Earlier this month, I rode the Coast Starlight, an Amtrak bi-level Superliner, from San Jose to Seattle. The entire route goes from LA's Union Station to King Street Station in Seattle. Each way, the trip from San Jose to Seattle takes around twenty-four hours and costs about $111 each way. Certainly, it's a longer ride than flying and costlier, but there's a certain romanticism attached to train travel. The slow and steady chug of the wheels, the sweeping vistas that in a car you're passing too quickly to truly absorb. But there are other reasons to take the train beside great views.
Unlike on an airplane, you actually have room to move, sit, and sleep in relative comfort, and that's in coach class. If you want to travel in relative luxury, you can get a cabin in a sleeper car. If you don't want to spend the entire time in your seat, there's a lounge car with tables and large windows. I do recommend bringing a small blanket, a travel pillow, and an eye mask because it is cold at night on the train, and it never gets completely dark.
There's currently no wi-fi on the Coast Starlight, which could be frustrating if you're trying to get work done. However, I view it as an opportunity to disconnect from social media and my near-constant news reading. I read two books, caught up on my podcasts, and watched two horror films I otherwise wouldn't have bothered with. Sometimes I just stared out the window at the passing scenery.
I did not eat in the dining car, but I ate from the cafe several times and ordered a meal to be served at my seat. For $12.50 I got Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, steamed green beans, bread roll, and a chocolate chip cookie. I do recommend bringing your own food but don't expect to be able to heat it up.
On my train, a delightfully snarky and totally fed up train car attendant serviced my car. He actually called out a customer as rude and thoughtless when she switched seats without asking. Do not cross the train car attendant.
On my way back, my train car attendant was sassy but didn't seem quite as close to throwing in the towel.
Riding a train is the most relaxed way you can travel. There's no TSA, no cramped seats, no worrying about whether or not your GPS is taking you the right way. Just make sure to get to the train station early, print out your ticket beforehand, and they will scan your ticket and assign you a seat. There's a generous bag allowance, and there's no power tripping government agents pulling apart your sandwich or grabbing your genitals.
So in all, the Coast Starlight is comfortable, relaxing, and has some of the best views you can get in the United States. Did I mention you get great views of two incredible mountains: Ranier and Shasta? Yeah. I like mountains.