Published: April 13th 2007April 13th 2007
To begin, why such a long title? Deserves a little explanation. Including enough key words to get captured in google search for 'train travel East Coast West Coast'. ( I have assumed there are and will be travellers like me )
Readers interested only in the travelogue can skip to the 'Preparation' paragraph. Others who have all the time in world can continue reading.
Why this assumption? Is it because it is too adventrous or creative for lesser mortals to undertake? No, but there are few prerequisites for one to undertake such a journey. And all of them have to be fulfilled.
1. You have too much time and do not know what to do with it. (I am waiting for my work permit to come from USCIS. This will take 3 months during which i am supposed to behave like a parasite. Just Suck from your Host)
2. You should have friends/relatives on the other side, which was West Coast in my case, to host you for the break. (I am thankful to my hosts in advance for the hospitality they will show. Lest, they change their mind after reading the blog)
3. You should have an earning benevolent partner to sponsor your trip. (I thank my wife for picking up the tab)
Preparation begins with looking for cheapest train travel route. Amtrak, the USA rail, covers the entire length and breadth of US. However, there are no direct trains from New York to San Francisco. As my host site is at San Mateo I have to travel an extra leg of journey.
The route I chose was New York-Chicago-Emeryville-San Mateo. Also one can choose for type of seating from chair, coupe and others. Fairly detailed with pictures at the Amtrak site http://www.amtrak.com/. My obvious choice was Chair seating. No donuts for guessing why. Cheapest option. $154 for the complete journey. This fare was promotional as i booked about a month in advance. There are promotional fares always available on Amtrak. The trick is also to travel on weekdays rather than weekends. Avoid holiday breaks and long weekends. (Fulfilling the above mentioned traveller criteria i am sure one can do that). Interesting to know that i would have paid lesser if i had flown.
Once the ticket is booked on the internet you get a reservation number. Before the travel use this number to get printed tickets. The tickets can be printed at any Amtrak station on the vending machines. I got it printed at Penn Station, New York. One has to mention the reservation number on the machine and swipe any credit card. This card need not be the one used to book tickets.
Preparation also includes packing grubs for the journey as it will be almost 4 days of journey. Dining services are available on the board but i preferred packing some for me primarily to save money and secondarily to hedge myself against generally available non vegetarian and boiled food.
And the final part of preparation is to keep a photo identity card ready for the travel. Foreigners should preferably carry passport.
My journey begins on Monday 16th April. Will update the blog after 19th evening. That's when i reach San Mateo :)