We're taking another trip out west to Reno this year around September to visit relatives in Lake Tahoe and I'd like to get some advice regarding routes. Last year we took the Southwest Chief to Los Angeles, then went down to San Diego for a couple of days, then up north to Reno (via bus thanks to a certain police incident). After a stay in Lake Tahoe we took the California Zephyr back to Chicago and through to Michigan.
This year I'd like to do the California Zephyr westbound to see the Rockies during the day (and hopefully not so snowy and foggy!), and take another route back home. We're planning on spending a night in San Francisco and I think taking a train out of there (or Emeryville) might work well. Ideally, whatever we take out of SF would leave late at night so we don't have to book a hotel just to leave first thing the next morning. Alternatively we could drive back from SF and catch something out of Reno instead.
Here's some options I'm looking at:
- Empire Builder - via Coast Starlight to Portland or Seattle
- Texas Eagle - via Coast Starlight, Pacific Surfliner, or bus to Los Angeles
- Southwest Chief - via Pacific Surfliner to Los Angeles (not ideal since we've already taken the SWC westbound)
1. Which route do you think would be the most scenic, taking daylight hours in September into account? We've taken the SWC westbound already, so I don't think we'd be seeing much new except a little bit of Arizona in the early morning that we missed going the other way. The Empire Builder seems like we'd see more "new" scenery than the Texas Eagle but I'd like to hear from people who have taken those routes personally.
Another question regarding the Texas Eagle from Los Angeles:
The Texas Eagle serves all stations between Chicago and San Antonio daily. Through service west of San Antonio operates tri-weekly, departing Chicago, Poplar Bluff and intermediate stations on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Eastbound trains departing Los Angeles on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday arrive stations San Antonio-Little Rock on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, and stations Walnut Ridge-Chicago on Wednesday, Saturday and Monday.
This means that 2. We can only board the Texas Eagle in Los Angeles on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, right? Is the booking site smart enough to know this or do I have to make sure I'm boarding the 422 on one of those days myself?
Last question: 3. Why does the site not allow a Texas Eagle -> Blue Water connection in Chicago on the same ticket? Is it because the Texas Eagle arrives at 1:52 pm and the Blue Water departs at 4:00 pm and that's too close for comfort for a long-distance route? I'd rather not have to get a hotel in Chicago for 26 hours, but I'm definitely not going to force-book them separately and risk missing the same day's Blue Water.
Thanks and sorry for all the questions and rambling!