Best stopovers on the CZ -- and other CZ questions

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Joined
Jun 12, 2009
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Twenty years ago, when I was in college, I rode Amtrak and Via Rail extensively on two North American Rail Passes (one winter, one summer). I never rode the California Zephyr through the Rockies, though, and I have always regretted it. I have the opportunity to do so this summer and, despite COVID, I am hoping to book a Capitol Limited - CA Zephyr - Coast Starlight (Or San Joaquins) trip from Newark to visit my family in San Diego.

I've been asking around here and on Reddit about capacity in the coaches, and I'm going to hope for the best that passengers remain well spaced out and that there will be some room for me in the observation car. Is there any evidence to suggest that anyone has caught the virus while traveling on Amtrak? I would take every precaution short of spending lots on a roomette.

I'd like to do a stopover in Denver, and I'm thinking of perhaps one or two more stops along the way. Any recommendations? I'd be interested in a high altitude place (for lower temps), large enough that I can stay in a hotel, maybe visit a brewery, rent a bike, etc, but small enough to see some natural scenery and a starry night sky (I live in NYC and haven't seen a really starry sky in years). Open to any suggestions.

Finally, for the ride from the Bay Area to San Diego, I'd likely take the Coast Starlight (done twice before) ... though there's a small part of me that is interested in the San Joaquins (done once before, in the wee hours of the morning). I know the scenery is likely dull, and there's a dreaded bus involved, but I'm curious to see the Central Valley, and I appreciate the more flexible schedule. Then again, I know I can't go wrong with the Coast Starlight. Any thoughts?

If COVID turns apocalyptic, I might push to September. But I'm really eager to book this for the end of July.

Thanks for any advice you may have!
 
Joined
Jun 12, 2009
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You do realize there is no same day connection between the CZ and CS, there may be to the SJ. So you would need to stay between SAC and EMY overnight.
Yes, thank you! ... and the Amtrak app won't even offer it as one route. I have some friends in the Bay Area I may try to visit while I'm there.
 
Joined
Jun 12, 2009
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Ditto Glenwood Springs. Awesome little town, meets your criteria. Unless you want a big city, skip Denver and stop here.
Thank you, thank you, thank for the suggestions. Glenwood Springs was high on the list. On Google Maps at least, it looks beautiful.

Good point re Denver. I have cousins there whom I thought I would visit, but they are suuuuper cautious about COVID. So if they're not up for a visit, I may skip altogether.
 

Palmland

OBS Chief
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May 25, 2006
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815
Absolutely agree about Glenwood Springs. Enjoy the hot springs there and recover from your coach experience.

Then, for the real Rocky Mountain experience, rent a car from Enterprise and take the great circle trip. From Glenwood Springs take the scenic back road route to the spectacular mountain town of Estes Park via Grand Lake and Trail Ridge Road (awesome scenery with a Visitor Center in the National Park at the summit at 12,000 ft). About 4 Hours if no stops but plan on a full day.

Spend a night in Estes then return by another back road drive down the front range to I-70 near Idaho Springs for the return to Glenwood Springs. Denver is just another big city with lots of traffic. But check out the station as you pass through.
 
Joined
Jun 12, 2009
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Thank you again for all the advice! I think I’ve eliminated Denver. I can do three overnights, and just narrowing down to Glenwood Springs, Fraser-Winter Park and Truckee (I might nix one of the latter two in favor of two nights in Glenwood Springs).
 
Joined
Jun 12, 2009
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Thanks! So, I'm thinking one night in Fraser/Winter Park, two in Glenwood Springs, and I may skip Truckee.

Now the question is: Am I insane or irresponsible for doing this, given the news about COVID?
 

gregoryla

Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 4, 2009
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144
Glenwood Springs is a definite "yes", but I suggest you reconsider eliminating Truckee. It is a charming old town that has quite a bit to do, including renting a car for a drive to Lake Tahoe. One thing I don't know is about the availability of hotel accommodations in Truckee itself, though there are plenty of choices in Tahoe City, Incline Village and other towns around Lake Tahoe.
 

Bob Dylan

Conductor
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May 31, 2009
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Thanks! So, I'm thinking one night in Fraser/Winter Park, two in Glenwood Springs, and I may skip Truckee.

Now the question is: Am I insane or irresponsible for doing this, given the news about COVID?
I'd skip Fraser/Winter Park and do 2 in Glenwood Springs and 1 in Truckee!
 

Willbridge

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
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360
You do realize there is no same day connection between the CZ and CS, there may be to the SJ. So you would need to stay between SAC and EMY overnight.
If one chooses to do that, I'd recommend Davis, especially eastbound. There's good food, music, unique shops and at least one good hotel within walk and roll distance from the station. Westbound has a somewhat early departure, so it depends on being an early morning person or not.
 

BoulderCO

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 26, 2015
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128
I'd skip Fraser/Winter Park and do 2 in Glenwood Springs and 1 in Truckee!
I agree - and I live in Colorado!

If it were winter and you were into winter sports, I'd suggest Winter Park. But in the summer, Truckee has much more to offer than WP. Glenwood Springs is a solid choice for 2 nights. You could even take the convenient regional bus up to Aspen for part of a day. Aspen is awesome in the summer!!!!
 

chakk

Conductor
Joined
May 26, 2011
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2,555
There are hotels at Truckee. And there is regular bus service between Truckee and the north shore of Lake Tahoe, with stops at Squaw Valley and other points along the route. Glenwood Springs and Truckee would be excellent choices for enroute stopovers on the CZ between Chicago and Emeryville.

And overnighting at Davis instead of Emeryville will be a better choice for connecting between the CZ and the CS.
 
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