Train to LA

10/2/21

Today was a full day of train travel: roughly 10 am to 8:30 pm on Amtrak’s majestic Coast Starlight. My Warmshowers hosts were kind enough to drop me off at the train station in San Jose, which made my morning much easier. I did have some more stress loading my bike and trailer onto the train, which I guess will simply continue to be a theme. In this case, no Amtrak employees said anything discouraging, even as I saw that they did see my bike and trailer. But when I boarded, the luggage area was uncomfortably full. I had a few minutes of near-panic, wondering what on earth I could do to find a place to stow these items. We boarded about 15 minutes before departure, so there was time to work on it, but there were no staff in sight for most of that time. I asked a fellow passenger to help me heft the trailer onto the train, but then I worried I would have to get it back off the car and maybe into the little baggage area on another car. After awkwardly attempting to rearrange some other passengers’ bags (which were also rather heavy and bulky) and realizing I just couldn’t squeeze out enough space in that area, I finally walked along the outside of the train until I found an employee, and asked her what to do. She said to “put it in that little room next to the baggage area.” Hmmm… did she mean the little quasi-baggage car that they seem to have in some coach cars now, and I had somehow overlooked it?

No: “There are passengers in there, but don’t worry, there should be room.”

Hmmmm… OK…?

I went back, and sure enough, that extra room had seating for passengers, and a space for a wheelchair. There was one passenger napping in the front seat, but a large wheelchair space ahead of him, which thankfully was unoccupied and appeared to be just the right amount of space for the trailer. I dragged it rather unceremoniously into place, then went back and hoisted the bike onto the third rack in the baggage area (oof! I definitely felt all of its 40 pounds) and then slunk upstairs to my seat, hoping all would be OK.

It appeared that it was, and when I disembarked, the conductor helped me to unload it all. Then I did have to struggle to reassemble everything on the platform, and make my way down a steep and narrow ramp while pushing the trailer as a cart with my left hand, and rolling the bike with my right, and then figure out where to meet my cousin, who was picking me up. But I sorted it all out.

The train ride itself was as beautiful as always, although the rolling hills were definitely browner than I was used to, since I usually take this train in the winter for sunny getaways in southern California, and the hills are greener then.

I did find myself feeling a bit bored and restless on the train, which felt sad. I wanted to just fully embrace the ride! I always hope for magical interactions with other passengers, but sadly they do not always happen, and today was one of those days. I did take an hour or two to sit in the sightseer lounge car, first eating my prepacked lunch at a table, then sipping my “Amtrak signature cocktail” (I mix it myself: sweet tea with vodka, from the lounge) from a sideways seat overlooking beautiful vistas.

But then I returned to my seat, and succumbed to scrolling social media on my phone, despite knowing that both my battery and data plan were running low. I wished I could be more “Zen,” simply enjoying the scenery and breathing deeply. But, such is my way of being in modern life, I suppose. I did listen to some music on my iPod, and write in my journal. (And, of course, snapped all these photos!) But having the feeling of social connection through my phone felt important, so I chose to indulge.

When we arrived in LA, I was so happy to see my cousin; it had been a couple of years at least. She has a new place now, where I’m happy to stay for the next two nights.

Tomorrow (or today, when you read this, since I forgot to ask her about the WiFi so I’ll post this in the morning) I will brave the 90+ degree temps to cycle to Sage Bistro, and then the Huntington Gardens, in Pasadena. Perhaps I can take a dip in the pool afterward to refresh.

Now, a good night’s sleep!

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