Adventure by rail
“The tandem might of the engines commanded respect and drew me to their strength. I was afraid to touch them, though I wanted to. What would folks think of a grown woman stroking a train?”
— Glory Stone from “Stone Revival”
As with Glory Stone, a love of trains has taken up permanent residence with me. Three years had passed since my last rail excursion to Portland to visit my daughter, Emily. Too long. When Amtrak emailed to let me know I had points that needed using, they didn’t need to coax.
Amtrak train No. 14, the Coast Starlight, makes a daily run from L.A. to Seattle, with a few stops along the way. One of those stops is Klamath Falls, where I board. A round-trip coach fare to Portland is just under $100, and business class (our choice) is under $150.
They blow the northward departure whistle early — 7:43 a.m. I stay at Running Y the night before and again the night we return to the station at 10 p.m. This trip, I discovered the Running Y offers a shuttle for residents and WorldMark owners, and I thought to leave Giovanni the Honda parked at Running Y, though I’ve never had an issue at the station.
I was pleased to have Lynn join me on this trip. The shuttle driver met us on time. When he suggested taking Lakeshore Drive, I flinched, but he was the driver and likely knew something I did not.
He took us on the scenic route, alright. I resisted checking the time and tried to enjoy the ride. Anyway, we made it, and though we arrived late for checking our bags, having them on board saved time in the end.
Let me just say that if you’re a regular haunt at airport terminals, Amtrak will leave you weightless with bliss at the ease of check-in. The adventure begins with the transportation, not despite it. There’s no need to double up on your blood pressure pills to get through the rush and hassle — there is none.
Conductor David scanned our tickets and directed us to our car. The man at the door assigned two window seats across the aisle from one another — exactly what we wanted. It was the same on the return trip, with empty seats next to us. The luxury chairs are recliners with enough leg room for the longest Trailblazer. Drop-down adjustable trays on the seat in front provide space for food and drinks, laptop or book.
The journey to Portland takes about eight hours, with stops at Chemult, Eugene, Albany and Salem. After leaving Chemult, our stout-hearted engines began their gradual climb westward over the Cascades, and through scenery flocked with pristine snow that sparkled like diamonds.
Lounging in the observation car allows for an unimpeded view of our beautiful state — lakes, rivers, waterfalls, farms, forest and small towns. It’s also the car for conversation with fellow passengers, or not. For eats, you can bring your own, reserve a time in the dining car, or sidle down the narrow stairway to the club car for prepackaged food that’s actually tasty. Beer and wine are available.
Window gazing is a favorite activity. Watching the world move past fosters free-flowing thoughts. There’s plenty of time. No traffic worries. You never know what will show up. On the evening ride home, when winding our way through the Cascade summit and skirting picturesque Crescent Lake, I looked out to see a bull elk with his harem of cows nearby. The shadows were long, and the snow was tinted coral from a setting sun.
Train people are friendly, yet unobtrusive. Folks who choose the slower way seem to share a common bond. There’s a silent understanding of no loud phone conversations or electronic noises. The ride is the entertainment with an ever-changing screen.
I wanted to get back on the train as soon as I deboarded, and shoot off for a new stretch of track. Next time, it’s a roomette and a cross-country adventure for this gal — rocking in the cradle of romance on the rails.
Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author. Reach her at email@example.com.