Sunday, September 13, 2009

Riding the Rails

Did I ever mention we are (Los Angeles) Angels fans? Never think twice about it: we are! Even though a trip to Anaheim and Angel Stadium is almost a three hour trip for us we manage to go four to five times a season. So this year we're sitting at Angel Stadium and we're watching the ads on the board. One of the ads was for JetBlue. We both turned to each other and simultaneously (really) said: Seattle. We decided then and there to go to at least one Angel/Mariners game. But we started talking about taking a train ride to Seattle instead of flying (sorry JetBlue). Hmmm....could be fun we said!

That was before I fractured my ankle, but we decided to try it anyway. Doing this however meant we had to travel on the lower level because I couldn't do stairs yet. And one must ascend stairs to access seats upstairs, the observation lounge and the dining car. But by riding on the lower level we had the car to ourselves much of the time and the coach attendant brought us our meals if we so desired. We had a great attendant on the trip north. Oscar had a wonderful sense of humor and was very sensitive to our (my) needs. Those times we had company we met some wonderful people and heard great life stories. But not everything went well for everyone.

There was the man who had his luggage bag taken by someone. We're sure it was an oversight because he had a generic looking black bag. The bag that was left behind looked just like his. And sadly, there was no tag on it!!! People: put some kind of identifying tag on your bag so even YOU can easily identify it!!

Then: on our trip back the night attendant (different from the day time attendant) did not wake up a very sweet lady at her stop. Not good for anyone in any situation but this lady happened to be 84, traveling alone and had macular degeneration to the point of not be able to see. She was devastated.

It is unfortunate that we all do not handle stress in the best possible way. I know the night attendant was so upset by what had happened that he handled it by taking on an attitude you wouldn't believe. Yes, he acknowledged it was his fault but that didn't make it any better. They put the lady off two stops (and 75 miles) from her original stop and put her on a bus back to that stop.

I called the woman's daughter-in-law and let her know the status of her mother-in-law as mom was led off to the bus. She was grateful and told me of the attitude the attendant had. He insisted there was no one in our car destined for the stop even though the woman told him there was. His response to her? "Maybe she'll wake up in Sacramento". NOT what they wanted to hear.

Tigger 1 and Tigger 2 (on the left) are our traveling companions. They enjoyed watching the California coastline. In 1999 Tigger 2 joined us at Schiphol Airport in Sweden after which they traveled all over Europe with us on the Eurail.

But I digress so I'll get back to the rail trip itself. We boarded the Coast Starlight in Oxnard. They were very helpful and had a wheelchair ramp set down between the train and the cement walkway. We boarded with no problem and our seating area was empty so we had our choice of seats. Going north choose the west side of the train because that's the coast side. The only problem there is that late in the day you get the sun on that side.

It was fun seeing Ventura and Santa Barbara from a different view. And it was a beautiful day so everything was looking its best. Did you know the forest service (I hope that's right) has volunteers on board?? True! In Santa Barbara we picked up two volunteers who talked about the sights and missions along the way. Their talk takes place up in the observation lounge, but one of the volunteers very kindly came down and gave us a "private" little talk on what we would see! They exited the train in San Luis Obispo but not before the lady gave us two stamps (rubber stamp) that you can only get when traveling on the Coast Starlight. Very Cool!

We saw a part of Lompoc we would never see otherwise and lots of cities north of Oakland and Redding we've never seen before. Oregon is a wonder for sure as we started to climb in elevation and entered gorgeous timbers and saw pristine lakes. Then as we got into Washington we were anxious because we knew we were near our destination.

However, viewing all that beautiful scenery takes about 32 hours on the train. I will admit that 32 hours on a train is a very, very long time. But on the whole I give it a thumbs up on the KarenT scale of things to do and see. The sights we saw were awesome and our company was good.

You'll also see little bits of people interaction : little snippets of time where you'll never be able to know the end .
At one station I saw a family of four, looked like Mom, Dad and a girl of about 13 and a boy of maybe 11. They were hugging another gal (big Sis?) as she prepared to get on the train. The boy started crying and held onto the gal. She gently pulled away to get on the train. When she boarded the family stood there all crying. The boy was heart wrenching. He wrapped his arms around the man and woman separately then clung to the girl still crying. My heart went out to him; I was in tears just watching him. I hope the gal gets back to them safely.

On the trip back we picked up a coach mate in Eugene who was headed for Simi Valley! In Sacramento we picked up a very upbeat blind gal destined for San Luis Obispo. They were both wonderful fellow passengers: fun to talk to. The Sacramento gal's name was Karen - gee, something I MIGHT remember! LOL!! She and I talked books - which was a unique experience: finding someone who "read" a lot of the same authors. I have to laugh here because she mentioned "watching" TV. I asked her if she only "listened" because of her blindness. She chuckled and said "I speak visual". Ok, so she "listened" to the same books (that I read) on tape! :-)

I forgot to mention that the very sweet elderly lady (who was not awakened for her stop) had passed the time not only telling us her story (a WWII War Bride!!) but also knitting a scarf. When she finished the scarf she gave it to me!! I cherish that scarf and will always remember Eunice with great fondness.

Even though 32 hours is a long time on a train I would recommend you do a train trip somewhere - anywhere. Several years back my friend and I took the train from Simi Valley to New Orleans. WOW! I always remembered that trip, along with a train trip to Denver that my husband I took. Gave a whole new meaning to "Moon River" (you have to have experienced the ride). So get out there: go do a train trip. Riding the rails is a great way to travel!