On Friday morning around 10 a.m., we left Seattle and headed south on the train. The original goal was to stay on the train until late Saturday night, when we were due to arrive in Los Angeles. We planned to be in LA for a night, and then spend a night on the train until we arrived in San Antonio where we were to spend two nights before heading back to Chicago, and eventually home.
Shortly after getting on the train, we discussed whether it was worth modifying the trip. The discussion came about for two reasons:
1. After all the time spent on the train, we were interested in exploring the possibility of a shorter route.
2. We had not made plans on where to stay in LA, and we were concerned about being able to find something in the area by the train station.
With the USA Rail Pass, Amtrak allows changes throughout the trip. The only caveat is that there are enough seats on desired trains, as only a small number of seats on each train are dedicated for use by passengers with a rail pass. We looked at a route map on the train and decided to call Amtrak to inquire as to whether we could switch to the route to Salt Lake City.
Amtrak was able to make it work, with only three minor catches. The first was a stop at Sacramento at 6 a.m. I had never been to Sacramento before, so I didn't see this as a huge issue. The second was that we would arrive at Salt Lake Sunday morning at 3:30 a.m., and the third was that we would have to leave Salt Lake on Wednesday morning, also at 3:30 a.m. We decided to suck up these early morning trips and made the switch.
We spent Friday night on the train and awoke early morning on Saturday for our arrival in Sacramento. The clerk at the baggage counter allowed us to leave our things there for a few hours so we were free to explore California.
Up until this point, I had three experiences with California: two in the LA area and a weekend wedding in San Francisco about 8 years ago. I had never been to Sacramento and really, outside of the fact that it was the capitol of the state, knew relatively little about the city. It's always interesting for me to think about the variety of state capitols in our nation, and how some of them are also the major cities in their state, where as others are relatively small, out of the way places. Of course, there is always a unique story behind the placement of each state capitol.
Sacramento grew as a large railroad town, and as a result it made sense as the capitol for the new state. Today, visitors can visit the railroad museum, as well as Old Sacramento. Although it now looks slightly like a Hollywood set for an Old West movie, Old Sacramento holds a beautiful setting on the river and includes several interesting stores and restaurants.
Like most Western cities, Sacramento is home to a Chinatown. However, it is relatively small and contains far fewer restaurants and shops than counterparts in Potland and Seattle.
The state capitol is located essentially in the middle of the city, and the grounds include several monuments and memorials. Although Sacramento certainly did not have the glitz and glamour of LA, it was certainly easily walkable and accessible.