amtrak system several times since taking the train to Los Angeles. It is worth checking out!
A little history of Amtrak
It was formed in 1971 to bring together the remaining train transportation systems to make sure they lasted. It operates over 300 trains every day across 46 states and 3 provinces in Canada.
It is heavily used in the Northeastern United States where people commune between large cities like New York and Washington, DC. It also help put food on the table for over 20,000 employees.