What I Did On My Holidays


Chapter 24

The Coast Starlight

24/11/99
Day 18

The evening's entertainment consisted of getting to Amtrak's Oakland station and catching the Coast Starlight overnight to Portland. This involved walking with packs down to the BART station, catching the BART to Oakland, walking to the Amtrak station ten or so blocks away and finding that the train was delayed 45 minutes.

This worked out better than expected. We had been told by many people and several TV news programs thatt the day before Thanksgiving was the worst day of the year to be travelling and this year was looking to be worse than last year. So a mere 45 minute delay was a pretty good outcome. But it would never happen in Japan.

As a result of the delay, we were too late to dine in style in the dining car. Instead we had a choice of appetite suppressants cleverly disguised as snacks. This was probably a good thing since Thanksgiving is the stuff your face day of the year for Americans and a very light dinner the night before would be good preparation.

The cabin consisted of two seats and a table. It looked extremely full with two people. Two people with large packs since they didn't trust Amtrak baggage handlers made the cabin look packed. (sorry) After some major contortions of the furniture, baggage and occupants, there were two bunks only fractionally longer than the average occupant and marginally less in the width dimension. There was no height dimension worthy of description.

Part of the joy and attraction of the Coast Starlight is the scenery of the Pacific coastline and the mountain ranges that the Oregonians cunningly arranged to keep the Californians from spilling too far north. Sadly, much of this scenery was lost in a dark overcast night. Still, we had more legroom than a plane, better food and we got to have a shower before going to sleep in a good approximation to a bed.

The corridors on this train were not much broader than me. For two people to pass in the corridor, some overly personal contact was required. So I expected a shower the size of a coffin, where you had to move around as best you could just to get the water to flow around you on every side and the soap was used not for washing but to help you slide in and out of the shower recess. So a shower cubicle and an area to dry off in that was what I'd call a normal size was a pleasant surprise.


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