Part of the Pacific Northwest Trip Journal
Journal entry for August 1-2, 2010
The night before the trip, I had to wrap up a few tasks for work. It wasn’t until 8am that I was able to go to bed. After only one hour of sleep, I headed to the train station. It was OK though, I had a long 34-hour train ride to catch up on sleep. I was dead tired but very excited about what I expected to be an amazing trip.
I arrived at Los Angeles Union Station at 9:45am, 30 minutes before departure time. I thought 30 minutes would give me enough time to pick a nice window seat on the “nice” side of the train (the one with views of the ocean). I printed out my ticket, which I had purchased online, at the vending machine. There was a counter with the sign that said “Coast Starlight” but nobody was behind it, so I walked straight to the train. At the train car, the lady at the door asked me if I had checked in to get an assigned seat. Since I obviously had not, she assigned a seat for me right there. I headed for the upper deck and realized that I got an aisle sit on the side of the train not facing the coast. Great.
The seats were spacious and comfortable. I sat next to a girl who lived in Vancouver but was headed to Portland. She had all sorts of electronic gadgets to keep herself entertained: laptop, Nintendo DS, Ipod.
The train left 10 minutes late. I stayed awake for the first hour, enjoying the scenery. Ever since my trip to Europe 8 years ago, I have always enjoyed train travel. I really like to see the transition from place to place and people going about their everyday lives. After the first hour, I dozed off from time to time. Around noon they started calling in people to the dining car. Apparently someone had walked by to take appointments while I was sleeping. Every 15 minutes they would call in a new group of passengers. I went to the store to get a muffin and some apple juice for lunch.
At around 1pm, the train passed by the Santa Barbara area, which is very beautiful. Lots of surfers in the ocean. It was a cloudy day, which is rare for this time of the year. Despite being called the “Coast” Starlight, you don’t really get to see a lot of coast, with this stretch being the highlight and one of the exceptions.
At around 4:30pm, a lady came by to take reservations for dinner. Since I was in the last car of the train, by the time she came by all the prime time slots (6pm-8pm) were already taken. She told me I could either take the 5pm slot, or wait until 8:30pm when no reservations would be needed. I decided for the latter.
The train arrived at San Jose 20 minutes early at 8:10pm. It was going to be a 30-minute stop. I got off the train to walk around the station for a bit.
Back on the train, I wondered when they would make the last call for the dining car. At 8:50pm I went to ask and was told that it was already closed. They must have announced the last call while I was off the train. I had no choice but to go to the store again and get a pretty uneventful ham & cheese sandwich.
I felt asleep around 10:30pm. I wished the seats would recline a little more, which they could easily do since there is so much space in between rows. My foot/leg rest was also also broken (it wouldn’t stay in position), which made it a little uncomfortable.
Aside from waking up a few times to switch positions, I slept relatively OK, probably due to me being very tired. I woke up around 7am. The train made a lengthy stop at Klamath Falls, Oregon. I took the chance to go out and enjoy the fresh morning air.
Back on the train, and just like the previous day, I got a blueberry muffin for breakfast. I enjoyed it while seating in the lounge car, which has taller windows for a more panoramic view. For the next few hours, I enjoyed my book while meeting and talking to a couple of passengers. One guy was traveling around the country by train, while another lady was going back to Vancouver after visiting family members in LA. The scenery was amazing in this part of Oregon. Big lakes surrounded by huge mountain ranges. In one section the train went through some mountains and passed through about 20 tunnels.
I realized once again that I missed my chance to make an appointment for the dining car. There was no way I was going to eat that ham & cheese sandwich from the store again. I took a seat in the lounge car right by the dining car entrance and waited patiently for last call at 2:15pm. I shared my dining car table with an older gentleman who had decided on a whim to buy a train ticket and go to Montana. Also at my table were to ladies who were going to Portland to visit relatives. The burger I ordered was pretty good. I also got ice tea and some Hagen-Dazs ice cream for dessert. The bill was $9.75, not bad.
The train arrived at Portland 45 minutes early.
A lot of people got off at Portland, which meant that I could pick any seat I wanted. I enjoyed the last stretch, with Mount Rainier to the east, and expensive beach neighborhoods to the west.
Prior to the trip, I had read many horror stories of the Coast Starlight being always late, sometimes for as much as 15 hours. I guess I was lucky since the train arrived at Seattle 15 minutes early. All in all, it was a very enjoyable and relaxing experience. The food was decent and I had fun meeting and chatting with different people.
More information about Amtrak’s Coast Starlight:
Official Amtrak Website – Including maps, brochures, and online ticket purchase.
Trainweb.com – Has many travelogues and pictures from passengers.
Next entry: Seattle, Washington
Part of the Pacific Northwest Trip Journal
Great to read a review of someone making the trip in seats rather than a roomette. This has really reassured me for the journey! Thank you 🙂
I hope you enjoy the beautiful ride!