Emeryville Amy

This blog will be a combination of my favorite places in the Bay Area and abroad, memoirs, recipes, restaurant reviews and travel experiences.

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Location: Emeryville, San Francisco Bay Area, CA, United States

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Portland Bound


I survived my first night on Amtrak! Amazingly, the train was only a few minutes late coming into the station at Emeryville. My friend George and I had dinner at the Townhouse and then drove the two blocks to the station and pretty quickly boarded the train. The windows don't open so George did charades to communicate with me until the train departed. We had to wait about 30 minutes because a car was stuck on the tracks somewhere up ahead. I guess that kind of thing happens more frequently than you would think.

My roomette is truly as small as the dimensions online said it would be. George thought it looked like two phone booths put together. It felt more like just one. It was set up in the sleeper position when I arrived. There is only about 6" of floor space in that configuration, so changing clothes, standing... is challenging. Good thing that I am not super tall because when I stretched out I could definitely reach both ends. I also had the compartment to myself so I didn't have the upper berth open. That might have been too claustrophobic for me.

I sat on the bed and watched 4th Street in Berkeley go by. I had often sipped coffee at Peets and listened to the whistle blow loudly as the train went through town. It felt very different chugging past it in the dark. I watched as we went past the refineries and then the cliffs in San Pablo. My friend Sandi lives on the bluffs there and said she always wanted to hang a banner out her window and wave as a friend passed by on the train. If I had been going by at a decent hour I bet I she would have been there waving me on.

I feel asleep fairly quickly but awoke every time the train stopped. At one point went I woke up and looked out the window the Big Dipper was hanging low in the sky right next to me. It was very dark out so the sky seemed to glitter with stars.

People seemed to get up early on the train. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the cramped quarters... I got up a little before 7:00 and lurched my way to the tiny restroom without falling down. I don't have the best balance on trains, buses, metros, really anything that is moving, so I count it a success to only have a few bruises on my arms from bumping the walls rather than skinned knees or black eyes.

I stumbled up the stairs and through two cars to the "parlor car" where I sat in a very comfortable swivel arm chair and sipped hot coffee while we wound our way around Mt Shasta. It is in view for over an hour and the route takes us around it so there are many different perspectives in which to see it. I thought about all of my friends, especially Earl Palmer, who have hiked it. The early morning light is so golden. We passed through a valley where there was a thin blanket of fog floating along the valley floor. I tried taking some pictures but I know they won't capture the beauty of it.

Everyone I have met is so friendly. At breakfast I was seated with a nice couple from Seattle and a minister named MJ in the Pentecostal Church. He told me later that he has been a minister for 65 years and had been the Superintendent of the Pentecostal church. The couple from Seattle gave me some good travel tips for things to do in their home town. The food was not much more passible but the service has been very warm and competent.

After breakfast I made my way back to my roomette and gathered my toiletries and courage to take a shower. Despite the instructions in the shower which were not even close to being right, I managed to get clean without killing myself. No small feat.

The view in the parlor car is much better than from my room so I headed back up there. I brought along my laptop so I could write this. We recently stopped at Klamath Falls. As soon as we slowed, huge mosquitos swarmed the windows. That helped me decide to NOT get off the train for fresh air. Pulling out of town we passed by the local high school "Home of the Pelicans" and saw the marching band out on their field practicing their formations.

Upper Klamath Lake is big and beautiful. I overheard the "Birders" excitedly call out the names of the wildlife. Snowy egrets, pelicans, ducks, Canadian geese, shore birds and even a bald eagle were visible. The wetlands were filled with life this morning for our viewing pleasure. When the lake was out of sight a river followed along the tracks for awhile. Fisherman were out in their little rowboats looking quite picturesque.

In the dining car they always seat a full table of four if at all possible. They send you in by groups and you sit with whomever they assign to your table. I kind of like that because I will always be meeting new people at the meals. Conversation is pretty easy, at least initially, because you can always ask people where they are from and where they are headed to. This usually opens the door to various tangents and points of connection. There is an Amish group on the train and I kind of hope that I would be seated with them, but no luck this time. Maybe if I was wearing the white bonnet...

The majority of the riders on this train are on the older side. I can't believe some of them can make it from one car to the next since it is like going through a carnival "fun house" between the rail cars. There is often about a foot high level change and a sideways scissoring motion which you have to navigate while reaching ahead and pushing the "Press" button firmly enough for the doors to slide open.

We keep stopping to let other trains go by. No wonder Amtrak has such a bad record for being late. We are at least 2-3 hours behind schedule at this point. A freight train with tons of lumber has the right of way now and we are just sitting here watching it go by. I understand where all the lumber is from; for the past few hours we have been passing nothing but pine trees. The train is traveling along a mountain ridge and keeps popping in and out of tunnels. It is very scenic to say the least.

Other things that have caught my eye, some more scenic than others are: a fun tree house, a high school football team practicing, red barns, vineyards and orchards, cows, sheep, goats, horses, xmas tree farms, chemical processing plants, lumber yards, used car dumps, trailer parks, blackberry bushes and corn fields... all of the ordinary things of life but not necessarily the things I usually take note of or am exposed to.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Amy!

I LOVE it! I'm so excited to follow along on your adventure...you definately have a way with words!

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bon voyage, Amy! It sounds like you're off to a great start! I hope you can post pictures of yourself in all of these great places.

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It works! I'm so glad you can keep us updated during your trip.

10:09 PM  

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