From Illinois to California on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief

I ended 2016 and began 2017 doing something I never really thought in a lifetime I would do: taking a train trip from the very easternmost state of United States of America to the very westernmost one. Yes, together with some amazing companions, I journeyed through the land of U.S.A., which is pretty much equivalent with literally going from the easternmost border of the continent of North America to the westernmost side. By road. Yes, it was one heck of a remarkable once-in-a-lifetime trip in summary.

We were lucky because we got discounts on all those trains taking us from NYC to Washington, Washington to Chicago, and last but absolutely not least, Chicago to Anaheim. Otherwise, there would be no possible way we could even think of having this trip for sure. The side effect, of course, we had to cut budgets on everything else including food, shopping budget, and accommodations. No merchandise other than cheap postcards or magnets (and only for our own memento, not even others, lol), no proper lunch or dinner other than the Christmas and New Year’s Eve dinner, no AirBnB’s in the heart of the city so most of the time we walked miles only to get to the nearest station, and minimizing the use of cabs.

But for the price that we paid and the downside we had to survive, it was worth it to sit in those comfortable Amtrak trains. One reason is, because Adhi and I are fans of trains in particular. All of our random day trips back at home were always about taking the trains. The views surrounding the Amtrak railways were just meant to exist side-by-side with the rails. Even I felt that somehow there was some perfect angle of sunrise and sunset in every route that we journeyed upon. My only regret is that most of the time, I was too lazy to go get my camera ready so some of those amazing sceneries were just passing by without me immortalizing them in pictures. Nevertheless, that might just be a reason to try to do it later once more should I have time and resources, no?

Map of the Southwest Chief route.

The Southwest Chief was the train with the longest route that we had. From the very first stop in Illinois, it goes through the state of Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and then Los Angeles as its final destination. It was indeed interesting to be able to see the highlights of those seven states from a moving window, along with every sunrise and sunset of each day. We traveled across deserts, badlands, woodlands, small towns of colorful roofs and walls, crystal clear rivers, cliffs, farms, and so forth that our eyes were fully delighted by what nature has to offer.

We stayed 4 days and 3 nights in the train, spending time by playing a board game that Peter particularly bought for that train trip, watching movies from Adhi’s iPad, hanging out in the lounge with large, bright windows showcasing the beautiful landscape outside, trying to finish some books, or of course, taking naps. Surprisingly, the life in the train was just… relieving. And not even boring at all.

It feels like, for just once in our lives, we get to feel a scene where life seems to have been constructed in such perfect ways and we do not even have to try to get to our destination. We just have to casually enjoy those cups of coffee, wear our favorite socks and our most comfortable pyjamas (yes I do wear pyjamas in the train), laugh with the precious folks you have, and that’s all. And suddenly, life already takes you to the destination you want to be.

We all wish it were as easy as that in real life, don’t we?


More (and better) pictures from the trip on my photo blog here.

Written by

A geologist, self-taught photographer, hobbyist writer, and wanderer who loves subtle colours, sunrays, mother nature, wilderness, adventures, flowers in the afternoon, quiet corners of a city, being literally - yet not figuratively - on top of the world, solo travels, trips by train, fascinating rocks, vintage postcards, and aesthetically pleasing urban landscapes.

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