I’m headed out to Santa Fe, NM, on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief. About a half hour before the 6:45 p.m. departure, the conductor’s call echos through the historic Los Angeles Union Station… “Now boarding, Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, with stops at…”

At the time, I’m wandering around Union Station and head to the track tunnel, where the driver of the cart transporting a couple of seniors way out to Track 11 offers me a ride. No problem!

Also, no taking off my shoes. No emptying out the pockets. No metal detector. No xray machine or puff of air or grumpy TSA people with plastic smiles and rubber gloves. Actually civilized.

The cart drops me right at car 430, one of two sleepers on this trip to Chicago. The attendant (they don’t call them porters any more), lifts my bag into the train and points me up the stairs to my roomette, No. 8.

Why a roomette? Well, it’s an overnight trip and I really don’t want to sit in the chair car all night. The extra $165 gives me a single bed, private compartment and three meals. If I had driven from San Diego, I’d have kept that food and lodging number down, but the gas would have been more. That’s on top of the $59.40 fare from LA to Lamy, NM, which is where the train stops for Santa Fe. Another $20 for the van ride into town.

Southwest Chief at Albuquerque, NM.
Southwest Chief at Albuquerque, NM.

So, let’s see… If I’d gotten the usual gas mileage in the Miata (and, at age 19, it would have made it there and back), gas would have been about $70. Oh, and I would have needed at least a new clutch for the Miata, since it’s about due. So, I guess I saved some money.

Of course, Southwest Airlines flies non-stop from SD to Albuquerque… if I worked the days right, I could probably go for $300 r/t. But I still have to eat and sleep, so I don’t actually lose anything on the train.

Anyhow, other than price, why the train? I wanted to check it out. I was looking for a relaxing week and this sure started it off right.

Something about the train… the ride is very smooth, as smooth as a car, except when we’re going through train yards, junctions, stations, etc. Those times can be quite bouncy. But Superliner cars are two level, with my roomette and most of the seating upstairs.

We leave right on time at 6:45 p.m. Coming up: Leaving LA, a blast at Fullerton, dinner in the diner and moving stars.


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