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Zipping across this wide continent of ours in an airplane can run you anywhere from $150 to $500 (or more, depending on perks, when you buy, etc,). For that, you’ll get six hours of staring at the back of seat or, ideally, daydreaming out of a dinner plate-sized window from a height that renders America’s natural wonders almost featureless.

Or, you can budget four to five days of travel, plunk down around $213 or so, jump on Amtrak, and soak up all 3,400 miles of continental beauty—up close, from the window of a train. Your call.

That’s exactly what travel blogger Derek Low did when he traveled from Emeryville outside of Oakland, CA to New York City for less than the cost of a first-class trip to San Francisco by air.

Through the window of the train—and its glorious observation deck—he took in the splendor of the Colorado Rockies, rivers filled with mooning kayakers, the beautiful, endless horizons of the plain states, and much, much more. Low opted to rough it with a reclining seat in the main cabin car, but we suggest you spend a little more for a personal sleeper room.

As Low says, “Traveling by train gives you a glimpse into the soul of America. The experience rewards you with far more stories and experiences and sights than you could ever witness alone in a car, eyes fixed to the road, or on a five-hour flight across the country.” True! And, you get to know your fellow travelers, eat well, and have a nice little stopover as you switch trains in Chicago as well.

For a deeper look into the trip, how to plan your own, and some rather glorious photos, step over here. Get ready for some envy.