Truckee to Chicago via California Zephyr

As a child, my family always traveled on Amtrak for our big trips. I have countless fond memories from these vacations, and many of the most vivid were from the experiences of train travel itself.

Here are a couple pictures I drew as a kid during these trips:2013-08-03 12.02.31 2013-08-03 12.01.50

This time, I decided to take my 7 year old twins to Michigan on Amtrak.

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waiting for the Zephyr


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at the Truckee Train Station

Our town of Truckee is right on the route for the California Zephyr, which runs from Chicago to San Francisco/Emeryville. We were picked up on a Friday afternoon, and would be on the train for over 40 hours, until we switched lines in Chicago, and ultimately ended in Milwaukee where my parents would drive us the rest of the 4 hours to Michigan.

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here it comes!

I envisioned a very memorable bonding experience between the three of us, drawing pictures, playing games, watching the countryside go by, meeting people, and overall, enjoying the most leisurely form of traveling together.

My kids, however, reminded me that they were kids, with too much energy to sit in a 2-seat sleeper car together,

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and no interest in hanging out in the lounge car, and too rambunctious for the dining car…

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and by the end of the first day I was calling my mom in tears telling her I was ready to bail on this nightmare in Denver and fly the rest of the way.
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Fortunately, for us, and for the other passengers in the surrounding little compartments, by the 2nd afternoon we were able to upgrade to a larger room and everyone’s attitudes turned around.
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We loved traveling along the Colorado River, through many tunnels, a couple rainstorms, and had a nice little stop in Glenwood Springs.

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the Colorado River
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cottonball cloud formation over the Colorado River
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the gorgeous depot in Glenwood Springs, Colorado
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on a quick stop in Glenwood Springs
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Isaac and Stephen and Avian in Glenwood Springs
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red rocks of Colorado

Sunday morning, while eating breakfast in the dining car, we crossed the Mississippi River.

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Every so often, we could hear something that sounded like angels softly singing, but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Finally, we realized it was coming from the lounge car, so we brought our board games and books in to listen to the Amish women singing hymns, and watch the cornfields go by.

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Stephen being serenaded by the Amish

Sunday afternoon we rolled into Chicago, got off the train, and had a few hours to kill before the train for Milwaukee was to depart.

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I took the kids for a short walk, expecting them to be REALLY excited to be in a “big city”.

Stephen, however, after walking 2 blocks, turned around, looked off in the distance, and quietly proclaimed,

“I hate big cities. they’re crowded, there’s garbage everywhere, and it smells bad”

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Stephen, grossly unimpressed with Chicago.

Fortunately, the last leg of our trip went relatively quickly and we were soon in Milwaukee meeting my parents. Although that first night was extremely challenging, all things considered I am happy we took the train and I have a feeling the kids will always remember it.

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  1. […] On the trip out, we had been able to upgrade to a larger sleeper room, but this time, none were available. I was somewhat nervous about staying in a little room together, but I told the kids it was our only option and we had to make it work. The first leg, from Milwaukee to Chicago, went off without a hitch, aside from a good cry fest by all three of us, as we pulled away from the train station and Grandma Rosie. […]