60 Seconds with Amtrak Million-Miler Chris Guenzler

60 Seconds with Amtrak Million-Miler Chris Guenzler

Achieving million-mile status in the air is tough, but have you ever heard of someone reaching such a goal on trains? We caught up with Chris Guenzler, a recent million-miler on Amtrak, to find out how he became the first and only regular passenger to ride 1,000,000 miles covering every route in the Amtrak system.

InsideFlyer
When did your love for trains start?
Chris Guenzler
When I was just a little kid, my mother noticed that I had a fascination with trains because I would always stare at them in my stroller. One day, my mother took me up really close to one when the horn went off and I didn’t even flinch. She knew that there was something wrong with my hearing and was able to get me treatment for my ear before it got bad.

IF
When and why did you decide you wanted to go for one million miles?
Guenzler
It was done in a series of goals. First, to ride the entire Amtrak system. I got sober Jan. 14, 1995 before I finished that goal. Then it was to go back through every state, 37, that I drank in. Next, finish the Amtrak system sober, which I did on my 1,000th day of sobriety. Next, I reclaimed my miles I drank in Canada, then I did all the Canada intercity rail miles. Next, it was trains in all 50 states, finishing up in Hawaii. Then, it was the overall millionth rail miles on April 27, 2007, followed by the one millionth Amtrak rail mile on April 7, 2008.

IF
Do you have any advice for anyone contemplating ditching the airlines for rail travel?
Guenzler
Remember that every trip is an adventure. It’s funny when people read my stories because sometimes they’ll email me and say, “That was a nice story, but it was kind of boring because your train ran on time.” And when you think about it, that’s what they’re supposed to do, but when you have the things that happen along the trip, it can make it a far more interesting story.

IF
What is your favorite Amtrak route and why?
Guenzler
The California Zephyr from Chicago to Emeryville. From Chicago across the Heartland, across the plains, through the Rocky Mountains and following the Colorado River for 238 miles through Byers, Gore, Red Rock, Glenwood, De Beque and Ruby Canyon, across the Utah Desert with the Book Cliffs and across Soldier Summit. Then the next day, across the Sierra Nevadas down into the Sacramento Valley, along the Carquinez Straits and along San Pablo Bay with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco before arriving into Emeryville. The California Zephyr is Amtrak’s most beautiful route.

IF
What is the longest rail journey you’ve experienced? How many days and how many miles?
Guenzler
33 days and 13,318.4 miles.

IF
What has been your most interesting experience while on a train?
Guenzler
One time just outside of Las Vegas, the train’s air conditioning blew out and the train started to get really hot. I took off my shirt, which caused a chain reaction and pretty soon, everyone was in their underwear. The conductor was eventually able to cool off the train by opening all of the doors, but after a trip like that, wouldn’t you have wanted to come back?

IF
Worst experience?
Guenzler
I don’t think I’ve had a worst experience because if there are problems along the way they are just part of the adventure. I have had some of the best experiences because of problems on my journeys.

IF
What do you do while on the train?
Guenzler
I have a laptop computer, so I like to watch concert DVD’s and other movies. I also like listening to music and talking with the other passengers. Trains are nice because there are electrical outlets to plug things into.

IF
Why do you prefer trains over airplanes?
Guenzler
I love being able to look out the many windows at the beautiful scenery. I love the feel of the car and the adventures that happen from riding trains.

IF
How has Amtrak rewarded your patronage to them?
Guenzler
For riding their entire system, two twenty-five cent magnets. For the overall millionth rail mile, a nice framed letter from Alex Kummant, Amtrak’s CEO, and for the millionth Amtrak mile, Nothing!

IF
How does it feel to be the only person in North America to have ridden one million miles?
Guenzler
I feel very lucky to be able to do this. I have the “Chris Guenzler Millionth Mile Lookout Point” named after me at the Depot Inn & Suites in La Plata, Mo. and it is special when I go there to tell people it’s named after me. I think everyone should visit the Depot Inn & Suites in La Plata, Mo. — easily reached by Amtrak!

Chris Guenzler rode his millionth rail mile on April 27, 2008.

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