A day in Denver

Even though the California Zephyr train (train log here) goes from San Francisco to Chicago, we got off in Denver for a night and day before flying back to San Francisco (last Friday). The train arrived 3 hours late so we had dinner on the train and got in well after dark, went straight to our hotel to bed. We were outside enough to feel that it was very nippy compared to San Francisco – about 8 degrees! But we’d been prepared for that as a nighttime temperature.

When we woke up the next morning, I was feeling rather drugged thanks to sleeping very heavily after not really sleeping on the train so I was a bit befuddled when The Mister lying next to me held up his cell phone and said “have you seen those little sparkly things on the weather app before? What is that?” and I screeched “That’s snow!!!!”, leaped out of bed, yanked back the curtains and squealed  “SNOW”! Not much, but it was real snow!

Snow when we woke up in Denver!

Now then, we didn’t have anything to wear in such weather! I’d checked 3 days earlier before we’d left San Francisco and it was forecast to be 15 or 16 – not 3!!

However, we rugged up in what we had (we did pack scarves and I had gloves) and left the parents-in-law enjoying the hotel buffet while we braved the cold and bus to head 20 minutes out of the downtown area to find decent coffee and a croissant for breakfast. My god it was bitter, although bearable if you could walk in a patch of sun. A guy we shared a table with at breakfast said it was the first sprinkling of snow for the season and was unseasonably early – usually the last day of October was when the first snow fell. So we’d come from a heat wave in San Francisco to a cold wave in Denver!

Bus stop Denver

We spend the middle of the day wandering along the city mall and around Larimar Square braving the cold as much as we could – it was slightly better after an emergency coat purchase stop. The temperature got up to 4.4 degrees – 40 degrees Fahrenheit!

Denver mall

Larimer Square Denver

Cold in Denver

After warming up with a soup and sandwich we headed over the bridge and through the park at the end of the mall to get to more good coffee, hoping it would be a warm cafe we could hang around in for a couple of hours before heading back to the hotel for our bags and transport to the airport – it was, and that’s what we did. On the walk over the bridge we discovered snow still lying about!

Snow in Denver


To use up some time after coffee before we needed to get to the airport we rode from one end of the mall to the other and half way back on the free mall bus – a great service and I can imagine they’d need it in the winter – it stops frequently on the single mall street so that you can come out of your office building, dash onto the bus, ride a couple of stops and dash back out into a shop or cafe or chemist or train station – barely needing to go outside!

So not a very adventurous day in Denver but despite the cold we walked from one side of our hotel map to the other – the route largely determined by coffee but that’s us!

Denver travels

California Zephyr – train log

7.35am Arrived to an Amtrack signpost on the sidewalk outside the Ferry Building, sweating (the heat is still hanging around the city) from rushing with our cabin bags and coats, expecting it to be cooler in Denver. Amtrack bus pulled up just as we did. It was with some disgust I left my beautiful orange cabin bag on the side walk to be hurled under the bus for the first leg of the trip, bus ride to the Amtrack station in Emeryville.

7.45am Bus is filling up, I realize we might not’ve brought the right train clothes, is a felt hat really necessary for the dining car?

floppy train hat

Wondering now if Amtrack will in fact be like the Orient Express … also, we’re the youngest on the bus so far.

8.10am Arrive Emeryville Amtrack station where I find out it’s another hour wait until the train leaves! Railway waiting room mm-mmm. Absolutely stunning view of San Francisco, the bay, Ferry Building, Alcatraz and a little bit of the Golden Gate bridge from the bus going over the Bay Bridge. AmtrackConnect poster in the waiting room advertising wi-fi on board other train services, but not the Zephyr. Thank goodness we brought the mi-fi.

8.50am Met the very cheerful conductor who knew who we were by the time we got to him – looking on his list I think he figured, young couple with greyer-haired couple following, heading to car 31 – must be the Walker family!

All aboard the Zephyr

9.10am Thought I was fainting standing there looking into my phone but it was the training creeping into motion while I was facing the wrong way! Sat down to look out the window. Room is not too bad – pokey and The Mister will have to pick up after himself and learn where everything goes!

Our room

9.20am Mi-fi success! Yaaay we have our own in-room internet! Devices all connected. How long will it last? C’mon AT&T 4G keep on working right into the mountains.

9.30am Arrrrgh, wondering if I can cope with 36 hours of this, I’m sure I’m feeling motion sick. Wandered down through the dining car to the observation car and sat sideways looking at the view for a while.

Dining car

Realized we were passing through Hercules and thought of Eileen so tweeted her to see if the baby was on his way.

10.10am Out the window yellow California desert.

California desert

Morning tea time! Out comes the travel coffee kit and precious Supreme beans recent visitors have couriered across for us. Hunted down Johnny the purser for some hot water “for a cup of tea” – turns out there’s an urn in the dining car so I know where it is for next time. Set up a coffee making station on the table.

Morning tea on the Zephyr

How the simple things make my heart swell – sounds naff but I was SO excited sitting there grinding the coffee, moving the cups and packets of sugar around to make us a morning tea.

Morning tea on the Zephyr

News that the baby is not yet coming. Computer time.

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