ShaneBlog

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A sampler platter of America

April 19, 2013

pitstop in Klamath Falls, aka. the middle of nowhere
pitstop in Klamath Falls, aka. the middle of nowhere

So I'm fresh off of the train that I rode for 23 hours. I didn't get very much sleep last night. I haven't showered or changed my clothes in two days. I'm wandering the streets of Seattle, and I'm getting rained on. But you know what?

I don't care cause that train ride was incredible.

I'm recommending long train rides to almost anyone who's got the time. The Amtrak is a wonderfully diverse sampler platter of of America. Here's why.

The People

There is part of the train called the observation car. It's where people go to hang out and pass the time during their long rides. It's like a coffee shop, except there are windows all around you. Also, there is also no wifi.

chillin in the observation car, only 12 hours to go!
chillin in the observation car, only 12 hours to go!

This makes the observation car a great environment for having interesting discussions. No one is in a rush – most people have hours and hours left on the train. No one has an agenda either. They aren't trying to be your Facebook friend or LinkedIn connection. They're just looking to pass the time.

You end up having discussions with people with you'd probably never talk to otherwise. Here's a little taste of some of the people I met:

  • A socially awkward older man from Seattle who plays the worlds longest clarinet (it's 6 feet in case you were wondering). He had series of shows in the Bay Area. He takes the train because they don't handle his clarinet, his baby, delicately enough on flights.
  • A 50 something retired couple who had been riding the train for over a week in a sleeper car. They hit New Orleans, Chicago, LA, Seattle, and everywhere in between. They say the train is better version of a cruise.
  • An 85 year old man who saw me reading on my iPad. We had an hour long conversation on his opinion on e-readers.
  • A guy around my age who was moving to Seattle after being over worked and burnt out at a startup in San Francisco.
  • A ragtag band of musicians in 1920s style garb who boarded in Salem. They started a mini folk concert in the observation car, providing background tunes to the Oregon landscape. Of course, they got off in Portland.

I didn
I didn't have to go to Portland; Portland came to me

The Scenery

In addition to the people, you also get a delicious sampler of the raw, unfiltered American landscape.

I boarded at night in a dingy Emeryville train station, but woke up to a colorful sunrise in the uninhabited brushlands of Northern California. Before I knew it, the brush had transformed into snowy forested mountains in the wake of Mt Shasta. I'm not a geography buff, but I'm pretty sure Hogwarts was near by.

Hours later, I was seeing cute muggle children wave at us in the suburbs of Oregon. We made our way through downtown Portland by passing over at least two cool wooden bridges before finishing up by maneuvering through the curvy waterways and islands of the Puget Sound to Seattle – where it was and still is raining. More on that to come.

Hogwarts is back there somewhere
Hogwarts is back there somewhere

So yeah, I'm glad I didn't fly. I'll have plenty of flying to look forward too…

Until then,
-Shane

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