Part 4 - The ultimate imagined NFL tour by rail
Updated: May 21, 2020
Wednesday 9th October
An early start this morning; a short hop back up the East side of the Bay Area on the 06:42 Capitol Corridor train to Emeryville, arrive at 07:51, then catch the 09:10 California Zephyr to Denver. This is another one of the really big train trips of the tour; back over the Rockies to Denver. I have put a link of the whole of the California Zephyr here from the San Francisco area to Chicago, although apologies I think this video shows it running the other way, i.e. from Chicago West. There are probably some routes that are best done East to West and some West to East to give the best views in daylight. You might also like to think of the time of year you go, in June you are going to be getting maximum daylight. However, we are constrained by our NFL-related commitments, so for this trip, this is how we would have had to have done it. On this particular journey, the roomette is going to cost you a big $400 surcharge, but given that you have probably had enough of sleeping in a seat for the last two segments in California, I think we might have treated ourselves on this trip.
Thursday 10th October
All day on the train and we arrive into Denver at just before 7 in the evening.
Friday 11th October and Saturday 12th October
Sunday 13th October
Week 6 of the NFL season and our 8th game. Crucially we would have seen a game in US Mountain time zone, so we have now seen a game in all four time zones, as per the rules of the challenge. The game itself at Mile High (Empire field at Mile High Stadium to be exact) isn’t a classic, but the home fans should be happy with a shut out and a 16-0 win over the Tennessee Titans.
So far the changes and logistics on the trip have on the whole, been quite generous, but here is one of the tight spots if we are going to make this trip work. Given the score line and the game we are going to leave 5 mins before the end of the fourth quarter and head the one local train stop and just over one mile to Denver Union Station.
We would have needed to collect our luggage and caught the California Zephyr onto Chicago at 19:10. It is worth mentioning that all Amtrak train times are given in local time, whereas a lot of the game times when you look online are shown in Eastern Time. Because of this when initially planning this part of the journey, I thought annoyingly I couldn’t quite make this train, but in a mini Phileas Fogg/80 days around the world type moment of realisation, it clicked that the game started two hours earlier than I had thought and so it would just work.
Monday 14th October
The plan is to get to Green Bay, as we want to see a game at historic Lambeau Field, but Green Bay does not even have a train station. Fortunately Amtrak does offer Thruway coach services that link places with no rail service, to the network. The downside is that it will take three of our rail pass segments just to get from Denver to Green Bay. However, it is somewhere as NFL fans you have to make the effort to get to, so let’s do it.
Just as an aside here is a link to an NFL video on the evolution of the teams and the composition of the NFL over the last 100 years; so you can see how the Packers fit into the bigger picture.
I am also going to suggest that we don’t pay the $400 extra for a roomette for the overnight journey from Denver to Chicago, so it is going to be the toughest journey of the trip. We boarded the train in Denver at 19:10 the previous evening and arrive into Chicago at 2:50 pm, then catch the 17:08 Hiawatha service to Milwaukee arriving at 18:45, and then the connecting Thurway Bus onto Green Bay finally arriving 22:17 pm.
Tuesday 15th October
You probably spent the morning at the hotel recovering from previous the days travel, let’s face it, you are in Green Bay for the football. Its an evening game with the Green Bay Packers taking on the Detroit Lions. The Packers win 23-22 in an exciting game, so perhaps the trip was worth it after all.
Wednesday 16th October
A morning in Green Bay and then the afternoon to travel back to Chicago, don’t worry no overnight travel on this trip. Take the 13:55 coach back to Milwaukee and then the 17:45 Hiawatha train onto Chicago; arrive in Chicago at 19:14. You saved quite a bit on overnight accommodation, so book yourself into somewhere reasonable, this is going to be the first of four nights in Chicago.
Thursday 17th, Friday 18th, Saturday 19th October
Sunday 20th October
Game 10 of the trip and it is off to Soldier Field to see the Chicago Bears play the New Orleans Saints; the visiting Saints winning 25-36 in an entertaining encounter. After the game it is off to Union Station in the evening to catch your last train, the 21:30 Lake Shore Limited to New York. This is the 17th Segment of your train ticket, so you had one spare if you ever needed it.
Monday 21st October
Most of the day on the train, 45th and last day of your rail pass, you arrive into New York at 18:23. It’s was an extra $400 for a roomette and a proper bed, you might have wanted to splash out as it is the last trip, or save depending on how your budget is going. Check into New York for your last two nights in the US.
Tuesday 22nd October
Last game and its an evening match at the Metlife Stadium, which is actually in New Jersey, so a short local train trip out from Penn Station. The visiting New England Patriots easily wrap this one up 0 to 33 against the New York Jets.
Wednesday 23rd October
I would probably opt to spend a last full day in New York and caught the Virgin Atlantic or Delta flight back to Heathrow from JFK on the Thursday morning to avoid the red eye overnight flight.
So, hope you enjoyed this simulated trip and feel at least a bit inspired to see some of the USA by rail for whatever reason.
What did I miss out; as admittedly couldn’t do everything. We didn’t get to Texas or Florida or across the top of the states on the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle, with the chance to stop off in Minnesota. Also not to mention all the other teams that we would not have seen. However, you can only do so much and of course 2020 (as will 2021) brings a completely different fixture schedule and a plethora of new opportunities.
Thanks for reading and watching.