Home News Here’s why you should be riding Amtrak between SF and Tahoe

Here’s why you should be riding Amtrak between SF and Tahoe

by Marjorie

In planning a latest weekend journey to Tahoe, I noticed I had a trip there however no trip again to the Bay Space, and I panicked.

I don’t personal a automobile, so I’m no stranger to utilizing the likes of Getaround and Gig Automobile Share for fast journeys. However a little bit of analysis into Tahoe rental automobile choices yielded sky excessive costs and restricted choices.

Perhaps I’d fly? However then, I believed, I’d need to rope my pal into driving me 45 minutes from King’s Seashore to the airport in Reno. Plus, tickets weren’t low cost.

So I landed on one other, much less imposing, more cost effective possibility: I made a decision to take Amtrak from Truckee to Oakland’s Jack London Sq.. I pictured myself stress-free with a cup of tea and a guide whereas picturesque mountain views zipped by. All of it sounded very European. Sure, after all — I might take the prepare.

The value is true

If there’s one clear promoting level for taking Amtrak between the Bay Space and Tahoe, it’s this: It’s fairly darn low cost — no less than proper now. One-way tickets are between $49 and $61, which is considerably extra stomachable than the $200 or extra I might have spent on a rental automobile or on an inconvenient flight from Reno to Oakland.

Keen to save lots of a buck after an costly, action-packed, post-vaccine summer time, the worth made Amtrak a no brainer.

The time dedication

When you’ve determined to take Amtrak, you’ve gotten two choices:

The California Zephyr travels from Truckee to Emeryville in 6 hours and 33 minutes, although it’s affordable to imagine the precise time varies past what that to-the-minute time suggests.

The second possibility is what’s referred to as a “blended service,” which begins as a three-hour bus trip from Truckee to Sacramento, then transfers to the Capitol Hall route, a commuter service with stops in Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and extra all the best way to San Jose. To get to my Jack London Sq. vacation spot, that prepare trip would take simply over 5 hours, a not insignificant time financial savings.

For these touring to San Francisco through Amtrak, there’s a connecting bus from the Emeryville station to town, which provides one other 30 to 45 minutes to your journey’s size.

Whereas the Zephyr is understood for being extremely picturesque, I opted for the shorter, blended service possibility. I used to be impatient to get house, it was $10 cheaper, and it will additionally drop me off proper in Oakland as an alternative of Emeryville.

The morning of my journey, I checked Google Maps to see how Amtrak in comparison with driving. At 8:30 a.m. on a Monday, Google estimated it will take 2 hours and 53 minutes, not together with stops, to drive from Truckee to Oakland. My prepare journey would take almost twice as lengthy. Good factor I introduced a guide.

The journey begins

After I requested my pal to drive me from Kings Seashore to the Truckee Amtrak station at 8 a.m., she groaned out loud. However that’s the factor about Amtrak — there’s not a number of flexibility in what time you allow. My trip was at 8:25 a.m. sharp (or 9:30 a.m. if I opted for the Zephyr) or I used to be out of luck. There was just one prepare (or bus) every day.

On the station, there was just one different one who appeared to be ready for the bus, a younger lady near my age who requested whether or not she was in the appropriate place. The bus pulled up on time, the motive force scanned the QR code ticket on my cellphone, and seconds after I discovered my seat, we had been off. It was easy.

The bus expertise

I’ll admit it: I didn’t have excessive expectations for the bus portion of my journey. However my seat was comfortable sufficient, the medium-full bus was fully quiet, the AC was excellent, and catching a closing glimpse of the peaceable tree-lined lake lulled me proper to sleep, exhausted after an evening of sharing a room with a snorer. The flexibility to make amends for sleep as an alternative of white-knuckling it in interstate site visitors for 3 hours — that’s one level for you, Amtrak.

After I wakened, we had been in Colfax, the place I used to be dismayed to study we might keep for 25 whole minutes. However I used the prolonged cease to discover a public restroom, permitting me to keep away from no matter mysteries the on-bus rest room held (I didn’t care to search out out), and to scarf down a slice of leftover pizza I’d stashed in my backpack and to glug some orange juice I purchased at a close-by liquor retailer.

At first, I believed it’d be good to only wait outdoors for a bit and take a break from sporting a masks for 5 hours straight. (Amtrak passengers are required to put on a masks, though it was undoubtedly not enforced on my bus — the bus driver himself wasn’t sporting one.) But it surely was so scorching within the foothills I shortly retreated to the air-conditioned consolation of the bus.

As soon as we obtained again on the highway, the stops began to really feel tedious, the bus started to replenish, and strangers chatting with one another saved me from falling again asleep. I’d forgotten to pack headphones, however no less than I may entertain myself by eavesdropping — the 2 passengers in entrance of me talked concerning the execs and cons of taking Amtrak; a girl behind me poured her coronary heart out to a stranger about her plans to maneuver throughout the nation.

The prepare trip from Sacramento to the Bay Space is sort of serene.

Getty Pictures

Prepare time

Pulling into the Sacramento Valley Station, I observed the bus driver’s lacking masks had magically appeared on his face. I had 20 minutes till my prepare was scheduled to go away, so I ordered a sandwich inside the attractive, lately renovated station.

This was the half I used to be enthusiastic about, when my fantasy of stress-free serenely with a guide whereas whizzing by prepare by an impressive panorama would lastly come true.

And it did. This portion of my journey was solely about an hour and a half lengthy, and it zoomed proper by. I had an entire desk to myself on the highest degree of the double-decker prepare, the right vantage level to admire the views. I discovered a brand new appreciation for the Sacramento skyline as we glided over the Sacramento River, and took a break from studying to absorb the water views over the Benicia-Martinez Bridge.

Everybody — passengers and prepare crew alike — had been good about masking on the prepare, too.

Within the cafe automobile, the menu was out there through scanned QR code, with an honest collection of meals and snacks. I used to be glad, although, that I’d opted to purchase a freshly made sandwich in Sacramento relatively than taking my probabilities with a possible microwaved bean burrito. As an alternative, I ordered a tea and shuffled again to my seat.

The prepare had each electrical retailers and Wi-Fi (whereas the bus lacked Wi-Fi) and loads of room to unfold out. I may have labored if I’d been so inclined, however I settled into my guide as an alternative. Very quickly, we had been in Oakland.

For the unhurried traveler, Amtrak is the best way to go

In comparison with the anxious journey on the best way to Tahoe, once I drove with my pal and needed to make an impromptu cease on the Honda of Davis, Amtrak was a breeze. I didn’t have to fret about site visitors, automobile troubles, fuel or conserving my eyes on the highway. I may sleep and browse and eat to my coronary heart’s content material.

Nonetheless, the site visitors wasn’t significantly unhealthy on the day of my journey, so driving would undoubtedly have been quicker (however contemplating how notoriously unhealthy Tahoe site visitors is as of late, that’s definitely not at all times the case). That stated, our drive up, which included the aforementioned Honda of Davis tour and a cease at Ikeda’s in Auburn for fruit and marionberry pie, was solely an hour shorter.

The bus switch, whereas not terrible, wasn’t particularly nice, so subsequent time, I would strive the California Zephyr with its famously breathtaking views.

Whereas public transportation in Truckee just isn’t ideally suited, if in case you have a method of getting round as soon as there, taking the scenic and leisurely Amtrak is definitely worth the time. Simply make certain to convey a guide.

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