The Portland to LA route on Amtrak is called the Coast Starlight and it’s a beauty. It’s also a popular route and was significantly more crowded than the prior train. This train also has a very different vibe from the cross country train. The wary attendants treat us like dangerous lunatics which is not fair to the many peaceful lunatics on this train.
There was the guy with the long bamboo pole that was not actually a cane…the woman who needed to share her personal hygiene issues that related to her bipolar disorder…the woman seated next to me who spoke in nonsensical phrases and abruptly left the train along with the sleeping bag Jim had lent us. . .the guy who lost a friend in some famous mudslide here and still could not understand why anyone would talk about climate change.
The only person with her head screwed on straight was a transgender woman who kept me absorbed in conversation for about six hours. An aspiring labor lawyer, she had moved to Lacrosse, Wisconsin “for love” and assured me that there was an artistic, alternative scene there. I found that curious since I boarded the prior train in Chicago with an extended family of Mennonites who also called Lacrosse their home. Must be quite a place. Anyway Louisa had “been places and seen things” and was happy to tell me about her travels and political observations.
The first part of the trip followed the Columbia River.
As night fell I realized that I was going to be stuck next to a crazy person and that the train was due to pick up even more passengers. Louisa suggested I try for “business class” where she was. Not all trains have business class but this one did. Because it costs $20 more ($50 if you book while on the train), the car was far less crowded. The seats were leather and you get a $6 voucher for food or drink. I’m in! Arranging a booking from the train was no easy task as the phone connection was spotty (Amtrak cross-country does not have Wifi). After many, many aborted calls to customer service I finally succeeded in making the change and took my seat–with my free cocktail!
The following day was all California coast and it was spectacular.
So many fields full of cabbage, kale, carrots, greens. If only they made it to the Amtrak dining car. The food there was a step up from airline fare but could certainly have used more fresh fruits and vegetables.
We passed Paso Robles
Los Padres National Forest
But the real highlight was the stretch of coastline that started north of Santa Barbara. Some of the coast can only be seen from the train.