Coast Starlight or San Joaquin?

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andersone

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Dec 19, 2013
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I am planning a May 2016 jaunt from GBB to Grand Canyon then on to LAX .. that leg is a no brainer

The next way point is Yosemite and I see two options

one is to bus from LAX to the San Joaquin , putting me in Merced closest to Yosemite

the other is to LAX up to where on the CS ?

I plan on renting a car to visit Yosemite anyway, and the CS seems like a better train journey

After Yosemite getting back to Emeryville to catch the CZ back to Galesburg.

Your opinions are most valued ...
 

Blackwolf

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If you are not going to use the YARTS bus bridge between Merced and Yosemite, I would suggest not doing the San Joaquin.

I you are doing the Coast Starlight up, and then the California Zephyr east, I would recommend making your connection point Sacramento.

Take the CS up, get off at SAC and get a hotel room at one of the nearby lodging establishments (there are several to choose from that are walking-distance from the station; La Quinta, Holiday Inn, Embassy Suites.) Rent a car the next morning and drive to YNP. On your return, arrive back in SAC before 10 AM and then catch the CZ.

(EDIT)

I should explain my reasoning for choosing Sacramento as the transfer point instead of the Bay Area. Cost and traffic. As stated lower down, the rental car facilities that are open when the CS arrives into the Bay Area region are all at airports and not at all rail-traveler-friendly to get access to, both on arrival and when you depart east again. As such, it really is the best bet for both a Bay Area or Sacramento change point to over-night and get the car in the morning.

Bay Area hotels/motels are always going to be more expensive than Sacramento. The rental car rates in Sacramento are likely to be lower too. And lastly, traffic. You are going to be dealing with heavy traffic around any of the Bay Area stations, especially at the time you'll be trying to get back to Emeryville to catch the CZ. And it won't be for just a few miles, but for well over 100 miles if you're coming in from YNP and through the requisite San Joaquin Valley. Sacramento, on the otherhand, has much less traffic and offers more route options in and out of YNP (like taking your time and driving CA Hwy 49 down through Gold Country and then coming in through the Northern Entrance along CA Hwy 120.)

Just food for thought!
 
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chakk

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Hertz used to have a rental booth at the Amtrak station in EMY, but I don't know if it is still there. If it is gone now, you could also take taxi between EMY and Oakland Airport and rent your car at the airport from one of many providers.

Also possible at Sacramento, with best choice of rental cars at Sacramento Airport.
 

roadman3313

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Hertz does not maintain a booth at the Emeryville Amtrak. It is listed as a location but vehicles are booked through the Hertz Local Edition at the Courtyard Marriott a few blocks away. They will pick-up and drop off customers at the Amtrak during their normal operating hours unless there is a staffing issue in which case they generally will reimburse for a taxi fare. Enterprise has a location across the street (adjacent to Subway) from the Emeryville Amtrak. Avis/Budget has a location next door to the Emeryville Amtrak.

Sacramento has a Hertz Local Edition on 16th Street that will pick up and drop off at the Amtrak Station. There is a Hertz courtesy phone inside the Amtrak station (that may or may not work) to call them. Enterprise has a location out that way as well.

I'd suggest taking the CS although the only rental car locations that would be open for a CS arrival from the south would be San Jose International Airport, Oakland International Airport (only if train is on-time), and San Francisco International Airport. The Sacramento International Airport rental car companies would be closed by the time the CS arrived and you made it to the airport.

I'd also vote for taking the CS and overnighting in the Bay Area and renting a car the next morning for the drive. Scenery is much more diverse than the San Joaquin.
 

PaulM

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My reservation about SAC as the transfer point would be the 11:59PM scheduled arrival.
 

Alice

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Add my recommendation for SAC for the reasons Blackwolf stated, unless you have a masochistic desire to experience traffic (or a sadistic desire to laugh at the people who drive it daily). CS from LAX to SAC, walk to nearby motel (I like Vagabond Inn), spend the night, rent car the next morning. Also, Yosemite can be a day trip but it is better overnight.

I don't know what Paul has against the middle-of-the-night arrival, many times I've wandered around that section of town by myself using a wheelchair with no issues.
 
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tomfuller

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My last trip via Amtrak to Yosemite I took the San Joaquin to Fresno and got a taxi to the Fresno Airport (FAT) to rent a car. We went up 41 through Oakhurst. We took the right inside the south gate and saw Mariposa Grove before heading to the valley.

We took the car back to FAT and a taxi back to the Fresno station. We took a morning San Joaquin all the way to Martinez.

If you are taking the CZ the next morning, you can spend the night in Martinez, Davis or Sacramento.
 

Bob Dylan

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I agree with Alice, she really knows the whole area and the Vagabond Inn is a really convienent, reasonable close to the Amtrak Station place to stay in SAC!( Good breakfast buffet included)

Tom's idea is a good one too!
 
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TVRM610

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I've ridden the Coast Starlight and the San Joaquin.. the answer is SO easy as far as scenery. The San Joaquin is a really boring line unless you enjoy agriculture (and some do I'm sure.. lots of fields of soon to be produce).

I've never detrained at Emeryville to compare but I will echo that Sacramento is a nice town as others have said with hotels an easy walk from the train station. I personally stayed at the Holiday Inn and had a very pleasant stay. If you have any extra time the Railroad Museum in Sacramento is well worth your time, it is Smithsonian quality with some really unique displays.
 

rrdude

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I've done both both, the most recent this past January, and that was the LAX to Modesto (Could have been Merced, I just chose Modesto, flip of the coin) Then overnight, Enterprise car rental, with a $25 OW drop off on my return to Oakland Int. Airport)

In retrospect, I WAY MORE enjoyed the Coast Starlight (have ridden several X) route from LAX up to San Jose. Cheap hotel in San Jose, then Enterprise rental the next day, drove to Yosemite, and same deal, return to Oakland Int. Airport.

While the San Joaquin filled in some "last gaps" on my Amtrak route map, I cannot recommend it for scenery vs. CS. (obviously) It was interesting to me how many people use the San Joquins. Just goes to show what FREQUENCY will do to a route's ridership.

So, when I got to Yosemite again, from LAX, it will be a no brainer for me, back to the Coast Starlight.
 

andersone

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Thanks for the wonderful suggestions,,,, I will have to burn a night in Flagstaff and one in Sacramento as I think I can make it there by 10 am to make the eastbound CZ. Way better than the bay noise,,, wish I had time to stop and see San Simeone again but we are right at two weeks as it.

Your input made a big difference.
 

Alice

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On a tight schedule, you might find your best bet is to get a one-way car rental from Los Angeles to Sacramento despite the outrageous extra cost.

Day 1, drive to Sequoia NP for the day, leave after dark and drive to Oakhurst. (Tom Fuller's route)

Day 2 drive into Yosemite via the south entrance, CA-41. Slow down for the Wawona, walk out through the Mariposa Grove, take photos at the Tunnel Overlook, walk up to Bridleveil Falls far enough to feel it, then park your car in the valley and walk, doesn't matter where, Yosemite Falls, Mirror Lake, and Mist Trail are the classics. At sunset, you want to be on the Sentinel Bridge watching the colors change on Half Dome with its reflection in a wide spot of the river. After dark, take in a ranger talk, have coffee or a drink by the fireplace at the Ahwahnee (maybe even a very special meal if you have dressy enough clothes), and spend the night at Yosemite Lodge or any of the Camp Curry options (I'm partial to Stoneman Cottage).

Day 3, take in a longer hike, maybe drive out Tioga Road some if it is open, and Glacier Point for sure if it is open. (Do you ski? If so, you can't beat the scenery from Glacier Point.) Exit through Arch Rock through Mariposa and drive to Sacramento, again, don't waste daylight on the San Joaquin Valley.

This schedule is easy to shorten to two days by removing things, or adapt to starting and ending at the same place.

As to San Simeon, you are right, that is a different trip. Sometime do a road trip and drive Highway 1 between SoCal and the rain forest in Olympic NP in Washington. The entire coast is spectacular but every part is different, doing the whole thing in one trip really shows it all off nicely.
 

andersone

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Dec 19, 2013
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Thanks for the wonderful suggestions about YNP activities. Between She Who Must Be Obeyed's ankle issues and my trachea breathing limitations,, "hiking" for us is limited to 1-2 miles on a flat surface. on a nice day with full water bottles. A pleasant breeze is a plus. I have a passion for photography to the point I actually have a bag for two tripods, two folding chairs and a spotting scope for SHMBO (she likes looking for critters). Our pans is to have three days and two nights in he park, and will be on the phone in April to get rooms at the Ahwhanee the following May.
 
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