My train left Emeryville late at night so there wasn't a lot to see. I took a couple pictures of the train itself, though. The next morning, I woke up as dawn broke and the train was winding through a very narrow canyon near Dunsmuir in northern California. Here are some notes I wrote as I was riding the train:
May 26, 11:25 pm
Heading north somewhere between Emeryville and Martinez. Got on at Emeryville - train was about 20 minutes late. Briefly got a good view of the SF skyline before we turned east. Currently sitting in the lounge car with my laptop plugged in to the AC outlet by the snack vendor booth. There's an Indian guy who's going to Chico to visit someone, and he has his laptop too. He's watching "Desperate Housewives" which he downloaded off the Internet. It has Chinese subtitles but otherwise is the same as the broadcast.
Just pulled into the Martinez station, now 11:29 pm.
After finding my assigned seat, I put my luggage away (there's a large overhead shelf which easily fit my rollyboard and its associated daypack, once the latter was unzipped from the former). I then headed north along the train until i found the lounge car. The cars are two-level, but all the connections between cars are on the top level. When the train is swaying a lot it can be exciting to say the least, but there are lots of hand holds.
I was hoping to work on a new Web site while here, but I failed to plan for the fact that it requires certain Perl modules to be installed, like DBI to access the database. I'll have to fix that when I'm in Seattle in the hotel room, where there is supposedly WiFi. I also forgot to download some text from Project Gutenberg to read, so I will have to make do with the paper books I brought.
Anyway, I found only one power outlet here in the lounge car, and my new extension cord fit it nicely. However, the other guy wanted to use it too, so we're taking turns. I really should have got a multiplexer or power strip. Maybe I'll pick one up in Seattle.
May 27, 5:11 am
So my expert advice from Usenet was to get up at dawn and find a seat in the lounge car on the right hand side of the train. So far, I have not been steered wrong. It's not quite dawn and I have only slept about three hours, but I was awakened by the sensation of the train making a series of sharp curves right and left. I looked out the window and could see water!
No, we weren't in a flood. But just a few feet outside the windows was a raging torrent of a river, barely visible in the moonlight. Looking up I could see the silhouettes of trees and at the hilltops the just-past-full moon played peekaboo with us. So I decided to get up and head to the lounge car.
And so here I am. The sky is steadily lightening, and the river is slowly becoming more visible. A fellow traveler tells me it is probably the Shasta River and we are approaching the summit. I see no reason why this should not be the case as the rapids clearly flow from left to right as I look out my window on the right side of the train.
We just passed a freight train going the other way. We're heading slowly, at about 15-20 MPH, and the river seems to be narrowing as we climb higher. Just passed a post with the number 310 on it; perhaps later I can look up our location more precisely.
Just finished breakfast. Most days at home, Holly and I have breakfast in bed: hot oatmeal made from scratch, a bowl of fresh fruit, and Morningstar Farms fake bacon. Usually Holly gets up a half hour before me to prepare it, but sometimes I do it. Here on the train, though, that's not possible.
The other day I went shopping for some kind of alternative to fresh oatmeal and found a pretty close option: Barbara's Moist & Chewey Nature's Choice Granola Bars, Oats & Honey flavor. I had two bars of that for breakfast. And before I left home Holly gave me three small Tupperware bowls of fresh fruit; I had one of those, with strawberries, cantaloupe, and honeydew. It was a good breakfast, and the view is great, but you just can't beat breakfast in bed!
It's starting to get light enough now I can start taking photos. This lounge car isn't like the old fashioned dome cars, where you can see in all directions, but it does have glass windows that curve up to the ceiling so you can get a pretty good view up.
We're coming to a stop on a siding, it seems. I see a marker with 319 on it. I guess there's another freight coming through.
Waiting on a train, in more ways than one. We spent 20 minutes parked on a siding, waiting for another train to pass. When it finally did, it was the southbound Amtrak Coast Starlight, 5 hours behind schedule!
The guy next to me got out some trail mix and soy milk and is eating his breakfast. We're rolling again, supposedly almost to Dunsmuir. I took a couple of pics with my phone, and was able to upload one successfully but the other two didn't go through. I think we were right on the boundary between a Verizon cell tower and one from another network ("Extended Network").
We just spotted Mt. Shasta for the first time, for just a moment above the hilltops, and then we arrived at Dunsmuir. Dunsmuir has a freight yard where freight crews are changed. In the old days it was apparently a maintenance station for steam locomotives; we passed an intact turntable, but the accompanying roundhouse had long since been demolished.
Flirting with Mt. Shasta. We've seen Mt. Shasta from nearly every side now, as we continue our way toward the Oregon border. The numerous foothills alternatly obscure and reveal its majestic beauty. The sun is out, reflecting brilliantly off the snowy peaks. On the other side of the train is a vast plain with lots of small cinder cone volcanoes.
The lounge car is pretty full now, with the snack vendor downstairs doing a brisk business. The dining car next door is in the middle of its breakfast service.
I'm getting sleepy. I only got about three hours of sleep last night, and the night before I stayed up so late packing I was similarly sleep deprived. I think once we get into the more ordinary part of Oregon I may try to take a nap. I don't want to miss any scenery though.
Click the big picture to go to the set page on Flickr, or click on an individual photo. Or, you can view a slideshow of the photos.
Re: May 26, 2005 (Northbound)
Guru wrote on Thu, 02 Jun 2005 15:49
Cool site, Bill. Reading the notes and looking at the pictures, it's almost as if I travelled with you. You have a gifted pen and camera :-)
Re: Re: May 26, 2005 (Northbound)
Bill Ward wrote on Thu, 02 Jun 2005 17:16
Thanks, I really appreciate that!
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Last updated: 09/19/2007 William R. Ward, email@example.com