An experience aboard the California Zephyr

California Zephyr
Chicago, IL -> Denver, CO
aug. 2015

My first thought when the train left Union Station, alone in the big California Zephyr was “what am i doing?? Am I crazy??”. Everything was so new, and big, and I was gonna be on my own from now on. Getting out of your comfort zone is always scary. But that’s the whole point! So yeah, I was really scared about what was going to happen next. But so excited! I was on my way to Colorado, how cool was that? I had never thought I would end up in Colorado one day !!!


So, being in that state of mind, I was pretty much excited about anything I would see, which helped a lot making the trip interesting. Everyone told me I would eventually get bored to death from seeing so many corn fields but I was not. First of all, it wasn’t just corn fields. It was a lot of very various things and towns I had never seen before.

You only get a few smoke stops on the way, so getting to see stuff outside the train is complicated. I only had less than 10 minutes to smoke my cigarette and see around. I decided the train would be my main interest. Trains in America are much bigger than in Europe (just like everything else really), and the platforms are smaller. So trains look even bigger than they actually are. Also, coming from France, a country that uses trains are their main means of transportation, it was amazing to see how much room I had!

For the first time, I was happy I am so tiny because I had exactly the space I needed to survive without moving for the next 17 hours. So I spent most of this time with my camera against the window (and also, sleeping. night sadly happened at some point).I loved all the fields, all the little farms, all of it looked like some old movie, it was fun.

While I admit that it made the journey funny and captivating, living there is a whole other story. Cities (or even towns) are miles and miles away from each other. And, this is America. So whatever you think big is, it’s actually bigger.

amtrak experience, california zephyr, train, inside, sunset, windows,

I got to see the sunset above the fields of Iowa, all green and Midwestern-like, and crossed Nebraska during the night, so sadly I have no idea what it looks like. But I found out, call me stupid all you want, that there is a city called Omaha. All I knew was Omaha Beach. I guess it makes sense it has been named after an American city, I just never thought of it! Omaha was also the last night smoke stop before the morning.

We left the green of Iowa to wake up in the very bright and yellow Colorado. I saw the sunrise over the desert and it was quite magical for me!

amtrak experience, california zephyr, colorado, sunrise, morning, fields, sky, blue, train

I also found out that in the land of free that is America, even the cows don’t have fences around them, even tho there is a railway next door. But I noticed that American cows are scared of the train, so I guess they are smart enough to save their asses away when a train shows up! Unlike French cows, who manage to escape their closed fields to wander to their deaths. Apparently, even animals are more obedient in the rest of the world than in my home country. Hahaha! Anyway, I realised soon enough Colorado was going to be a fun and bright place, and I was more than right! This was enough to help me forget the uncomfortable sleep and bad food from the last twenty hours.
If you want to see random places in the country and have some time to see around, I definitely recommend traveling by train. No one will do that in America, but it is worth it. And that is just the first part of the trip aboard the California Zephyr 😉

Where to board the California Zephyr :

Stops at all main cities :

  • Chicago
  • Omaha
  • Denver
  • Salt Lake City
  • Oakland (San Francisco)

Plus a bunch of smaller towns on the way. Check out for more info.
The total trip from Chicago to Emeryville is about 52hours.
In both Denver and Chicago, you get right into the city when arriving at the station.
From Emeryville, there is a shuttle that takes you straight to San Francisco.

amtrak experience, california zephyr, map, trip, station, united state map

You can find the part 2 about the California Zephyr trip right here.
Check my portfolios for more photos of my trip with Amtrak ! 😉

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