Travel Thoughts By Kim
Let’s go on an adventure together … Coast Starlight Train!
One of my favorite things is when I’m watching a movie or TV show and I have been where it is being filmed. I get all excited when I can say “I stood in that exact spot” or “I saw that building” or “I was there”! It helps me to insert myself into the story and relate to what the characters are doing…..and, it feels pretty dang cool, too. A couple weeks ago, I was watching a movie on Hallmark channel (been doing a lot of that while we’re on “pause”) that was set in Seattle. All through the movie, I kept spotting things I saw when I was there. Then, the next few days I couldn’t stop remembering a wonderful trip I took in 2017 – a two week adventure all along the west coast from top to bottom. There is no way I can summarize that trip in one article here for you – way too much to tell you about. I promise to share segments of it with you over time, but for now, I really want to share one very special 22 hour period from that trip.
My West Coast Adventure started out as a cruise and when I decided to expand it to spend more time in San Francisco area and also somehow include Oregon and Washington State with extra time in Seattle, I had to find a way to get from San Francisco to Seattle. I thought about flying, but that would eliminate seeing any of Oregon and most of Washington. I considered renting a car in San Francisco and driving to Seattle, but found out that is a very long drive – one I wasn’t sure I was willing to do by myself. The option of taking a bus was rejected quickly – I couldn’t imagine being cramped in a seat all that way. I was just about to give up on the expanded portion of the trip when the idea of taking the train came to me in the middle of the night. I got out of bed at 2:00 am and went down to the computer to see if that was a possibility. I found that Amtrak has a Coast Starlight Train that travels from Los Angeles to Seattle and that it has a stop in San Francisco. As I read about it, I knew that was what I wanted to do. The entire Coast Starlight trip runs mostly along the coast of California between Los Angeles and the border of Oregon then travels inland through Oregon and Washington to Seattle. For this trip, I got on the train in San Francisco. Someday, I hope to do the entire route to get the full experience and see the amazing ocean views while traveling comfortably through California.
The segment I traveled from San Francisco to Seattle took 22 hours and I loved every minute of it (the entire route from LA takes 36 hours). I boarded the train and began my adventure at 9:30 pm from the Emeryville, CA station (I took an Amtrak bus from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco to the station). I reviewed all the options for tickets – the least expensive would be the coach seats, but given it was an overnight trip, I would have to sleep sitting up. There are a few different options for sleeper fares, each with pricing according to the accommodation– a roomette which includes a private room with two seats that convert to a bed and also has an upper pull down bed, a bedroom also includes an in-room toilet and shower, a bedroom suite is where two bedrooms connect and open up into one larger room, and a family bedroom which is a roomette with two extra sleeping options to accommodate two adults and two children. While reviewing the options, I also found out that sleeper fares include all meals in the dining cars and some additional perks that coach seat fares don’t have access to. I chose the roomette. I found that with three meals included and the extra perks, it would not be much more expensive in the long run than a coach seat and it would be more comfortable. I also felt that for one night, I could use the bathroom down the hall, which actually ended up being right across from my room, so a larger room at a higher price wasn’t important to me in this case. The room was very comfortable with two seats and a large window and the seats converted to a bed that was surprisingly comfortable. The sleeper cars also have conductors who are there to set up and break down the beds, be available if we need anything, and make our dining car reservations.
One of the perks of having a sleeper room is access to the exclusive observation lounge car. This car has tables, conversation areas, and swivel chairs all with large observation windows with unobstructed views of the scenery. There is also a bar with a variety of non-alcoholic beverages and snacks all included or alcoholic beverages at an additional cost. They also hosted a wine tasting event late afternoon for a small additional fee that offered tastings of some wonderful Oregon and Washington State wines. The food in the dining car was exceptional with a nice selection of options on the menu. For breakfast, I had scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, toast, juice and tea. For lunch I had a steak burger, fries, and a coke. And, for dinner, I had a ribeye steak, baked potato, fresh veggie medley, rolls, and a glass of wine. All included and all cooked beautifully and very delicious. The whole experience was very comfortable and made me feel like a celebrity in an old-time movie when traveling by luxury train was more common. I got to move around, take in the amazing views, sit in different places – including time in my own private roomette, and during the night, I slept like a baby.
As for those amazing views: I woke up just before sunrise and we were in the final miles of California and crossed over into Oregon just about sunrise. The parts of Oregon we traveled through were breathtaking! Dense woods, streams, waterfalls, little lakes, very small rural communities and tunnel after tunnel after tunnel. At some points, we were so far up on the top of the mountains in the middle of nowhere that my ears kept popping and we didn’t have cell/internet service…and it was amazing. When we got back down out of the mountains, we saw a different kind of beauty to look at – farm land as far as the eye can see and all the little communities we passed through had “Elk Crossing” signs. I didn’t see any elk, though…..must be they chose to cross somewhere else. It is difficult to get good photos from a moving train – I took a lot and you can see many of them on my blog, but for the most part, the views are all in my memories and I love bringing them up in my mind from time to time.
When I arrived in Seattle, I spent a few days there and then flew home to end two amazing weeks all along the west coast of our great country and one of the major highlights of the trip was this train ride (which is saying something, cause the entire trip is right up there among one of my favorite trips). I highly recommend taking the Amtrak Coast Starlight Train – the whole route from LA to Seattle, if you can. You can add it on an already planned west coast trip or just fly out there to do this one adventure and come back home. Whatever you decide works for you, do it, if you ever get the chance – you won’t regret it! I see more long distance train trips in my future, too…perhaps I’ll do a cross country train ride, someday.
Visit my Coast Starlight Train blog post for more photos from this wonderful adventure.
Also remember – just because we can’t travel to faraway places, right now, doesn’t mean we can’t seek out amazing local adventures from the safety of our cars while keeping with social distancing requirements. Check out a long drive I took on Monday to visit some of Orleans County’s beautiful waterfalls.