Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Amtrak Coast Starlight

A week and a half ago I wrote about a writing adventure I had on the Coast Starlight train from Los Angeles to Oakland.  I posted many photos of the trip but I still haven't filled you in on the train ride itself.

The train ride started in Union Station, in downtown Los Angeles, a jewel since 1939. There are old, comfy chairs in the waiting room and the information booth is a wonder in wood.  It's a remarkably historic spot and it feels like you're in a movie.  Of course, this being LA, they were actually filming something outside.

The first part of the train ride is through the San Fernando Valley with interesting views out the windows.  The scenery is city after city after city with the Verdugo Mountains in the background.  Then the train goes through a pass between these really cool rocky hills to somehow get from the valley on its way to the coast.  There's even an old-fashioned train station in the middle of nowhere that we sped by.

And suddenly we were in Oxnard, then Ventura, and Santa Barbara.  The train followed the coast most of the time.  Our seats?  They were very comfortable and there was tons of leg room.  The chairs had a foot rest and a tray table.  The aisles were wide, although the train was fairly bumpy. There was a snack bar on the observation car.  At some point between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, three of my fellow writers and I went for lunch in the dining car.  The food was pretty good and we continued to enjoy the sights we saw.

One of the most unique areas that the Coast Starlight goes through is Vandenberg Air Force Base.  Most of the base is undeveloped, although the buildings that you do see are the color of camouflage.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take any photos, so the base will remain unseen.  Shortly thereafter, the sun set, so the rest of the train ride was in the dark.  We arrived at Jack London Square in Oakland a half hour late, so the trip took almost twelve hours, many more than the drive would have taken.  On the other hand, we didn't have to drive.  We could sit in our chairs, drink wine and eat, write our stories, and stretch our legs whenever we wanted.

I would definitely take this train route again, but I would go in the summer, when it would be light until late, and I wouldn't miss anything outside my train window.

Nano Update:
Plot?  MC is about to day hike the beginning of the Appalachian Trail
Word Count?  41, 708

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