Tuesday, June 12, 2018

One Way All Aboard

We are so lucky. Seriously. We have been places, and seen things, and we have plans to see more, do more... and I guess, I can't start sharing this trip without acknowledging how thankful, and delighted I am about what we get to do, travel. Boats, trains, cars, planes, in an RV, by bus, walking... there are small and great ways of seeing the world, and we have had the pleasure of enjoying so many journeys. This is just one more.

"Travel is not reward for working, it's education for living."
~Anthony Bourdain

We boarded the Surfliner just after sunrise. This commuter line took us to Los Angeles, and along the way there were beautiful views of our Southern California coastline. I watched Max, and Alex, and nudged them occasionally, giving them what was probably an awkward smile. But I was trying to convey that glowing maternal look that is meant to say, "This is a special event, isn't it? I know you remember when we did this before, the trip you loved so much, and here we are making the journey, again, 14 years later." But yeah, pretty sure it mostly looked like an awkward smile.

I certainly remember when we made this journey, roundtrip to Eugene, Oregon. I was seven months pregnant. Thirty hours on a train is one way of putting your feet up, but I wouldn't call it "restful!" Luckily the memories are all happy ones, and revisiting this adventure, this time with Maria, felt like a dream come true.

This time, our Coast Starlight train ride would be one way, to Portland, where we would rent a vehicle for the drive south, and home.

When I reminded them that we were a block away from Olvera Street, they left the Union Station waiting room and went to have a look around. I pictured them outside, having a glance from the curb, but they went many steps further, and walked the entire length of the Old Los Angeles lane, all the way to the plaza. I stayed with the luggage, which was fine, necessary, but I do envy them that nostalgic stroll.

Aboard the train, settled in.

By timing our lunch just right, we had an ocean view from Ventura, and through Gaviota.

Actually, most of this line is very scenic, picturesque. I love it.

We were probably passed the prime of spring blooms in California, but the scenery was still very pretty, and we were never disappointed or bored.

Maria had her laptop, and Max carried one, too. So there was music, solitaire, and Scratch. Plus, we had origami paper, drawing paper, yarn, lengthy discussion, and naps to enjoy.

I can never resist trying to capture artful photographs of the views from our car, even though I know they'll be blurry or reflect too much from inside.

But... maybe the reflection is artful. I enjoy trying, and having snapshots that remind me that I love riding trains, and watching the world as we whirr by.

Poinsettias were blooming at the station in San Luis Obispo... that's one of the stops where you can step off and walk a bit while they take on supplies.

By dinner time we were rolling through the Salinas Valley, with the beautiful Santa Lucia Range to the west. It always looks so inviting, especially, with the marine layer of low clouds blanketing the mountain tops.

The night rumbles along... Emeryville, Martinez, Davis, Redding. By Shasta, I am wide awake and peering at the change in scenery. The volcanic mountains, the forests, lakes, and rivers.

Maria and I eagerly made our way to the dining car, for breakfast, but especially to have more windows, more view.

Maria and I had a couple of songs playing on repeat in our hearts...

Almost Albany.

Crossing the Willamette River, and Portland's Union Station is in view... uh, well, but out the other window!

(Full disclosure: Amtrak removed the Parlor Car from the Coast Starlight Line, and it is a big loss for sleeping car travelers. The Parlor Car was a place to walk to and to socialize, meeting fellow passengers, enjoying the big viewing windows. It was, honestly a brilliant aspect of the whole train experience. Without any indication, discount, or apology, Amtrak took this away. They made no mention of the changes when I made reservations and paid for our rooms. The lounge car available to all of the train patrons can only be reached by going through 2 dining cars, and a coach... which means disrupting an already busy, crowded kitchen scene, in the hopes of finding any space in an already cramped, and much in demand car. It changes the entire experience, and I can't so enthusiastically recommend the Coast Starlight Sleeper-cars as I used to.)

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