July 24th, 2007
Last week, Terah, Jacob, and I boarded a train in Kansas. We were bound for Los Angeles, then would go up the coast of California, eventually winding up in Portland for OSCON.
Our first train was the Southwest Chief out to LA.
Jacob had a great time on the train. This is a picture of Jacob and Terah in our sleeping car room. Jacob slept in his carseat at night and played with us during the day. See all recent photos of Jacob.
We had the option to get off the train for a few minutes in La Junta, CO. I took some photos trackside.
Here’s Jacob enjoying the lounge car. There were dozens of Boy Scouts on our train, heading to the Boy Scout camp near Raton, NM. Many of them hung out in the lounge car, so Jacob had plenty to watch and keep him entertained.
The lounge car has wrap-around windows. We got an expansive view of the Rockies on the first day of our trip, and of the California desert on the second. This route really gives you a feeling of being alone sometimes. There are times where you can look out the window, and as far as you can see, there is no evidence of people or civilization.
Here’s a picture out the lounge car, looking at the train as it rounded a curve.
The lounge car was in the middle of the train, so the train really was longer than it might appear here.
We had a bit of an adventure in Lamy, NM. Apparently a terminal cancer patient was riding the train, and died in the night. We were held up for about 2 hours for authorities to arrive, perform their investigation, etc.
While we were there, passengers could get off the train and look around. I took a few photos there.
This is a photo looking towards the front of the Chief. It uses bi-level cars, so every car has an upstairs and a downstairs.
Just outside the Lamy station is an old dining car. It is now a stationary restaurant. The restaurant had closed just before we arrived, but they let me in to take a few quick photos anyway.
Just past Albuquerque, one of the two locomotives on our train failed. That meant that, combined with the delay at Lamy, we were more than 3 hours late into Los Angeles. That, in turn, meant that we missed our connection to the Coast Starlight. So the new plan was to take a bus to Bakersfield, then the San Joaquin train to Sacramento, where we could catch up with the Coast Starlight and get to Portland as scheduled.
Jacob really enjoyed the Bakersfield train station. I carried him up to the stone walls, which he enjoyed exploring with his hands.
This is the Bakersfield station. It’s a nice building. But their large metal sign reads “To trains and busses.” Someday I will forget about them misspelling “buses” on a large metal sign.
I’ve got two more pictures of Jacob at Bakersfield that you’d enjoy: one, two. He sure was a popular baby. We got countless compliments from strangers, and he got even more smiles and greetings from people. Even when he was fussy, people kept saying what a good baby he was. We were a little surprised at that. A few people even found his cry to be cute and funny!
One of the nice side-effects of missing our connection was seeing the grand old Sacramento train station. A beautifully-decorated building. We were there until about 12:30AM because the Coast Starlight had been delayed as well.
Terah saw a sign out the door saying “Quiznos: Now Open.” I figured that meant that the store was open, not that the place was open late into the night, but she wanted to check. She stepped out and then back in again. “As soon as I got out, homeless people started yelling at me! Plus the store wasn’t open,” she reported.
On the Coast Starlight, we discovered the absolutely stunning Pacific Parlour Car. These cars were originally built in the 1950s for the Santa Fe railroad, and have been renovated and restored by Amtrak for service on the Coast Starlight. That’s the only train where they run, and they are available only to first-class passengers.
I noticed stairs going to the lower level of the Parlour, and was curious what was down there. So I went down to check it out, and it is a small (18 seats, I think) theater!
We sat down there for awhile and talked to some of the other people.
The view from the Coast Starlight was amazing. The trip through the mountains was particularly nice. We saw mountains from the distance, up close, and at some points could look out our window directly down into a deep valley below. There were lakes, waterfalls, and little creeks all along.
And finally, this is the grand Portland train station. Still an active station and a sight to see, though not as nice as Kansas City’s.
So that’s the trip to Portland. More to come on the convention and the city itself.