Saturday, October 31, 2009

Amtrak Adventure

My journey began with a flight from SeaTac into Burbank's Bob Hope Airport, followed by a pickup by niece Hilary, and an overnight at Mom's - what a fun three-generation gabfest. The next morning the train passed the same airport on the rail trip back to Seattle.

The lounge car was our comfortable home-away-from-compartment for much of the 35-hour trip. We visited with other passengers, gazed at the scenery, read and chatted, and enjoyed an afternoon wine and cheese tasting. (Oh yes! Already a favorite, Rogue Creamery Blue remains a tasting standout.)

Clear blue skies and calm blue water made for scenic Pacific Coast viewing. We saw few boats, fewer surfers and an occasional otter. Photos out the window proved challenging... just when focused for distance a tree would flash by! Oops.

California's tourism bureau's description of green and golden leaned heavily to the dry and golden side for miles of inland travel. Starkly beautiful, with interesting textures and shadows.

Oil fields were active, slowly pumping away. But where are the tall derricks shown in all those old movies? you know, the ones with the gushers when they first struck oil.

The Salinas Curves provided a view of the end cars of our train and then the engines. Now that's pretty curvy.

Can you tell we're in the Pacific Northwest? Oregon, to be precise? Could the greenery and raindrops on the windows be a clue? IF I had looked out the window at 5:04 am I might have seen Dunsmuir, CA and the Mt. Shasta area, but NOPE, it was dark outside and my eyes were still scrunched shut.

The Coast Starlight run from Los Angeles to Seattle was comfortable and on-schedule, meals were reasonably tasty, service staff were helpful and attentive, and the scenery was ever-changing and captivating. Sleeping car accommodations were clean and comfortable, if not spacious. The only challenge was getting any restful sleep with the unpredictable jerking and lurching motion, accompanied by the intermittent squeaking and the screeching of metal wheels on metal tracks. Were the rails smoother and quieter during the day, or did it just seem that way?

This is a wonderful route to drive, with so many tempting side trips for exploration, but train travel is a relaxing second-best way to view some of the same highlights. I'm ready for another scenic trip by rail - IF the sleep challenge can be mastered.