We thought we'd try a different mode of transportation between California and Oregon. We've done the drive so many times. We were a little late getting plane tickets, forgetting that with the crush of Spring Break that fares would be astronomical. So we decided "What the hell, let's try the train."
I didn't have to suffer through the trip from Eugene to Los Angeles. Kin did that in order to bring his daughter down to Manhattan Beach for holiday. But we thought that we could handle the return trip back from LA to Eugene. It's a long train ride -- over 24 hours. But the scenery is pretty and there are tables to work on, power to keep our computers charged and, so we hoped, WiFi.
Well, there's no WiFi on the Coast Starlight. And there were no power outlets in the observation car. So much for the hours of uninterrupted work that Kin and I hoped to be able to accomplish -- something that neither driving nor flying really afford us.
Then the conductor screwed us out of seats on the lower level of a small quiet car, placing us instead on the top level of what we realized was, as soon as we left Union Station, going to be sheer hell. "We have a large group coming on the next stop," we overheard one of the conductors say during the first pass through for tickets. "Choose your seats now. 200 kids from a Baptist youth group will be boarding soon. And there aren't enough seats for all of them."
Okay, let me stop right here. Because not having WiFi really sucks, but we carry a hotspot to generate our own. No biggie. Having no power in the observation car was borderline unacceptable. It meant that if we wanted to work, we were really going to have to stay in our assigned seats -- no view, less comfort. But then I hear you've actually oversold the train. You're letting 200 kids on board and there aren't enough seats for all of them? That means they'll be spilling out into the aisles, taking over the observation deck, and without assigned seats, they'll be doing this for the next 24+ hours?! Oh. No.
We tried sitting in our seats for a few, then thought we'd relocate to a quieter place. But some obnoxious little brat had her ukelele with her in the observation car, and I can tell you this much, by the time she'd sang Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" for the fourth time, I was about to lose my shit.
One hour into a 24 hour trip.
So we pulled the emergency stop handle (okay, figuratively) and got off in Santa Barbara. We rented a car and drove up Highway 101. We even stopped in San Francisco for a beer, in Mount Shasta for a real bed and 7 hours sleep, and still beat the Amtrak in to Eugene.
Photo credits: Minnesota Historical Society