Coach travel sucks. Be it on a plane, a boat or a train, coach only offers two benefits: (1) it's cheap; (2) it gets you where you are going at the same time as first class. We opted for coach class from Boston to Chicago because it’s only a 24 hour ride. We can tough it out and save the $350. We really wanted to enjoy the California Zephyr in first class for two nights beginning in Chicago; traveling through the mid-west, over the Rocky’s and Sierra’s in “style”.
Train travel requires “sea-legs” and being unafraid to meet people at a shared dining room table, or, after falling into their lap...”Howdy”!
Dylan and I settled into our itsy-bitsy private roomette with seats facing each other that fold down into a bed. Above us is a well-designed bunk that tips up at about 40%, giving us plenty of head room. The cabin has curtains for privacy, a slide-out table for dining, game play or just a place to spread out drinks and snacks. The control panel offers just one AC outlet, a place for shoe storage, a couple hangers for clothes and some well needed hooks. Simple, efficient and organized. This roomette is so small that you better know the person you are traveling with well. The cabin can’t be any larger than 4 ½ feet wide and 8 feet long with a 7 foot ceiling. A door on one side and double-wide windows on the other. Pretty cozy. But I do have a few suggestions that include Bluetooth for wireless speakers, USB ports for power, bar-buoy’s (like on a boat so drinks don’t spill) and more shelves and a monitor.
We dropped by the dining car at around 9:30 PM Saturday and invited two others to join us who were waiting for a table. Tom and Dave had business in Cleveland and decided to take the train from Boston instead of a plane...first time for them too. All together, we ordered the Pork Chop, Steak, Vegetable Lasagna and Roasted Chicken. They all came with some choices of sides that included mashed potatoes/rice/baked potato and green beans, roll and butter. The inevitable rock and roll of a train ride spilled a little of both the red wine and water on the paper tablecloths, but no one seemed to mind. I looked around and saw red stains on most of the tables, so I felt like a veteran already.
Dinner was reasonably good, considering the environment. We all agreed that the Chicken was probably the winner of the four entrees, so Dylan won that bet. The conversation, environment and meeting new people was the big plus. I have always believed that environmentis the key to memorable meals. It’s whom you are with and the place and frame of mind that personifies the quality of the food experience. This tends to help set expectations and rewards the moment with the appropriate grade. Some of my favorite dining experiences and related stories begin with we were at... and with.... Dinner for two was $60 including a ½ bottle of wine and tip.
There is also a snack and sandwich car for those interested in small bites and snacks.
BTW, writing on train is a challenge with the roll and twist. There is no WiFi, at least on the California Zephyr, so I had to use my AT&T hotspot off my iPhone to access FohBoh. Where there is a will... stay tuned we are just leaving Denver.