Author Archives: Debra

About Debra

As a native to Southern California I'm interested in the history and geography of the region, with particular attention to how the demands for water have shaped an entire region. I am eclectic in my interests and closely follow history, but with an eye on the future, enjoying as much time as possible with my two granddaughters, children and railroad husband Jay. You may be more interested in getting to know me through stories of our large Sulcata Tortoise, Darwin. We are a very active household. https://plus.google.com/u/0/111514353287997405142?rel.author

Slow and Scenic…Traveling Amtrak’s Coast Starlight

In response to enthusiasm shared with friends about last month’s travels with  mom aboard Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, I’m frequently asked, “Was it on time?”

It seems almost everyone has heard a story of someone grossly inconvenienced by a late arriving train.

While it is true that scheduled station stops do tend to be more approximate than precise, I wasn’t bothered. Adherence to the timetable was “in the ballpark.”

There are any number of reasons for why a passenger train may lose time between stations, but there are times when the train just stops, which can be confusing if you don’t know that track is controlled by the freight companies, and their priority directs passenger trains into a siding to wait for the freight trains to pass.

Between Los Angeles and Portland, our final destination, we gave way to freight trains fewer than a half-dozen times. Time is lost, but then in open stretches the Coast Starlight made up much of the time.

There is one question almost everyone asks. “Isn’t train travel awfully slow?” A look of grave concern crosses their expression and it’s clear they aren’t sold on my assertion that traveling by train is as much the vacation experience as the end-point and destination.

Most of us spend more time than we’d like running from one event to the next only to arrive with little conscious appreciation for how we got there!

I do acknowledge that it is a privilege to have the time for leisure travel, and a train isn’t practical for everyone. But unless time is a serious factor, I think it’s worth considering.

We answered questions about sleeping quarters by describing Amtrak’s Business Class, which we found very accommodating.  Seating in a dedicated car allowed for fewer disturbances and greater overall flexibility. We found the reclining seats more than adequate for sleeping, and although it was a 30-hour trip, we didn’t feel the need for a roomette or sleeping car.

Once all pertinent concerns and questions are answered the Coast Starlight is an easy “sell” because of the mesmerizing scenery.

I previously shared some of the beautiful California coastline from my Amtrak window seat HERE and HERE, but this trip we extended north, well beyond our previous destination of Oakland, crossing the California border into Oregon.

It was growing dark as we pulled into Oakland, and not long before we settled into our sleeping positions. From 10PM until 7:00AM all station announcements are silenced and our car attendant reminded everyone that it was time to be courteously quiet. The lights were dimmed sufficiently and it was a pleasure listening to the hum of the rails.

An early sunrise revealed a beautiful view of Mt. Shasta, second only to Mt. Rainier among the tallest volcanoes in the Cascade Range, and we could see the cone of the volcano for about an hour as we traveled north.

Soon we had crossed the state line and the Coast Starlight from Klamath Falls to Eugene is known as one of the most beautiful and scenic sections.

Slow?

I guess that’s true, but perhaps I’d best describe it as relaxing.

Slow is probably subjective anyway, don’t you think?

All 22 inches of him!

Do you think a tortoise is slow?

He knows how to take advantage of a quiet morning bath, but when Darwin wants to escape his confines he appears to be motorized. He can move faster than you’d think!

Have I perhaps influenced you? Not to be a Sulcata Tortoise “parent,” but to perhaps consider the “breathe lighter” benefits of train travel?

I’d be interested in your thoughts, or perhaps previous experience. Do share!

 

Additional links if interested:

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight: America’s most beautiful train ride?

Enjoy Stunning Views on the Coast Starlight–Video