Freelance writer Alexandra Marvar took the Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles:
I boarded the 2:50 p.m. Southwest Chief out of Chicago’s Union Station on a Friday. By mid-morning Sunday, we’ll arrive at another Union Station: Los Angeles. I could have flown between the two cities in roughly four hours. But as a frequent flyer all too familiar with the rush and stress of air travel, I was drawn to the idea of a long, slow journey across America by rail. Now, 15 hours into my inaugural long-haul train trip — a $146-dollar (coach class), 44-hour, 2,265-mile excursion through eight states — the experience hasn’t stopped surprising me.
Our reasons for being here are just three of a thousand. A young costume designer headed to a funeral in Topeka, Kansas, couldn’t afford last-minute airfare. Amish families are traveling to a hospital in Mexico for more affordable health care; four couples claim the last two booths in the observation car for a two-day marathon card game of Rook. A married couple who met in high school 50-plus years ago are on their way to La Junta, Colorado, to visit a recently discovered ancestor’s grave. They’ve ridden Amtrak together for decades. We talked about trains throughout last night’s white-tablecloth dinner of steaks cooked to order. We all shared our desserts.
It's a long way to go for a brew.
I've actually taken the Southwest Chief, and its predecessor the Southwest Limited, twice. I'd love to do it again. But like Marvar, I think I'd prefer a roomette to a coach seat.