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Snapshot: News-Sentinel readers rate their vacations Lodi to New York aboard Amtrak

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Posted: Friday, December 23, 2011 7:37 am

Who: Lap and Yee Wong, of Lodi.

The trip: Amtrak to New York.

Highlights: Climb aboard Amtrak for a getaway from Sacramento to Chicago and New York.

The rail travels on the California Zephyr Route, which offers riders unattainable picture-postcard views of American landscapes: Donner Pass, High Sierra, Utah desert, Grand Junction,  Glenwood and Byers Canyons, Continental Divide, the 9,000-feet high Fraser-Winter Park, Moffat Tunnel, the Rocky Mountains, “Mile-High City” of Denver and Midwest’s Windy City.  Soak up the charm of the sightseeing lounge with its upper-level wraparound windows and comfortable seating.

After riding for 52 hours, arrive in Chicago, where you can revel in the 1925 Chicago Union Station that has a 20,000 square-foot Grand Hall lined with a high atrium ceiling, a vaulted skylight, marble floors, Corinthian columns, balconies and statuary.

Step outside the station from Jackson Street. Catch a glimpse from the 103rd floor sky deck of the Sears Tower (Willis Tower); overlooking downtown is freakishly awesome.

Leaving Chicago, the Lake Shore Limited Route is  crammed with spectacular Lake Erie views, from Cleveland to Buffalo. Look carefully, you may even see the reflection of the train mirrored in a clear lake as you round a curve. See glacial hanging valleys, steep river tributaries, waterfalls and countless plant life varieties.

It seemed 21 hours later, Amtrak made its final stop at 33rd Street New York Pennsylvania Station. This landmark also navigates the city from its most centrally accessible point. Across the Madison Square Garden, the Empire State Building titillates one’s spirits. After check-in, explore Broadway; I was enthused to see the bustle of Times Square with my cousin. Then, take the subway to Chinatown.

On the next morning, we visited with my 92-year-old aunt at New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens.

Amtrak celebrated its 40th anniversary on May 7 at Union Station. This milestone echoed the history of continued dedicated, loyalty and pride demonstrated by Amtrak employee’s every day in providing vital intercity rail service to the nation. The celebration provided live performances, interactive and educational exhibits and kids’ activities. No tour is complete without posing for a picture with a large United States flag.

History played a roll as far back as May 10, 1869, in Promontory Summit, Utah, when the “golden Spike” became the final tie that joined 1,776 miles of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railways. It transformed America by creating the nation’s transcontinental railroad, bringing thousands of pioneers west in search of their fortunes. Today, National Train Day commemorates 142 years of connecting travelers coast to coast.

The whole trip lasted only seven days. The Amtrak made 48 stops through 10 states one way, packed with 6,000 miles of roundtrip adventure.

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