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Thread: Empire Builder and Aeronaut on a Cross-Country Train Trip

  1. #1
    Registered User ChrisG's Avatar
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    Empire Builder and Aeronaut on a Cross-Country Train Trip

    As promised, here's a review and some pictures from my recent cross-country train trip using my new Empire Builder and Aeronaut.

    My daughter and I rode Amtrak's California Zephyr from Emeryville, CA (across the Bay from San Francisco) to Omaha, NE. Well, technically we rode it past Omaha to Creston, IA because the Omaha station was closed due to the flooding on the Missouri River.

    I received my new bags a few days before the trip. The EB is my new EDC bag for work, but the Aeronaut was pretty much purchased because of this trip.

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    Bags packed and ready to go at the Emeryville station

    For those who haven't traveled by rail before, room on-board is pretty limited. This was my first trip more than a couple hours, but I did a fair amount of research on what to expect. Amtrak's website is actually pretty good, with virtual tours of the different room types, as well as other travel tips.

    I ended up packing all of my daughter's and my clothes in the Aeronaut for use on-board, with various other things (electronics, snacks, etc.) in the EB. We also checked-through a large bag for my daughter as she'll be spending 3 weeks with her grandparents in Indiana.

    As you can see, I used the backpack straps on the Aeronaut. This allowed me to more easily navigate the narrow sleeper car halls and keep a hand free to help my daughter.

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    Roomette view

    Because it was just the two of us, we reserved one of the sleeper car roomettes. These are the smallest of the three different sleeper car bedrooms, and are essentially a 3'6" by 6'6" compartment with two seats facing each other. The seats fold down into a bed, and there's a drop-down bed above as well. Especially in the sleeping configuration, there is very little room. The picture above shows the full-width of the room, and you can see the EB next to my daughter's seat.

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    EB next to my daughter's seat

    The EB sat next to my daughter's seat on the stairs for the upper bunk. All the rail travel sites recommend this as the best place for luggage in the roomettes. Surprisingly, the roomettes on Superliner trains have no designated in-room luggage storage. There is a communal luggage storage area on the first floor of the sleeper cars, but since we were on the second level, we'd have had to run down every time we wanted something. Putting the EB on the step worked well. At night, I was able to set it at the end of my daughter's bunk since she didn't take up the whole length, though it would have been more problematic with another adult (it could sit on the steps, but would have to be moved for accessing the upper bunk).

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    Aeronaut next to my seat

    I sat in the rear-facing seat, which has a small clothes-hanging area with a narrow pocket beneath. Due to the narrowness of this, it made a decent shelf for the Aeronaut. In fact, it was the perfect width. I was able to leave the bag there pretty much the entire trip without it tipping over at all, and it added a bit of padding for me to lean against. It even stayed in place at night when the seats were folded down.

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    My daughter and me

    All in all, we had a great time, and the new bags definitely made the travel process easier. I was very impressed with the Aeronaut as a travel bag. Since I flew home after leaving my daughter with her grandparents, I was able to test them out via air as well, though I don't have any pictures. Both my flights home were on Canadair regional jets, and the Aeronaut fit perfectly in the overhead bin, with the EB under the seat. I tried the Aeronaut with both the backpack straps and the shoulder strap. By itself, the shoulder strap was a comfortable and easy way to carry the bag, but with the second bag, it was hard to balance one on each shoulder and the backpack straps were definitely the way to go. On future trips, I'll hopefully be able to just take the Aeronaut and not worry about a second bag, but it's a good option to have.
    Last edited by ChrisG; 06-22-2011 at 07:04 PM. Reason: minor typos

  2. #2
    Registered User dorayme's Avatar
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    Thank you Chris for sharing the pictures and descriptions of the roomette. Sounds like you had a very enjoyable trip with your adorable daughter and your TB bags made it all the better!
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  3. #3
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    thanks for sharing your experiences, ChrisG! reading your story and seeing the pictures, i feel like i was there!!

  4. #4
    Registered User Lani's Avatar
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    Thanks for your trip report, Chris! Sounds like the bags worked out great!

    By the way you mention toward the end of your piece that you might try to go with just an Aeronaut next time. One trick that works really well for me is to use the Packing Cubes as part of my packing system... so if I need a second (smaller) bag, I can use either the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag or the Packing Cube Backpack. That way you have a lot of options; if you want to just go with the Aeronaut, that works, but if you want a second bag, you use the Packing Cube.
    dorayme likes this.
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    I've always wanted to take that trip through the Rockies....you've given me incentive.
    Editor--One Bag, One World: News, Reviews & Community for Light Travelers. http://www.1bag1world.com

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    Registered User Maria's Avatar
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    Great descriptions, and lovely pictures with your daughter! What a wonderful way to see the country - and great memories for your daughter too.

    And that navy Aeronaut - oh it looks very very nice indeed!

  7. #7
    Registered User ChrisG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lani View Post
    Thanks for your trip report, Chris! Sounds like the bags worked out great!

    By the way you mention toward the end of your piece that you might try to go with just an Aeronaut next time. One trick that works really well for me is to use the Packing Cubes as part of my packing system... so if I need a second (smaller) bag, I can use either the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag or the Packing Cube Backpack. That way you have a lot of options; if you want to just go with the Aeronaut, that works, but if you want a second bag, you use the Packing Cube.
    I actually planned on ordering packing cubes to go with the Aeronaut, but they're currently back-ordered until the end of June, so I decided to hold off and try the bag on it's own for this trip (and give the credit card a bit of a break). I'll probably pickup the cubes next month.

  8. #8
    Registered User ChrisG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank II View Post
    I've always wanted to take that trip through the Rockies....you've given me incentive.
    The Rockies were amazing and I'd definitely recommend the trip. I was told the California Zephyr is one of the best sight-seeing trains in the country, and it certainly lives up to that reputation. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for you all) you can only add 5 photos per post, but I took close to 400 photos on the train alone.

    The other trip I want to do sometime is my new bag's namesake: the Empire Builder (which goes between Seattle and Chicago through Glacier National Park).

  9. #9
    Registered User ChrisG's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone! Glad you liked the photos and the review. Apparently someone else liked it because I just noticed its up in the blog too! Feel pretty honored by that.

    And, being the proud dad that I am, thank you for the comments on my daughter. She's 7 and pretty darn precocious and cute (but I may just be a tad biased there).

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    Glacier? I didn't know that the the Empire Builder (which goes between Seattle and Chicago went through Glacier National Park).

    One day, If you see a very quiet nice man carrying loads of TB bags or playing on his portable device and it's very exited purple and Tom Bihn bags carrying and yapping about wife, it will be me and my lovely husband.

    A great way to see a lovely site without all the driving! Thanks for sharing Chris G!

    We do love the pictures! Would you mind sharing some of Tom Bihn flicker's site.

    7 and pretty darn precocious and cute, no, no you are not biased about your daughter! She is a cutie!
    Last edited by backpack; 06-22-2011 at 09:02 PM.

  11. #11
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    I'll say this: you were lucky to order your Aeronaut in Indigo when you did. Indigo isn't available anymore; a shame.
    Owner of: Super Ego briefcase (Black / Indigo / Steel) with Reflective Strip, Brain Cell (Steel), Horizontal Freudian Slip, various Organizer Pouches and Key Straps, and a Side Effect (Black / Wassabi) worn as a belt-style hip-pack.

  12. #12
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    Thanks for the info on your trip. My wife and I are planning to take the Empire Builder route this fall from Seattle to Chicago. My Tri-Star will definitely be on board but I imagine I'll have to take some additional luggage as well since we planning on being in the Midwest for a month or so.


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