横越美国大陆CROSSING AMER­ICA BY TRAIN

Why fly and miss all the sights when you can jour­ney across the United States, from coast to coast, west to east, by train?全程5500公里,耗时80小时的铁道之旅,从美国西部的旧金山郊外爱莫莉维尔市穿越美国心脏地带,到达东部的纽约,沿途都是飞行所看不到的壮观美景。

ZbBZ (Singapore) - - IN SIGHT - TEXT & PHO­TOG­RA­PHY SUZANNE SNG TRANS­LA­TION 赵琬仪

The best sleep of my life has al­ways been on trains. The rhyth­mic sway­ing mo­tion, the seam­less scenery scrolling past the win­dows, the com­fort­ing white noise of wheels rattling on the tracks, all con­trib­ute to lull my eyes shut. A slight jolt of the train round­ing a bend roused me awake gently, the light out­side the win­dow blind­ingly white. Rub­bing the sleep from my eyes, I re­alised that while I dozed off, we had started trundling up the Sierra Ne­vada.

Hard to be­lieve that just a cou­ple of hours ago, we had pulled out from Emeryville, in the out­skirts of San Fran­cisco. Mere min­utes af­ter leav­ing the sleepy sta­tion, we were treated to sweep­ing views of San Pablo Bay. The wa­ter was al­most lap­ping at the tracks and, in the dis­tance, the famed San Fran­cisco fog was rolling in. While I napped, the scene on the other side of the glass pane had changed com­pletely. All by my­self, with my nose pressed to the win­dow in the al­most empty train car­riage, I gasped as an un­ex­pected flurry of snowflakes started flut­ter­ing down. For hours, we rolled in al­most to­tal si­lence through a win­ter won­der­land, even though tech­ni­cally, we were al­ready a few days into spring. Not for noth­ing is this re­gion known as the Sierra Ne­vada, or “snow-capped moun­tain range” by the early Span­ish set­tlers. Cer­tain peaks are cov­ered in snow even in the height of sum­mer.

A solo trans-Amer­ica rail trip, with the Golden Gate Bridge at one end and the Statue of Lib­erty at the other, had al­ways been on my bucket list. I had done ex­ten­sive re­search be­fore em­bark­ing on my 5,500km jour­ney, which would cut across a large swath of Amer­ica’s heart­land and take me al­most 80 hours in to­tal.

The long dis­tance did not faze me one bit. My love for leisurely train rides had seen me rattling away in the past for eight days from Bei­jing to Moscow on the Trans-Siberian Rail­way, and sleep­ing on night trains in half a dozen coun­tries in­stead of fly­ing.

While it would have taken me less than six hours by plane from San Fran­cisco to New York, it was pre­cisely the prom­ise of stretch­ing out the trip over sev­eral days which en­ticed me. It was a rare chance to slow down, to truly see the Land of the Free, and to fo­cus on the jour­ney, not the des­ti­na­tion.

The first leg of my trans-Amer­ica jour­ney was on the Cal­i­for­nia Ze­phyr line, which would chug from San Fran­cisco to the windy city of Chicago. From there, I would catch the Lake Shore Lim­ited on­wards to New York. The Cal­i­for­nia Ze­phyr is con­sid­ered one of the most scenic Am­trak routes, but noth­ing in my re­search pre­pared me for the majesty of Amer­ica’s great out­doors.

Shortly af­ter we me­an­dered down from the Sierra Ne­vada, pass­ing by iso­lated towns with names like Win­nemucca and Truc­kee, the land­scape once again changed dra­mat­i­cally. The view of trees laden with snow and placid azure lakes gave way to the bar­ren, sun-bleached desert of Reno, Ne­vada.

Pass­ing the glit­ter­ing casi­nos of the city, we be­gan trundling across the aptly named Forty-Mile Desert, once the dead­li­est sec­tion on the Cal­i­for­nia Em­i­grant Trail in the mid-1800s. Co­cooned in the Sight­seer Lounge cars with its floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows, I was pro­tected from the great heat out­side while I day­dreamed in air-con­di­tioned com­fort. At this point, phone sig­nal and Wi-Fi had com­pletely pe­tered out and, freed of so­cial me­dia dis­trac­tions, I savoured the bril­liant sun­set across an al­most-alien land­scape.

As the sky turned com­pletely dark and the car­riage lights were dimmed, I curled up into a foetal po­si­tion across two seats and slept like a baby. Sleep­ing com­part­ments, or roomettes as Am­trak calls them, are pop­u­lar and were fully booked on the dates I needed, but the coach seats had am­ple legroom and re­clined more com­fort­ably than an econ­omy seat on a plane.

Bright and early the next morn­ing, I was awak­ened by the con­duc­tor’s voice boom­ing over the in­ter­com: “Good morn­ing, good morn­ing, good morn­ing!”

I wan­dered to the din­ing car, where I feasted on omelette, crispy ba­con and grits, as well as spec­tac­u­lar views of Utah that looked like noth­ing on this planet. The Book Cliffs, so named be­cause they look like gi­ant tomes on a shelf, were ex­cep­tion­ally mag­nif­i­cent, stretch­ing on and on for miles along­side the rail­way tracks.

It is no won­der that the pro­duc­ers of ac­claimed sci-fi TV se­ries West­world chose to shoot on lo­ca­tion here, us­ing the nat­u­ral, yet oth­er­worldly, beauty of Utah to stand in for a fu­tur­is­tic Western theme park. As they say in the show when the steam lo­co­mo­tive pulls in: “Wel­come to West­world.”

We spent the morn­ing hours speed­ing through a des­o­late land­scape that has re­mained un­changed since the days of the Wild West. My usu­ally chatty fel­low trav­ellers — most of them Amer­i­cans,

Even though it was al­ready April, the Sierra Ne­vada was still car­peted in snow, mak­ing for a ride through a win­ter won­der­land. 虽然已经是4月,内华达山脉仍见雪峰,仿若冬季童话世界。

The ma­jes­tic Book Cliffs, named be­cause they look like gi­ant tomes on a shelf, stretch for more than 300km from east to west. 雄伟的布克陡崖,因为像书架上的巨型书籍而得名,从东到西延绵超过300公里。

The train from the West Coast de­parts from Emeryville, out­side of San Fran­cisco, and al­most im­me­di­ately, you are treated to views of San Pablo Bay. 火车由旧金山郊外爱莫莉维尔市启航,很快便能看到圣巴勃罗湾的景色。

The Sight­seer Lounge on the Cal­i­for­nia Ze­phyr, widely re­garded as the most scenic train ride in the United States, al­lows for spec­tac­u­lar views of the pass­ing land­scape. 加州微风号列车的观景车厢。它是美国国铁所行驶的路线之中风景最宜人的。

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