The California Zephyr travels through scenic Colorado
Until visiting my uncle in Germany in high school, my only railroad experience entailed a battery-powered engine that repeatedly looped on a 15-foot track in my basement. America lacks the convenient, dependable and popular railroad system that serves as the backbone of European transport. But this does not mean there aren’t trips worth taking simply to enjoy the ride. Lonely Planet recently featured five of the best scenic train routes in the US, with The California Zephyr from Denver to San Francisco topping the list.
“There’s no better way to experience the sheer grandeur of the North American continent than by rail. Considerably more relaxing than driving or flying, many trains in the United States offer a leisurely, nostalgic sightseeing experience, often passing through pristine landscapes inaccessible by other means.”
– Lonely Plant’s “Top scenic USA train routes”
I completely subscribe to the idea that the journey is as important, if not more, than the destination. These train rides may not be the most efficient way to get from point A to point B. However, they are the most relaxing way to experience the American scenery through giant picture windows. I hope to experience some of these routes myself. If I can sit still long enough.
“I saw in their eyes something I was to see over and over in every part of the nation – a burning desire to go, to move, to get under way, anyplace, away from Here… Nearly every American hungers to move.” -John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley
A campervan travels through the Redwood Forest
The Great American Road Trip. I have yet to take one, but I feel that with a country as expansive and diverse as the United States, one full traverse is necessary to truly understand what the familiar outline of the 48 states on a map represents.
For any others who feel the road calling their name, a rising trend makes executing a cross-country excursion easier. Campervans, generally popular in Europe and increasingly so in Oceania, are becoming more common in the United States.
Campervans, which act as compact recreational vehicles, provide both transport and accommodation for those on the move. With seating and sleeping space for four, a propane-powered cooker, a refrigerator and a sink, campervans possess the convenience of a traditional RV (minus the bathroom) in an environmentally friendlier, and much cooler package.
At 10 years old I had never stepped foot on Prince Edward Island, but I felt I had skittered through the shadows in the Haunted Woods, dipped my fingers in the cool Lake of Shining Waters and bumped along in a buggy beneath the pink-blossomed trees lining Lover’s Lane.
Anyone familiar with Lucy Maud Montgomery’s work will recognize these as the imaginatively named stomping grounds of the mischievous carrot-red-headed heroine in Anne of Green Gables. As a young girl immersing myself in the coming-of-age story of a curious and imaginative orphan, I drifted back 100 years to a remote Canadian island province that most elementary students had never heard of and fell in love with the landscape that defined Anne’s adventures.