It is true that the California Zephyr goes through amazing scenery. I spent a ton of time in the observation car just watching. The Rockies were outstanding. We rode switchbacks all the way up. I could see the front and back of the train at every turn. We went through a bunch of tunnels, too, including the Moffat Tunnel, which is 6.2 miles long. In fact, when you're in the Moffat Tunnel, you're not allowed to go from train car to train car. The exhaust from the train is trapped in such a long tunnel, so they try to keep the train sealed as much as possible.
As we were going through all of the ski areas I was eating lunch with some really interesting people. One was a guy from Alabama who spent about 4 months of every year in Colorado ski country when he was young. A couple of his brothers and a lot of his friends still live there, so he goes up multiple times a year for various reasons. Anyway, he was recently up for elk hunting. I was asking all kind of questions, and I started one question with, "So, when you catch your elk," This guy got a very pained expression on his face and said, "Shoot the elk. I don't catch an elk, I shoot it." Whoops. Although to give the guy his due, he did shoot it with a bow and arrow, which I find amazing. And in case you're wondering, elk are so big that once you shoot one, you cut it up where it falls, and it took this guy and two friends three trips out to carry the chunks out. Whoa.
Once we stopped in Reno, two guys from the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento got on the train to narrate what we were seeing. That was really cool. They told all about the history of the railroad and various towns along the way. They also narrated the story of the Donner Party, since we went through the Donner Pass. I was actually hoping I'd be eating a meal as we went through the Donner Pass, just because I thought it would be funny, but no such luck. Ha!
One last observation about the California Zephyr. There are almost no mailboxes at any of the stops! Along the Empire Builder, I swear there was a mailbox at the train station of every tiny, bitty town in which we stopped. Along the California Zephyr route, I had to check out six stops before I found a mailbox. When I got off at the golden stop, I asked a passing train station employee if there was a mailbox. He gave me a look like I was an idiot, and told me there was one at the front of the station. I wanted to yell at him, "Don't act like I'm insane! I've checked at the last six stops where we were allowed to get off the train, and there was no mailbox at any of them!!!" But I refrained. With difficulty. So if you ride the California Zephyr, don't assume you'll find a mailbox!
And then we arrived in San Francisco (or, to be exact, Emeryville).