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Amtrak Coast Starlight Travelogue of
Steven V. Brown

Amtrak Coast Starlight Travelogue of Steven V. Brown, December 17 through December 18, 1996.

From:	S. Brown
Date:	1/20/97  2:48:50PM
To:	Stephen Grande
Subject:	travelog 1

Hi Steve,

	Thought you might like to use these travelogues on Train web.
There are more to follow.

December 17, 1996 - Coast Starlight from Seattle, WA to Martinez, CA -
Economy Bedroom.

	In the past, when I traveled to California to visit friends and
family, I would book a flight that would get me there in a matter of a few
hours.  This time, I wanted to see the "in between" of America.  How glad
I am that I discovered the rails of Amtrak..

	It was about 9:00am when I arrived half frozen at the Seattle
Amtrak Station.  It was a clear, brisk morning and I had just walked up
from the ferry terminal.  Mornings like that in the northwest are rare
during the winter months, so I thought I would suffer the consequences of
the cold and enjoy some blue sky for a change.  While waiting to check in,
I watched the Sports Express (Seattle to Portland and back) pull in for
loading.  I was amazed at the difference in size between superliner II
cars and single level cars.  I was outside on the platform taking some
photographs of the Sports Express when the Coast Starlight emerged through
the last bit of lifting fog.  After checking in and getting my boarding
pass, I proceeded to car #1132, room 3.  Any reservations I had about
being on a train for the next 22 hours dispersed, as I was truly amazed at
how luxurious everything was.  Between the Pacific Parlor car and the many
amenities provided in a sleeper, I knew I was going to have an enjoyable
time.  The conductor made his "All Aboard" announcement, and we were off
at 10:10am.  Shortly after leaving we were delayed because of a derailment
that happened just ahead of us.  After a half hour, the conductor made the
announcement that Amtrak was in the process of signing the necessary
documents to grant us authorization to use the Union Pacific track for 12
miles.  Using this track would detour us around the derailment.  It took
another half hour for a Union Pacific pilot engine to arrive so it could
lead our train through the 12 miles of track.  (The conductor had
explained that because of insurance and liability, Union Pacific had to
provide a pilot engine to lead our train through because Amtrak does not
share a lease for that part of rail.) After an hour, we were on our way
again.  The clear weather turned out to be a real blessing because when we
were between Olympia and Centralia, the views of the mountains were
magnificent.  At around 12:30, I experienced my first lunch on a train.
The 14/11 burger was great! and so was the service.  It was like being in
a good restaurant with great scenery moving by.  The rest of the day up
until 3:00 was spent taking pictures and enjoying the privacy and solitude
provided by an economy bedroom.  By the time we had passed through the
rest of Portland, I was amazed that we had made up 40 minutes out of the
hour we were delayed!  ( I think part of this was accomplished by the
shortened service stop in Portland).  The wine tasting in the parlor car
was great.  The servers in the parlor car were extremely generous with the
wine, but that might have been because there were not that many sleeping
passengers.  After returning to my room, I must have been so wrapped up in
the scenery, because when I looked at my watch, it was already 6pm! - it
was time to use the dinner reservation card I received from the dining
steward earlier.  Dinner was not so pleasant.  If you are a person who
does not like HOT food, DO NOT order the beef tenderloin with peppercorns.
I know I never will again.  Think of the hottest Mexican food you have
ever eaten..O.K..the beef tenderloin is hotter than that  The conversation
however was pleasant.  I talked with a nice lady that was from New Zealand
and had been traveling throughout the Amtrak system for the last three
weeks - in coach.  (Now after walking though coach once, and then
returning my economy bedroom, I dont know how that could be possible -
especially for three weeks!).  Interestingly, she had commented on how the
crew of the Coast Starlight was the most courteous crew that she had seen
yet.  She continued to explain that several of the other Amtrak routes had
"Snooty" employees on board.  After dinner, I enjoyed the parlor car for a
while and then returned to my sleeper to view the scenery over Willamette
Pass.  Normally, one could not see outside because of the lights in the
cars.  However, if you are in a bedroom you have an advantage.  I found
that if I turned off all the lights and shut the curtain, I could see just
as well at night as I could during the day.  Some of the scenery at night,
especially through Willamette Pass, and the Klamath Plateau is just
fascinating.  While enjoying the scenery in the evening, a very rare and
unusual experience occurred.  In fact, I dont think too many people have
had this happen to them!  I got a knock on my door.  I answered, and it
was the lady that had room #5 in the same car.  She proceeded to ask me if
I was O.K. and if I was sick and needed to talk.  (What an absolute
wacko!)  I thought this should be good..  I asked her why she thought I
was sick.  Her response was, "You have spent a lot of time in your room,
and you havent talked much."  She then proceeded to tell me that it was
"geekish" to not be social on a train.  Now in courtesy to the readers,
lets just say people like that need to get a life.  I will not repeat what
I said to her, lets just say I should have been the one with concern,
because she needed help.  While she was bothering me in the privacy of my
room, I could smell great amounts of alcohol on her breath.   Later in the
evening she was circulating around the car knocking on doors asking people
if they minded if she smoked in the bathroom.  She knew the no smoking
policy, but proceeded to do it in the bathroom anyway.  Later, I saw her
smoking in an unoccupied deluxe bedroom while the train staff were having
a meeting in the dining car.  Fortunately, an upset passenger must have
told the chief of on board services about the problems.  After that, I
didnt see her for quite a while.  The no smoking policy is hard on
smokers, because when I saw so many of them standing knee deep in snow
smoking at the Chemult stop, that was enough of a testimony to their
addictions.  I however feel that I am paying for a smoke free environment
and therefore support Amtrak in that policy.  Also, I found the train
appealing to me because it provided the solitude that I needed.  It is a
relaxing environment, and that is how I intend to use it in the future.
Train travel is versatile, in that it can provide relaxation for those who
enjoy it, and a social atmosphere for others.  As the evening calmed down,
the train lost power at around 10pm.  I guess they had a computer problem.
After 10 minutes of no power, the back up lighting went out as well.  At
this time, I must have drifted off after a long day.  I awakened around
6am, used the on board shower, and then had a breakfast of eggs, sausage,
hashbrowns, and toast.  We arrived into Martinez at about 8:30 - only 45
minutes behind schedule.  Not too bad considering the additional delay
when the power went out past Klamath Falls.
The service and staff on the Coast Starlight are superb.  I felt that they
made me feel at home from the time I got on the train to the time I got
off.  The sleeping car attendant, Tuwanda, made every effort to service
the room, and change the bed according to my schedule.  In addition, the
juice was always available and the coffee was hot.

Steven V. Brown

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