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。
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。