Riding the Rails

All Aboard

All aboard!

I love train journeys. In India, where I reside half of each year, I make long-distance rail trips whenever I’m not pressed for time, generally snoozing-away most of the miles from a top berth in a second class bogey. I’d never traveled long distance by train in North America, however, until this week. On Thursday night, Yoo-Mi and I boarded Amtrak’s Coast Starlight Express at Oakland’s Jack London Station and headed north to Seattle, from which we’d jump the border to Vancouver on a connecting bus.

As a Canadian resident, I am prohibited from driving a U.S.-plated vehicle across into Canuckistan without formally importing and registering it, and paying a nice chunk of tax. Onerous as all that sounds, it’s mostly a moot point. I haven’t owned a car in seven years and don’t foresee owning one in the near future. Those kind enough to lend me their vehicles for hefty or distant errands are unlikely to want their wheels exported (and expropriated) like this.

So, public transportation it was; and Amtrak seemed a relatively comfortable way to go. Although private compartments with sleepers are available, we traveled “coach”, in reasonably broad seats that reclined almost deeply enough. The drive from San Francisco to Vancouver usually takes us about 16 hours; Amtrak takes nearly twice as long, delivering us not-exactly-door-to-door in 30 hours. The big difference, of course, is that those are hours spent reading, sleeping, or moving about, rather than stuck mercilessly behind the wheel, willing oneself to stay awake through the insistent ache of fatigue.

If there was one downside to Amtrak it was the chattiness of our fellow passengers. Not that they were talking to me – they were just talking. Loudly, incessantly, and about a whole-lot-of-nothing. And done in that peculiar middle-American accent that shreds any background noise, pierces the ears, and cuts to the bone.

All are bored!

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1 Response to “Riding the Rails”


  1. 1 millyonair 26 May 2009 at 7:14 am

    LOL @ “Canukistan”!

    Traveling somewhere by train is SO on my to-do list. Sounds like such a great time! We just traveled by car from Texas to Louisiana, and at even at eight hours I know what you mean about being stuck mercilessly behind the wheel. I like road trips for the scenery, but the no-napping-or-moving around part makes me think I’d love a train trip even more!


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