Whistle Stop: Introduction

In about a week, I will be embarking on a solo five-week-long transcontinental train journey that will take me through eighteen states, following historic routes first explored by Lewis and Clark, carved out by the earliest railroad tycoons, and traversed by presidential candidates in the days of whistle-stop train campaigns (which inspired this blog series’ name). If all goes well, I will visit five national parks and eight major cities; stop at both ends of the Oregon Trail (and relive my elementary school glory days); straddle the Continental Divide; and sleep on the floor of the Grand Canyon — and this is just the stuff I’m planning to do. I’ll be documenting my travels here on Stone Soup so that I can keep track of cool things I learn during my trip (I expect to learn a lot about U.S. history and rocks, for one thing), the people I meet, and also to provide useful travel information to those interested in riding the rails themselves.

In preparation for my trip, I’ve purchased an Amtrak USA Rail Pass for $829, which will cover all of my travel. The pass is good for 45 days and covers 18 segments of travel (a segment is defined as any time you get on and then get off an Amtrak vehicle, regardless of length). Note: USA Rail Passes are also available for shorter journeys: 15-day/8-segment ($429) and 30-day/12-segment ($649). For lodgings, I hope to couch-surf or live in hostels as much as possible. I plan to pack light, and my four most prized possessions/travel companions will be Hobbes, my laptop, a Kindle, and my camera (a recently purchased Canon Powershot S95 — one of my goals is to finally learn how aperture, ISO, and shutter speed interact with each other on this trip).

That’s all for now. Next time: a basic overview of the route I’m taking and why I decided to see America by train. I’m so excited!


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