Friday, July 10, 2009

Coast Starlight

Lisa and I wanted to have a little getaway before she starts school and have both always wanted to visit Portland. After seeing how much it would be to rent a car and drive up the coast we started looking for alternatives and found the Amtrak Coast Starlight. It's a train that runs from LA to Seattle and features some of the best scenery the west coast has to offer.

I'm here to tell all of you that train travel while seemingly similar to air travel is in fact a completely different animal. The facts that have led me to this conclusion are as follows:
  1. Absolutely no security check.  No scanners, no questions, no nothing.
  2. The bathrooms in the Emeryville station had a complicated token lock system.  You actually had to obtain a token from one of the agents to use the restroom.  They were however disabled, which led to the bathroom chaos one may expect.
While we were waiting, Kerry and Isaac were remembering their journies by train and had jealously gushed - you get to meet train people!  Sitting next to her, I could hear Lisa's skin crawl at that very moment.   Alas, our bed was already made and we steped onto the Coast Starlight just before around 10PM.

We were shown to our sleeperette (emphasis on the -ette) by our helpful car attendent Katherine.  Now, one of the other differences between air travel and the train would be how one packs.  There is no room in a sleeperette for baggage.  They expect that you'll pile your bagagge out in the open with other people's bags from your train.  Given the aforementioned train people this made both of us a bit anxious. Which resulted in sharing a single sleeperette bed (smaller than a twin) for the evening (note the luggage on bed #2).

3707519046_08359983f1 MDK-20090708-1240, originally uploaded by monkeydoc.

It wasn't awful, but we won't be doing it again any time soon.

3706706959_e38f5110c6 MDK-20090708-1242, originally uploaded by monkeydoc.

After the restless night, we headed off to the dining car for breakfast, which wasn't awful. When we got back to the -ette after breakfast our attendant offered to make our "bed" back into seats so we had to vacate for a bit. We ended up near the cafe (vending machine food at higher prices) in the only free booth, next to three screaming kids. This is when we meet our first "train person". An unkept man, holding a tray of food uncomfortably asks to sit down in our booth. He sits down and asks "What's your language?" to which we reply English, and he begins to ramble about how there are so many good books in English unlike his language - Persian. It's only now that I realize what this man is eating - saltine crakers and jelly packets, both lifted from said cafe. He's washing it down with a free cup of coffee. After a few uncomfortable minutes and questions, the man gets up to stock up on more Smucker's Grape. Lisa and I took it as our opportunity to leave.

On a much brighter note - the privacy of our -ette was the perfect place to enjoy the scenery that was strolling by our window.

The prettiest part was when we were riding through the Willamette National Forest. For much of the trip there were small streams and rivers running next to the tracks. It really is a great way to see the country. Much better than in a car on the interestate, but not quite as good as on a motorcycle.

3706707211_b2bb82d358 MDK-20090709-1247, originally uploaded by monkeydoc.

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