Gearing up, and stunning train-window vistas


What a day!

I’m in my first hotel of this trip, for a brief overnight in Klamath Falls until I can catch the bus to Medford in the morning. (Fingers crossed my rig will be allowed on this one as well!)

Today started with a trip to Arriving by Bike, the Brompton-friendly bike shop in Eugene. I had called ahead to make sure they had the 16” Marathon Plus tires I wanted in stock, and was assured that they did, but when I asked if they could switch out the tires for me, the staffer was unwilling to promise that, since their service department was quite busy.

But when I got there, it was a breeze! They found the tires right away, and the mechanic installed them right away, while I zipped over—sans trailer, which is so much easier—to nearby Sundance Natural Foods, for a few snacks and treats for the road. When I returned to pick up the trailer, I noticed a particular tire tool that my first Warmshowers host of the trip—the one in my own Portland neighborhood—had highly recommended. I was happy for his recommendation, and happy to see the product displayed prominently in the shop.

I left the shop very pleased, and even managed to fit both of the original tires into my nearly-full-to-bursting trailer, which helps me feel even more prepared for any tire troubles: now the ones on the trailer should be much more puncture-resistant, but even if I do have a problem—with the bike or trailer tires—I’ll have two “emergency spares” on hand.

Having accomplished that mission, I headed across town to meet up with an old Portland friend who recently moved to Eugene. I hadn’t seen her in a few years, and she has been living a magical life of her own, recently spending her 50th birthday on the big island of Hawai’i while volunteering for several weeks at the farm of a friend. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch from the deli of the Red Barn Natural Grocery, and talked about travel, life, magic, etc. I was debating ducking back inside the market to grab a chocolate bar, from which to break off a few squares for the moment and save some for later… when a young woman approached us from the table behind me. She apologized for “overhearing,” but said she was enthralled by our conversational topics and found them very resonant for her life. She was holding a large unopened organic chocolate bar she had just purchased at the market, and offered us half of it, explaining that she had craved the chocolate but wouldn’t eat it all herself.


We chatted for a few minutes, and exchanged contact info (she was just passing through Eugene herself, on her way back to northern California) and wished her the best as she left.

Then my friend and I said goodbye, and I biked back to my Warmshowers host’s place to pack up everything and head to the train station.

When I arrived at the station, I hit a hurdle that briefly threatened to make me freak out:

I asked the station attendant how best to prepare the trailer for handling in the baggage car. (Would I even have space inside the trailer, now, to stash the wheels if I removed them to check it for free as regular baggage? What would the cost be to check it as-is, as a trailer? And which option would result in more gentle/careful handling of my precious cargo?)

His reply: “Oh, this train doesn’t have a baggage car.” 

What?? The Coast Starlight? It’s a Superliner, long-distance train! How could they possibly run it without a baggage car? My mind reeled.

He continued, “You’ll have to take off the wheels and just carry it on.”

Again: What? This thing is heavy. And unwieldy. It’s hard enough to maneuver with the wheels on, but without handles, it’s impossible for me to carry alone (still rather difficult even with someone else helping) without the wheels.

As I struggled not to freak out, my mind went to worst-case scenarios: Would they refuse to let me board?

I sat down and chose to trust that things would work out.

I remembered that I had bought optional hardware to turn the trailer into a push cart, though I hadn’t used that option yet. That would probably be the best way to at least get the trailer train-side, and then I could ask the conductor for guidance and/or physical help in loading it onboard, as well as the folded bike.

So I calmly began transforming the trailer, first removing the rain cover, then swapping out the bike hitch for the push-cart handle, and finally switching over each wheel into its push-cart position. I had to marvel at how nifty the whole process was. (I so appreciate good design!)

When the train approached, I grabbed the folded bike in one hand and pushed the trailer with the other, out to the boarding area.

And by golly, we got the whole contraption on the train! Two very kind fellow passengers helped me to lift and stow both the bike and the trailer (which I never did have to disassemble: it fit just fine on the bottom shelf, and the rubber handle prevented it from rolling even with the wheels still attached.) When I disembarked, the conductor helped me to carry the trailer out.

The train ride was gorgeous, as always. For the first half of the five hours, the scenery was bathed in golden-hour light, and then twilight (including some wonderful fog in the evergreens that was too dark to capture on my camera). After it got dark, I sipped a cocktail and listened to some music. I had the seat to myself, and in fact it was the very back seat of the whole train, so I could look out the back window from time to time to watch the tracks receding as we chugged along. Even in coach, the Superliner trains have wonderfully comfortable seats and ample legroom, so it felt luxurious. I ate my Sundance tofu wrap, and the man across the aisle from me—returning to Sacramento from his own epic cross-country train trip to Chicago and Washington, DC—even offered me “extra” chocolates that he wasn’t going to eat. Sadly they were not vegan, so I declined, but I smiled to realize that two people had offered me chocolate gifts in one day.

The train got in about 10:00, and Google Maps directed me down a lovely bike path for most of the 15-minute ride from the train station to my hotel. It was 43 degrees (yikes!) but I didn’t feel too cold, in my fleece and with my leggings under my nylon capris. My clothing and hair look ridiculous on this trip—in fact the capris got stained the first day—and I’m enjoying simply sinking into that reality, caring more about the beauty I see all around me, and less about whatever others might think about my appearance.

Now, I think it’s time for another relaxing bath before bed!

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4 thoughts on “Gearing up, and stunning train-window vistas”

  1. Wow Maren, I am in awe of your quest and daily journeys and vicariously enjoying the heck out of it all. Thank you for sharing and please be safe on your travels! And truly, you were blessed by the chocolate Gods.

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