I traveled alone on Amtrak’s Texas Eagle and took the eight hour route from San Antonio to Alpine.
My seat in the $47 coach class was comfortable, but I wish I had brought my own blanket and pillow.
The train had impressive gourmet meals and showers, but those were not available to coach travelers.
For $47 I traveled from San Antonio to Alpine on Amtrak’s Texas Eagle.
It takes me about five hours to drive from my home in San Antonio to Alpine, a small town in West Texas near Big Bend National Park.
I was in no great rush on my most recent trip to the popular adventure travel destination, so I left my car at home and bought a $47 ticket for Amtrak’s Texas Eagle, which runs between Chicago and San Antonio.
The coach class seats were very comfortable but I wish I had brought my own pillow and blanket.
My coach class seat on the Texas Eagle was large and comfortable.
There were no center seats in the section and each seat could recline and had its own outlet. In comparison, driving Texas Eagle’s coach class was like flying business class.
However, I wish I had brought a blanket and neck pillow.
Since my train was leaving San Antonio in the wee hours, I wanted to get some sleep once I was on board. Unfortunately, Amtrak does not supply blankets or pillows to bus passengers, so I had to make do with my jacket.
Amtrak trains offer impressive amenities but were not available to bus passengers.
On the Texas Eagle, passengers who booked sleeping cars could eat in the dining car, with the option to order gourmet meals from the Traditional Dining menu. It featured omelets, steaks, crab cakes and more. In addition, the food was included in their ticket cost.
I was on the bus, so I ate at the Amtrak Café, which is open to all passengers. Similar to a snack bar or concession stand, the cafe sells hot dishes and snacks.
Passengers in higher category rooms also had access to showers, some of which were private. Because my trip was relatively short, I didn’t have to shower on board.
The observation car was the best part of the train journey.
The Texas Eagle is a superliner train, meaning it has two levels. The observation car was on the top floor and had floor-to-ceiling windows that offered fantastic views of the passing landscape.
I hung out in the observation car during the very early morning hours and watched the sun rise over the desert. The whole train seemed to be at about half capacity, and I had the observation car almost to myself until about 7am
Other passengers were friendly and curious about my journey.
When flying alone, I avoid eye contact and wear headphones to indicate that I am not interested in talking to other passengers. Riding the Texas Eagle felt different and I found myself wanting to be more social.
Most of the other passengers I met were couples in their 70s traveling around the country together. A man told me that he and his wife preferred to travel by train because they had a fear of flying. The two retirees also enjoyed the slower pace of train travel.
Although my trip was short, I felt a sense of camaraderie with the other riders, who were excited to share their best train journey hacks.
The train ride was bumpier than expected, and all the movement took some getting used to.
The train journey was bumpier than expected. At some points, it felt like a cross between airplane turbulence and the side-by-side motion you feel on a boat cruising through rough water.
Luckily I don’t get motion sickness and found the movement soothing once I got used to it. But I could see it being a nuisance for riders prone to nausea.
There was no WiFi on board and I didn’t have a cell phone for half the trip.
I was expecting the train cars to have wifi so the lack of internet connection came as a surprise. Most of the route took us through remote areas of Texas, so I also had no cell service about half of my drive.
The lack of wifi did not hinder my experience on this particular trip. However, I would probably find it more frustrating taking a longer ride or traveling during the day.
In the future, I will make sure to download movies or e-books ahead of time.
Next time I travel to Alpine I will keep driving.
While I’m glad I did my solo train ride from San Antonio to Alpine, it was a one-time experience for me. Next time I will ride which I find the easier and faster option. Plus, I don’t have to leave in the middle of the night.
I’d consider taking a nice long train ride if traveling with a partner, but wouldn’t want to spend more than 10 to 12 hours on the bus.
Amtrak does offer ticket deals and specials for sleeping car fares, but the higher-tier accommodations I’ve scouted so far are significantly more expensive. Based on searches on Amtrak’s website, the rooms run from about $230 to about $640, which is more expensive than some flights.
It helps to book train rides as far in advance as possible. I paid $47 for my bus ticket, but if I booked the route from San Antonio to the Alpine route two or more weeks in advance, the price would be as low as $34.
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