I know it has been a long time since I’ve updated. Well, been a while since I’ve gone on something really worthy of writing about. The past few days, have been worthy.
On Thursday, November 3, 2011, I set out on a new great adventure. My goal for the first segment of the trip was Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. My method of travel was Amtrak. Starting at 6:10am out of San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot, I took the Pacific Surfliner to Los Angeles Union Station. There, I waited in the TRAXX Lounge, which is just for sleeping car passengers of train #14. Train 14, the Coast Starlight. The Starlight is the premier Amtrak train in the West. Every time I’ve taken the train, the service has been splendid. This time, it was even better. Using Amtrak Guest Rewards (something I highly recommend joining), I obtained a deluxe bedroom on the train, which is quite decent for one person.
Views from the train were, as always, quite spectacular. The California coast just can’t be beat. Near Gaviota, I saw two of pods of dolphins. While on the train, I met people from all over. Wisconsin, Vancouver, Minnesota, even San Diego numbered among the places. We had our first wine tasting of the trip just north of San Luis Obipso, consisting of California wines, some from the local area. These are always a lot of fun, as I get to interact with more of the people on the train. I tend to talk about some of the geology and history along the way, like a tour guide.
After the wine tasting, we made our way through the Salinas Valley, where I spent some of my time in the Parlour Car. Slowly getting more tired, I went back to my room for a while. I chatted a bit online with some of my friends, listened to music, and then went off to dinner in the Dining Car. I had the BBQ ribs, which were quite good. A few people came by and said that it looked good as well. I saw others having lasagna, which was my other choice.
After dinner, I went back to my room to listen to some music before the movie began. In the Parlour Car, there is a movie theater downstairs. I watched “Limitless” which I hadn’t heard of before. It was pretty good, and took up the time from near San Juan Bautista all the way to near Hayward.
Once the movie was over, it was time to get some sleep. I went back to my room, after the bed had been set up. It was quite a nice bed too. Not that thick a mattress, but comfy enough. I laid down for a while, finally getting to sleep just past Martinez. The next thing I knew, we were north of Dunsmuir! Again, I slept through the Sacramento River Canyon. Oh well, perhaps I’ll see it on the way south. I finally got up near Mt Hebron Summit, where there was quite a bit of fresh snow on the ground. By the time we got to Klamath Falls, the snow was gone. While there was no snow, it was still really cold. I think it was in the 30’s outside. I still stepped out of the train. I had finally reached Oregon. Only one more state to go.
After Klamath Falls, we made our way over the Willammette Pass. The higher we climbed, the more snow we saw. It wasn’t quite enough snow to hide the fairly deep pumice layer capping most of the cuts along the railroad. It looked to be about three feet deep toward the summit. I suspect the pumice was from the Mt Mazama – Crater Lake eruption, about 6.6 kya. The section of the tracks over the pass was fun as always. Other passengers told their train stories as I pointed out various features along the way. My favorite stretches of track is located a few miles below the summit, where the train passes through a tunnel, then a curved trestle, and then back into another tunnel. The snow and the fog made the crossing of the Cascades a whole lot more entertaining. As we got lower in elevation, the fall colors came back. It was a bit past peak color, but still quite spectacular.
Our next wine tasting was just north of Eugene, where I had quite an interesting conversation with another passenger. I talked a bit about the history of US 99 and the railroad line through the Willamette Valley, where he talked about the Civil War and how the railroads played into the various battles. It was quite entertaining. I learned a fair bit, and he did too.
By Portland, I had wanted to get out and stroll about the station grounds. Portland Union Station is quite a large station and very nice. As we had a longer layover, I decided to get up to the Broadway Bridge and take some photos. I saw quite a few cyclists on my short walk, most with fenders on their bikes. Some of them were in full gear (tights and long sleeve), others just in street clothes. Most of them looked like they were commuters. After my walk, I made my way back to the train, and it was time to depart. Almost to Seattle!
For dinner, I decided to go with the Parlour Car. The menu is smaller, but usually good food. It was pretty good. After dinner, I went back to my room, enjoying it for the last time. As we approached Seattle, it got darker, and sightseeing was getting tougher. I still managed to see the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and the skyline of Seattle as we approached.
Finally, Seattle! After gathering my gear, I got off the train and headed out to my hostel. It was only two blocks from the station, which made things easier. I had just two bags, but they were quite heavy. After getting quickly settled at the hostel, I headed out. I had wanted to go to the Space Needle, and knew the way to get there. After making my way over, I found out… it was closed! Bummer! Well, I decided, what the heck, gotta do something else then. So I looked up various gay bars in town, decided to head over to the Seattle Eagle. It was a bit of a walk from the Monorail station, but not too bad. I felt a bit bad, normally I go out in full gear, but this time, only had my leather combat boots on. It would have been too much to go back to the room and change into either a military uniform, or my leather outfit. But hey, I still wanted to go. So, I found the place, got a drink, and hung out for a while. It was still fun. I found out it was leather night there… DOH! Hey, there is always another time. Once I was done with my drink, and had talked with some people there, I headed back to my room. I had to get up early the next morning to catch the train to Vancouver, and didn’t want to stay up too late. I walked the whole way back, and ended up stopping by Columbia and 1st to visit the last remaining original US 99 shield in Washington. Another day of adventure was ahead. This time, to Canada!