What I Learned From A 7,000 Mile Train Journey

I open my eyes.

Dark.  Peaceful. Groggy.  

Middle of the night, not sure where I am.

The motion reminds me. 

I’m on the metal road.

Clackety-clack. Steel on steel.  Forward, forward.

Across The Great American Plains.

The last remnant of our whistle fades away as we cross the rural road.

Hours to go until morning.

Eyes close.

To Sleep.

To Dream.

Sleeping On A  Train

Sleeping 8 nights on a train can be addictive.  The first night takes a bit of adjustment, but it becomes magical by the second or third night.  The rhythm is peaceful, and relaxation comes naturally (a time warp to childhood memories in a crib, perhaps?).  Time becomes irrelevant, and stress fades away. I find myself waking numerous times during the night, but only for a few relaxed moments before I drift back to sleep.  It’s one of my favorite things about train travel.

I listen to the train and feel the sensation of motion from the hard steel road. I savor the moment and relish the fact that I’m traveling across the U.S.A. on a train.

I let my brain wander.

At 3:45 a.m. last night, I started this post in my mind. And then I slept again. As I type these words, I’ve only got one more night to sleep on this train.

I’ll miss it.

It’s Addictive.


Minutes Before Departure. Atlanta, GA

What I Learned From 7,000 Miles On A Train

I’ve been thinking about how to write this post since our train journey began two weeks ago.  At 3:45 am last night, I decided to use the “Lessons Learned” approach.  I also considered a “travelogue-type” post or, perhaps, a photographic story of the journey.  After thinking about it, I’ve decided that the lessons are more important than the details of the journey.

Therefore, following is a summary of what I learned from 7,000 miles on a train.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The second part in this series was published one week after this article came out titled “The Ultimate Guide To Cross-Country Train Travel”.  Check it out for tactical details on booking a train adventure, based on lessons we learned from our epic journey).

Today I'll attempt to answer: What Did I Learn By Traveling 7,000 Miles On A Train? Click To Tweet

1. Build A Bucket List, Then Live It!

As I mentioned in The Ultimate Pre-Retirement Checklist, it’s important to think about your retirement in your final working years.  Think about what you’d like your retirement to be, and think about the “Bucket List” items you want to achieve in your retirement years.

This train trip has been a lifelong bucket list item for my wife, but we’ve never had the time.  As we talked about what we wanted to do in our retirement, she mentioned that she always wanted to take a cross-country train trip.

Now that retirement affords us the time, we agreed to pursue the train trip as part of a trip to Seattle to visit our daughter.  It was the first “Bucket List” item that we checked off in our retirement, and it was an amazing experience.

The Bottom Line:  Live a life of no regrets.  If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, do it while you’re able.  You never know what tomorrow may bring.  Carpe Diem.

Who Knows, Perhaps You’ll End Up Riding A Train.

Winona, MN Sunset

2. People Make Life More Interesting 

Train travel is, at its core, about people and places.  If you don’t like good conversation, you shouldn’t travel on a train.  You will converse.  Seize the opportunity, and treasure the result.

Meals on a train remind me of Russian Roulette.  At every meal, you’ll get randomly seated with other folks to fill a “4-top” table.

Pull the trigger, and see what happens.

The Dining Car – Where Real Conversations Happen

Meals are the best chance of the trip for some “real” conversation.  Some meal partners will be hilarious, some will be insane.  Some you’ll remember forever, some you’ll soon forget. We met so many interesting folks that I ended up keeping a list of dinner partners on my phone.  It was one of the highlights of our trip.

On the hilarious side was Kevin, a naturally comedic Brit, who had us laughing so loud that the entire dining car was listening in.  The topic?  His rendition of his previous night’s attempt to climb into his (yes, they’re small) bunk bed in his “Roomette”.  The more we laughed, the more he embellished.  The comedy act quickly turned to what he’d have done had there been an emergency on the train while he was held captive in his bunk.

On the insane side, what in the world was that lady talking about??  My wife and I have been shaking our heads for two days on that one, and still can’t figure it out.  Let’s just say it started with us innocently asking “So, where do you live”, and ended 45 minutes later when we decided to skip dessert.  We never said another word, and we still don’t know where she lives. We don’t even know where she came from, or where she is going. Oh, and our sympathies to poor young Kevin, we still don’t understand why she made you hug her.  Wow, that lady was something.

We made some great new friends (Hi, Peter & Cathy, looking forward to seeing you in Tasmania.  I love the pic that Cathy took of you in New Orleans, Peter.  Where in the world did you find that outfit!?  Wink wink).

We made new memories (Hint:  if you’re ever in New Orleans, Don’t Miss Jazz at The Bombay Club).

The Bottom Line:  Our lives are most enjoyed when enhanced by the company of good people.  Take the time to develop real relationships, and savor friendships new and old.  When we think back on this trip, we’ll remember most fondly our memories of the people we met along the way.


Seattle’s King Street Station – Everyone Is On A Journey

3. Everyone Is On A Journey

Some of the more important dinner conversations revolved around what folks were going through in life. Everyone on a train is going somewhere, and they always have a reason for going.  People are more relaxed on a train, and they often open up about some really serious issues in their lives:

  • Like the lady who lost her husband to cancer.
  • Or that Grandmother who will never see her grandchildren again (bastard ex-son-in-law, a horrible divorce).
  • Or the guy who’s worried about his job getting outsourced, a year short of qualifying for his pension.
  • Or that pathetic 24-year old couple, who stared at their phones the entire meal and didn’t know how to communicate (and oh, how hard we tried. Sad, really).
  • Or that Grandfather who is watching his granddaughter kill herself on heroin, and can’t get her to stop. I can still see the pain in his eyes.

For every heartbreak, there’s a happy story.

  • Like the couple from IL, who was taking the trip of their dreams to NYC.
  • Like that amazing great-grandmother from inner-city Detroit, who was going to visit her successful granddaughter in Minneapolis. She was a proud woman, and rightly so.
  • Like Dave & Marcella, the 84-year old couple who met online after their spouses died, and are living life to the fullest in their later years, together.
  • Like the South Dakota couple who recently sold his successful business and are enjoying the fruits of their labor.
  • Like that special couple from Australia who are living their dream retirement trip of traveling across America by train. They’re in New York City by now, and I hope they read these words.  Special memories, special people.
  • Like the 55-year-old blogger and his wife who were celebrating his early retirement (yep, that’d be me. Just seeing if you’re still paying attention)…

The Bottom Line:  Everyone is on a journey.  Make an effort to understand what folks are going through. Listen more than you talk.  Don’t be too quick to judge. Find a way to encourage others.

Find a way to care.


The Observation Car – Where The World Rolls By

4. Find The Beauty In Everything

We live in an amazing and diverse country.  Having just spent 7,000 miles rolling over her in a tube with steel wheels, I feel I’ve earned some level of qualification to make that statement.  Amazing, and diverse.

My wife and I both agree that our favorite obsession while “Riding The Rails” is to gaze quietly out the windows.  It’s hard to explain how obsessive this strange hobby becomes, but there’s something mesmerizing about watching this amazing country slide endlessly past our window.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Sure, Glacier National Park is an obviously beautiful spot, who wouldn’t stare?

The Southern California Coastline

Is there beauty on The Southern California coastline?  Of course.

Other areas, however, aren’t as obvious.

The Great Plains – Beautiful in their own way

The vast plains across North Dakota and Eastern Montana are absolutely mesmerizing.

Sometimes the beauty is more subtle, and has to be searched before it can be found.

The Arizona Desert

Have you ever looked closely at the Arizona desert?  The shifting colors of the desert landscape, while subtle, become more intriguing the longer you gaze.


“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it”.  Andy Warhol


The Bottom Line:  Each region has its own unique beauty. Sometimes you just have to find it. We came to discover that the more subtle the beauty, the more compelling it becomes.

In some strange way, the same is true of people.  Look closely, and find something beautiful.

Beauty is everywhere.

Especially where it’s not obvious.


5. Live In The Present

As we prepared for our journey, we expected we’d be reading a lot of books during our time on the train.  We downloaded a few movies on my laptop before we left home.  Podcasts were synched up, we were ready to go.

However, over the past 6,000 miles on this train (I’m still 1,000 miles from home as I type these words)…

  • I’ve read a grand total of only 32 pages in my book (at night).
  • I’ve not watched a single movie.
  • I’ve not listened to a single podcast.
The Northern Cascades (wildfire smoke turning the sun red).

In some unexplainable way, window gazing on a train forces you to Live In The Present.  Risk getting your mind absorbed in a book, and you just might miss that beautiful spot that you’ll never see again.  At 70 MPH, the sites pass quickly, and the satisfaction from savoring The Present feeds the obsessive and enjoyable need to stare out the window.

Force yourself to slow down.  Breathe.  Live In The Present.  (I encourage you to practice now, and click the video above for a 52-second journey across the Columbia River aboard a train).

On a train, you don’t go backward, and you don’t know what lies ahead. You learn to enjoy the Present. Click To Tweet

The Bottom Line:  I recently read a transparent post from my friend Jim @ Route To Retire about his difficulty living in the present.  I suspect most of us if we’re honest with ourselves, can admit that we’ve also struggled with the same.

So much of our lives are tied up worrying about the future.  Worrying about the past.  Worrying about what might happen.  Worrying about what won’t.

Take time to savor The Present.

It’s the only guarantee in life.

Don’t risk missing it.


6. Time Is The True Measure Of Prosperity

We’ve thought about this train trip for years.  Decades, even.

And yet, we’d never taken the plunge.  Chances are, you’ve thought about a long distance train trip at some point (it seems a common bucket list item).  We never took ours, and you haven’t taken yours.

Why?  If I were to guess, the major constraint is Time.

Four Days On A Train To Get To Seattle?  Are you crazy?  Who has that kind of time?

Like everyone else in the world, we were too busy.  We had to be back at work.  We had to get our child to school.  We had to keep that appointment.  We’ve had to work.

We never had the time.

Until we did.

For years, we’ve traded our time for the pursuit of money. In Retirement, we trade our money for the pursuit of time. Click To Tweet

Now that we’ve achieved Retirement, we’re free to leverage that hard-earned money to utilize our time doing what we decide is most important to us.

Like seeing the country by train.

Bottom Line:  Yes, we all have to work for significant periods in our lives.  However, if you’re responsible during those working years, the time will come where you’ll achieve the dream of Financial Independence.  When that time comes, use your newfound freedom to pursue something you’ve always wanted to do.  It’s ok to relax, you’ve earned it. Take some time to do something special, while you still can.

Time, Not Money, is the true measure of prosperity.

Spend your time wisely.

You’ll never get it back.


The End.

CONCLUSION

Covering 7,000 miles in a train has been an experience I’ll savor for the rest of my life.  I didn’t know what to expect before our journey, and I don’t know how to explain the reality of the actual experience.  I could have shared the story as a travelogue, and given the highlights of the various legs of our journey.  Instead, I decided to share the lessons I learned along the way. (For Part 2 in this series, which addresses the tactical details of a train journey and answers many of the questions in the comments below, check out “The Ultimate Guide To Cross-Country Train Travel”)

I didn't know what to expect on this train trip, but I learned some important lessons along the way. Click To Tweet

Somehow, the lessons I learned while on the train seemed more important than the details of the journey, so I decided to dedicate some time on the train to write them down before I returned to the real world.  As a summary:

What I Learned From 7,000 Miles On A Train

  1. Build A Bucket List, Then Live It!
  2. People Make Life More Interesting.
  3. Everyone Is On A Journey.
  4. Find The Beauty In Everything.
  5. Live In The Present.
  6. Time Is The True Measure Of Prosperity.

You may wonder, “Did he ever get bored?”  Surprisingly, no.  Except for one late evening when we were late getting into New Orleans after 3 continuous days on the train, I never got restless, and I never got bored.

I think it helped that I made a conscious decision before boarding the first train that I was going to cherish every minute of this bucket list journey. I chose to keep a perpetually positive attitude throughout the trip, and absolutely treasured the limited time I was able to experience living aboard a train.

…Time to enjoy waking up in the middle of the night.

…Time to be introspective.

…Time to engage in real conversation.

…Time to think about some lessons I learned.

…Time to write them down.

The most important lesson from my time on the train?

The Luxury of Time.

Spend Yours Wisely.

You’ll Never Get It Back.

104 comments

  1. Wow, what a trip dude! I was following your pics on the socials and didn’t realize you made that huge circle around the country. Amazing photos and some really great stories. And I love the lessons – time is indeed the ultimate resource.

    What an epic way to start your retirement!

    1. Great memories! My wife & I have logged many, many Mile’s on Amtrak throughout the years. Southwest Chief, Surfliner, Empire Builder, Boston to DC on the high speed Acela, Lake Shore Limited and the 2 trains to Chicago from St Louis & Carbondale. I also went to basic training in the USAF to San Antonio via train in 1967. Yes. We also enjoy riding the rails!

  2. I’ve never once thought about taking a long train ride. I didn’t even know it could be done!
    Thanks for sharing your amazing journey.
    And for opening up the possibilities I didn’t know existed.

  3. Live in the present INDEED. Whether you’re on a train ride across the country, or simply “grinding it out” with work and raising kids, there’s a lot of life to be lived before you reach lofty goals.

    Thanks for sharing, Fritz. You had some fun characters in the dining car. Reminded me of some nutty (but nice?) folks we sat with on a cruise during our honeymoon. You’re sure to avoid them the next night at dinner, and you hope they don’t get up and move to your table.

    1. Cubert!! Absolutely, living in the Present applies wherever you are in life, perhaps no where more so than when you still have the kids at home and are plodding through those “endurance” years of your career.

      Ironic that you mentioned cruises, we thought several times during our trip that there were, indeed, some similarities between the two. Had to laugh at the “hope they don’t get up”. Thanks for stopping by! (BTW, great post today on “how to take a pic”, looks like we both love photography!).

  4. I enjoyed your blog. I have traveled across the country many times. The last two years I did it on a Gold Wing motorcycle. And yes I met some very interesting people. It was a hoot.

    One of my bucket list items is to ride a train through the Canadian Rockies. I have bucket list ideas but you have motivated me to get serious and create a real list.

    I have a little over 2 years to go before I will have an “abundance of time”.

    Bobby
    bobbystuff.com

    1. Bobby, ironically, we talked with a guy during our trip who had also done a cross-country Gold Wing adventure. Sounds like a great way to go! Maybe we’ll see you in the Canadian Rockies, we’re already talking about that as an option for a return from a future visit to our daughter’s place in Seattle.

      Good luck on your final two years, you’re approaching a very exciting time in life!

  5. Fritz,
    Tell us more about the trip specifics…
    How many days….. name of the Amtrak trip so we could check on line…… overall costs?
    Recently sold our practice about a year and a half ago and have traveled quite a bit…..but this sounds very interesting.
    Thank you,
    Frank

    1. Frank, thanks for asking for specifics. There’s more to that question than I can answer easily in a comment, but you can see the various legs on the “map” above (we didn’t do an organized tour, but rather just pieced together links via a phone call to Amtrak). Total cost isn’t cheap (we’re “FatFIRE”), it’ll run you ~$4k depending on what level of ride you choose (we did roomettes and sleepers), can definitely drop the cost if you’re willing to ride coach (wouldn’t advise doing that, tho).

      Perhaps a future post, if other readers express an interest in the specifics. Congrats on selling your practice, enjoy your travels!

      1. Count me as one interested in specifics. This sounds like a great idea and one I will consider. I have often thought of doing the Amtrak cross country when the time is there. Did you spend some time at each end of a route leg. I am truly interested. I wish there was rail service from Alaska to NM. That would be epic.

      2. I’m curious as well. Not so much cost as whether you booked the entire trip, all the segments, in advance. Were meals cost included in the roomette/sleeper fares?

      3. Yes, details would be fantastic. I commented on an earlier post that we have always wanted to do a cross country train trip. You mentioned that Amtrack helped you set it up. I would also be interested in whether you would make more stops along the way, costs, etc.

      4. I would also be interested in more specifics. In particular, roughly how long did it take you to complete the entire loop? Was there Internet service available on the trains, and if so how reliable is it?

        I have done some research on taking a train trip, but I’m still working and need Internet access. Some of the routes do have trains with Wi-Fi, but not all of them do.

      5. I would also like to hear more about the trip. Specifically, did you use the Wi-Fi on board the trains? How reliable was it? Did all the routes have Wi-Fi available?

  6. No podcasts? Oh, the horror!

    I’m so happy for you and Jackie that you took this trip. Slow travel in a moving vehicle you have no control over does wonders for the soul. The “everyone is on a journey” hit me in a profound way even though it’s not ‘new’ concept. The world is not 3-dimensional through only my eyes — it’s 3-dimensional through everyone else’s too.

    Thanks for the post and the gorgeous photos.

    1. Mrs. G!! Yeah, given how many podcasts I’ve been a guest on, perhaps I’d have been better advised to not publicly confess to such a dishonorable sin.

      Glad the “everyone is on a journey” struck a chord, it was something that really hit me during our journey. 3-dimensional, indeed. Glad you liked the pics! Good luck on the book launch, waiting with great anticipating to see the response!

  7. I was extremely excited to read this post, because I absolutely loved the pictures you have been posting along your journey!

    One of my favorites was the picture you posted in the Pacific Northwest (I believe it was on some island) and it was looking out onto a shoreline. Another picture I really loved was of the Great Plains. It’s beauty is definitely different from the others, but to me it symbolizes one of the American Dreams of constantly discovering/moving. I feel like you can’t have a complete cross country trip until you witness those Great Plains.

    This trip is definitely on me and my wife’s bucket list. In my old job, I took the train into Union Station every morning, and saw all the people about to embark on their Amtrak adventures. I watched them board everyday, and it definitely had an effect on me by wanting to do the same someday!

    1. Congrats on your bucket list trip, Fritz and Jackie! You have inspired me to want to go cross-country on a train – now I just have to get Gene on board!! (See what I did there?!) So glad you had a wonderful and meaningful time!!

    2. Sean, thanks for the compliments on the pics, I really enjoyed working on my photography during the trip. Good call on the island shot, and proof that you followed my social media given that I didn’t include that pic in the post!

      I’ve spent a lot of time in train stations through my career as well (primarily in Europe and Asia), and have always been envious of those undertaking a long journey. I’m pleased that we joined their ranks! Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Wow, killer post, Fritz! I felt like I was on the train with you guys – maybe I should have been! 😉

    This sounds like an amazing experience all around. Regardless of how much you lived in the moment, I’m amazed that you didn’t touch movies, podcasts, or barely your book. That’s fantastic!

    I find the discussion about talking to and learning about other people the most interesting part of this. Beyond the few crazy folks in there, I’m sure you met some some real and genuine folks.

    And, of course, thanks for the mention. Living in the present was definitely one of my toughest battles. Stopping to smell the roses was something that didn’t come naturally for me until recently and it’s definitely worth it.

    — Jim

    1. You and I on a train for 8 days = scary thought. Why do I think we could have filled that much time talking about personal finance, Panama and retirement?

      The people were definitely one of the highlights of the trip. We made some genuine friendships, and are thinking of a trip to Tasmania and New Zealand to visit some of the folks we met on the train.

      Finally, happy to mention you. Your post was powerful, and shows the impact of being transparent in your writing. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Wow. Inspiration has struck and a cross-country train trip is now on my own bucket list. I took a train from northern CA to LA once when I was in the military and really enjoyed it. I’ve always considered doing a longer trip, and now I’m 100% certain I want to do it. Thanks for the awesome post!

    1. Fearless Squirrel? I think you live on my road (at least I slow down whenever I see you, would you just make up your mind on which way you’re going to zag?).

      Take the trip. You won’t regret it. I suspect a squirrel should be able to get a good discount, since you’ll take such a small amount of space on the train.

  10. Great post Fritz! I live in Kent Washington so glad to see your excitement for the Pacific Northwest!! ( ok, your daughter may have something to do with that 🤗).

    Love the introspection. Living in the present is one of my struggles as well. I’m getting better but still not there yet. Work in progress.

    I too would be interested in the specifics of the trip. Thank you for allowing us to enjoy the trip with you and Jackie!!

    1. Hey “Neighbor”! We love the Pacific NW, and would seriously consider moving there if we knew my daughter would be there for a while (her husband’s in the military, so they’ll likely move on in a few years). Great part of the country, you’re a lucky man. Keep the focus on living in the Present, important stuff.

      A second vote for specifics on the trip, I’ll seriously consider it for a future post. Thanks for stopping by.

  11. What a trip!!!
    Sounds life changing! We’re jealous!!

    The time to sit and watch the world go by I think is the ultimate luxury. Congrats!! You’ve earned it.

  12. I love traveling by rail. It’s such a throwback to a simpler time. When I was a kid, we used to take the train between Chiang Mai and Bangkok all the time. I always will have a fond memory of these trips. Unfortunately, we haven’t taken the train much recently. We average about 1-2 train trips per decade. Flying is just too convenient. 🙁
    It’s amazing that you met so many people. That part is really hard for me. My life is already complicated and I don’t want to hear about other people’s problem. I guess that’s a little selfish.

    1. Joe, definitely a throwback to earlier times, something I thought about a lot as we made connections through some of this country’s great train terminals. China train travel would be amazing, especially now with their high speed network. I agree that flying is certainly more convenient, and would never take the train if “transportation” were the only objective.

      As for relationships along the way, I think the main reason we “connected” with so many folks was the attitude we took with us to the dining car. We were relaxed, and it was interesting to see what we could learn from others. We’re all a little selfish, but we intentionally focused on others during the trip, and it was amazing to see the difference it made in connecting with folks. Another lesson there, I suppose.

  13. What a wonderful trip and post. Last year, I took my Mom on the train in January from Sacramento to Reno, going over the Donner pass in the snow. What a beautiful thing it is to be in the observation deck and the train goes really slowly up and also on the way back, to avoid slipping, so it is somewhat of a Disney ride. Before my Dad died, my parents took many of the train legs you took across the country to visit family or just to travel to New York, Washington DC, Chicago and New Orleans.

    Your way of seeing the train trip as as a metaphor of life is emotionally motivating. There is something that we all feel when we hear that train whistle in the background. It feels like life is short and the whistle is calling. “Time is the true measure of prosperity”. I’m so glad we retired early.

    1. “Emotionally Motivating”. A real compliment, that. Thanks for your kind words.

      We have a “tourist train” in our mountain town, and we can hear the whistle in the distance. From now on, whenever I hear that whistle I’ll think of waking up in The Great Plains to our whistle. And I’ll smile.

      1. Another awesome post…..you are an excellent writer…and yes….count me in for another post with more specifics!
        We just returned to FL from the same mountain town and heard the train whistle coming and going from McCaysville…neat to think of all the folks visiting the area! I’ll think of you and your train trip next time we are up…hopefully we’ll be able to meet you sometime at the Barking Lot!

        1. NO WAY – you were in my town when I was on the train!?? Sorry I missed you, hope you stopped by The Barking Lot while you were here! Too cool that you heard “my” train whistle. Beautiful sound, that! Look forward to meeting you the next time you’re up this way!

  14. Great post Fritz. What really struck me is living in the present. if i can’t learn that there’s a high probability that i’ll never be content. Seriously what’s the point of looking forward to the future if you aren’t enjoying the present. i can look at each of your lessons learned and apply them to my walk as a christian.

    1. Great point about connecting being in the present with being content, Roger. I think of Paul and all he went through (see my very first post), and I believe true contentment is hard to achieve without having a Christian worldview. Sometimes, I think “living in the present” is too simplistic, as I find having an eternal mindset also helps face the trials in life. 3 years in on my blog, and I still can’t imagine tapping all of the ideas I have for future posts…So many ideas, so little time.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  15. “Time, Not Money, is the true measure of prosperity.“

    This statement is so powerful.

    Personal circumstances have me more focused on the present (time) more than being F.I.

    Thanks for the post.

  16. Very cool, Fritz. Time is on your side. Yes, it is.

    I was also interested in the cost of the trip — I see the $4,000 figure in the comments above. Is that for you and your wife? Food included? The expense report could be a second blog post.

    Also, do you wish you had taken more time? It seems to me it would be more enjoyable to do this in 80 days rather than 8, spending a week here and a week there along the way.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    1. Request #5, consider it done! I’ll write up a “tactical” post to compliment this “philosophical” one. Until then, quick answer is:
      – Yep, includes The wife and food.
      – Yep, wish we could have spent more time, but didn’t have it due to a family situation (would have also added $ for additional hotels, meals, etc).
      Keep an eye out for Part 2 of the “Train Adventure” series with more details…

  17. Fritz-
    Great post – thanks for sharing. Count me in as interested in more specifics. Did you stay in any cities along the way? Would you have done anything differently? Cost breakdown? Would you have paid more (or less) for any aspect of the trip? Thx.

    1. That makes #6. Consider it done! Quick answer: we stayed 2 nights in New Orleans, and had a full day in Chicago. Things we’d have done differently, and recommendations for those considering a trip, will be included in Part 2 of the series. No promises on timing (Hey, I’m RETIRED, after all!). Smiles.

  18. That beats our 3500 mile east coast driving trip.
    I am sure others beside myself, would like to hear how you set the trip up.

  19. Man, that sounds like an amazing trip! To have the time and travel slow like that is something I want to do in the future. Maybe I can get one of the kids to come with, if not the whole family. I’m looking forward to part 2 and possibly parts 3 and 4. 🙂

  20. Sounds like an amazing trip! I’d love to hear more about any cities where you got off the train and explored. I’m guessing you’ll need lots of blog posts to cover all the details people are wondering about.

    Your video reminds me of Norwegian “slow tv” — have you heard of it? There’s even a TED Talk (https://www.ted.com/talks/thomas_hellum_the_world_s_most_boring_television_and_why_it_s_hilariously_addictive/up-next). Seeing how much you liked the train trip, you might like this too 🙂

    Can’t wait to read more posts about your trip!

    1. Wow, Kate, what a fascinating story from Norway! Sounds like “looking out the window” can be addictive, even if you’re just watching a camera (or four, in this case!) that is “looking out the window”. Thanks for sharing. Amazing. I’ll add more detail about our trip in Part 2, which I’ve decided to write based on the strong response/request in these comments. Stay tuned!

  21. Fritz, Great post and you are right to focus on the people! The best part of our journey to visit all national parks is the people that we meet along the way. The second best part is to see the diversity of our beautiful nation and the subtitles of the beauty when you have time to actually absorb it! The journey is the point.

    1. Sidney, I thought about you when we were in New Orleans (we visited the Jean LaFitte National Park center in the French Quarter), we bought the National Park Passport book there, and got our first stamp!! We’re on our way!

      And yes, I agree that the people is what it’s all, really, about.

  22. I enjoyed reading this. I went to North Korea 4 months ago and travelled from Beijing to Pyongyang by overnight train. Your train was WAY more luxurious than ours was!
    I didn’t expect to enjoy the train trip as much as I did. It’s got me thinking about doing The Ghan, (a train trip right up the middle of Australia all the way to Darwin) or going on the Trans Siberian Railway. I’m more likely to do this one first.
    The dining car… happy memories!

    1. North Korea!! Wow. That’s one place I don’t think I’d have the courage to go (they’re not too fond of Americans!). THAT had to be an adventure! Our Aussie friends were talking about The Ghan, sounds fascinating. Trans Siberian would also be an experience. So many trains…so little time.

  23. Enjoyed the post Fritz.
    And include me as another one who would love to hear more details and see more pics of the trip. We know photography has become one of your hobbies, so I know you have way more pics than what we’ve seen so far! Looking forward to parts 2 (and perhaps 3?) of this story.

    Thanks for sharing!

  24. Love this one: “Time Is The True Measure Of Prosperity.”

    I traveled on the Eurorail through Europe in my early twenties and I too loved sleeping on a train. Oh, how your post makes me miss it. Travel the US via train = item my bucket list.

    Great photos, great takeaways, great post.

  25. Sounds an amazing trip. I’ve always wanted to follow in my Gran’s steps and take the train across Canada from West to East.
    Maybe time to make a bucket list, as I had forgotten that!
    Just now, we’re enjoying 6 weeks in Rome, watching the world go by!

    Isn’t retirement just fantastic?

      1. I think you are raising the bar! Not sure I can compete with an 8k mile round trip of the US. (Though at least you don’t have the same language barrier..)
        You’re setting a great example for the next generation of ‘early retirees’.
        Keep raising that bar!

  26. Sure beats going on a train. To commute. I guess the travel part of being in a train feels more comfortable/better if you are fulfilling a goal and thinking of it as a bucket list item than dreading the trip as part of routine.

    My husband loves trains and going on a long train journey is part of it. Did you buy the pass that allows you to have stopovers so you can explore a certain city/area you want to spend more time in?

    1. Hey Ruby!! I’d rather commute by train than deal with the dreadful 90 minute one way drive I had for 7 years. Better yet, NO COMMUTE at all! Man, I love retirement!! We didn’t buy a pass since we were on a schedule to visit our daughter, I’ll discuss more in Part 2.

  27. New reader here.

    Great post Fritz. Lots of meat on the bone.
    I am adding my voice to those clamoring for part 2.

    Bill

    483 Days

  28. I think this is one of your very best posts, and it really has nothing to do with whether or not any of us embark on that kind of long train trip (even though I would like to do that myself). The lessons learned and described, particularly the last one, are, as the MasterCard commercials say, “priceless.” Thank you.

  29. You certainly do meet some interesting people on the train. I took one years ago from College Station, TX up to Fargo, ND to visit my then girlfriend. It took me 40 hours one way. College Station to Chicago, then Chicago to Fargo. I remember sitting in the Observation car and watching the world fly by. It really was mesmerizing.

    Unlike you though, I devoured a couple of Tom Clancy books on that journey, and even delivered some never before had Shiner Bock to people in Fargo.

  30. Hi, my name is Teresa. My husband, Alan, and I live in England.
    In May this year we flew out to Edmonton, Canada, to spend some time with family and had our own guides for a trip to the Canadian Rockies…breathtaking. From there we flew to Seattle and then, after a few days there, we took the Amtrak train to San Francisco.
    Obviously our train travel was a short walk compared to your amazing trip, but seeing your photo of the wonderful King’s Street station, gave me such a lovely start… that station is truly gorgeous. We loved it.
    We also loved the Amtrak experience, as short as it was, I agree too that the meals are a definite highlight. What a great way to see your country. Brilliant idea to make sure that you didn’t dine with the same people twice. I wish now that we had booked for more train travel, as we choose to do our onward travel by air. But we had an amazing time. So one trip off the bucket list and now another added on. Thank you for your tremendous post. How kind of you, to give so generously of your time, to share with others.

  31. Wonderful article. My wife and I have traveled more than 30,000 miles in the past 12 years on Amtrak and really enjoy the experience – much of it as you describe. We’re not even retired yet!

    The one thing we tell those who ask, “The train is part of the vacation, not just a way to get there”.

    I would also mention we participate in the Amtrak Guest Rewards program and many of our trips have been “paid” entirely or partially using points.

  32. I took my son on a 2-week trip across the country on Amtrak this past June for his high school graduation present. 8,821 miles. You hit on a lot of the same things I was feeling. I never touched my book, and only barely got any knitting done. My son’s lifelong train obsession got a kickstart, and he’s gone from only visiting 3 states to 26, plus the District of Columbia. It was the trip of a lifetime.

  33. Sleeping in coach is no fun. E. g., The City of New Orleans. It runs full tilt over a lot of rough switches, trying to yank your spine out of your body sideways. Roomettes are best on the lower deck, where the sway is less (although the noise is greater). We’ve done most of the West, so now we need to tackle the East and Canada, too. Love train travel, though. The journey itself is the vacation. Book a sleeper, though. If you’re traveling alone, a roomette is wunderbar on either deck. If traveling as a couple, a bedroom is lots better (and pricier) than having to put up with that upper bunk in the roomette, especially on the upper deck. I will not travel overnight on coach again, but I still love train travel and will choose it over any other means if available to my destination.

    1. Glad that we made the right decision to not sleep in coach! We DID enjoy sleeping in the sleeper car a bit more than the roomette, something about laying perpendicular to the tracks (sleeper) vs. parallel (roomette) seemed to smooth the ride a bit (tho either is better than coach, right!?)

  34. We did a similar trip several years ago…..loved it….I would do it all over again. We left New Orleans and headed west to L A…..up the coast to San Fran. After 5 days in San Fran we took the CA Zephyr to Chicago (amazing scenes because of snow in November). Then back down to New Orleans.

  35. Great memories! My wife & I have logged many, many Mile’s on Amtrak throughout the years. Southwest Chief, Surfliner, Empire Builder, Boston to DC on the high speed Acela, Lake Shore Limited and the 2 trains to Chicago from St Louis & Carbondale. I also went to basic training in the USAF to San Antonio via train in 1967. Yes. We also enjoy riding the rails!

  36. I did almost the same trip (with the minor addition of a triangular spike up to Memphis, over to Little Rock in a Greyhound, and then back down again) about 8 years ago the summer before starting grad school (starting in Portland). It was the best possible way to see so much of the country. LOVE trains, wish we had so many more of them. Thanks for spreading the good word about unplugging and watching the world go by via rail!

  37. I have done 4,000 miles on Amtrak(both times were Colorado to Connecticut) and I agree with everything you have said, I have already booked my trip next month to finish the California Zypher, or as JIm Croce said”in my dreams I’d ride the rails to California” yep I am doing that

  38. Great story. Just back from Miami to Wash, DC on Silver Star North and Silver Meteor South. Would do again in a heart beat. trying to put together an itinerary to use the Amtrak Rail Pass with stops in some major cities along the way. You put the trip into a mind set that makes you really think about what our country is. I’ve driven across America 3 times and each one was more exciting than the last. Looking forward to your next story.

  39. I’m taking my dream trip next month to Grand Junction with a couple of nights in Chicago for my 50th bday. I can’t wait. I’ve been a train buff all my life and wanted to do cross country forever. Went all in and got a roomette. I drive for a living so it’s gonna be great not having too for 10 days. I know I’ll do more when I can.

  40. What an amazing adventure this must have been! Thanks for sharing the story of these 7000 miles and especially those wonderful photos. Isn’t window gazing the best? I love it as well.

    “We never had the time.

    Until we did.” – loved this and it points out the fact that we all have time to do the important things in our lives. We just have to figure out what is more important and then do it. We all have 24 hours and all that matters is how we choose to use that time.

    On an unrelated note, do you have any cryptocurrencies in your portfolio? What is your opinion on them and I’m not just talking about Bitcoin but all the other altcoins as well? Do you think that investing in 20+ different altcoins, over 5 years, not looking at the daily ups and downs and not investing more than you can afford to lose (maybe 2-4% of your monthly income) could be a good idea?

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