I’ve always liked trains, and truth be told as a child I was obsessed with them. My mother would take me to the train museum and I constantly wore a striped train engineer’s hat. My ardor cooled with age and while I love the sound of a train whistle in the distance, I haven’t ridden one since M and I went to NYC for his birthday 2 years ago. On my recent trip to the Golden State I followed my plan, I didn’t rent a car (success!) and I took Amtrak. It was pleasant, cheap, and altogether a great experience. Ok so it wasn’t a midnight train but I couldn’t resist the title. Taking Amtrak was easy, and I mean simple, 123, and totally stress free travel. Now when was the last time you heard that phrase? I checked the schedules online at Amtrak.com where I was able to easily navigate the different routes offered to Bakersfield. I initially planned on taking a connecting bus to LA Union Station but my dear brother who lives in the desert offered to take a few days off of work to go on last minute adventures. He is the best! So I bought my one way ticket to Bakersfield for $42 dollars online and got back to having a good time with my family.
On the day of my departure it couldn’t have been easier. My mother lives in the California Central Valley. It is equidistant from every major airport by two hour car ride. The train station was about 2 miles from her house and we easily navigated the distance in about 5 minutes. My mother and I walked up to the ticket counter in the tiny rail office and I requested my ticket and gave the clerk my online reservation code and photo ID. He didn’t weigh my bags, search me, or charge me for my luggage. I was able to bring a 2 Liter bottle of water, and any size bottle of shampoo I wanted. I chided myself for not bringing a cup of coffee or a 5 gallon bucket of something just because I could. He checked my ID against my reservation and just handed me a nice trifold ticket sleeve and told me the train would be arriving in about 20 minutes on the outdoor platform. My mother stayed with me the entire time on the platform, chatting and saying a lingering so long, She hugged and kissed me as the train whistled to a stop and I got on the train. It was
g l o r i o u s
the train platform was simple, open and quiet. No bustling crowds, no blaring gift shops and no stranded families eating overpriced crackers.
The only downside about taking the train is that the seats aren’t assigned so it’s Russian roulette for window/aisle options but it really wasn’t that bad. I liked the lounge car the best, as it offered a large menu of reasonably priced food and spirits and cozy little places to eat. The booths are complete with brass plated sconce lamps that just make me smile.
To be honest, the best part about the trip really is the slow rhythmic sound of the tracks and beautiful scenery outside the window. The seats are quite comfortable and there are many spaces where two seats face one another with a table between them. This is a perfect arrangement for a game of cards, social interaction and a good platform for movie watching. A lovely, hatted conductor comes by and punches your ticket and slips it in the holder attached to the luggage shelf. I was able to sprawl over my whole seat and take a lovely nap,the I read a book nestled against the wide window. Another bonus is that I didn’t have to turn off my phone so I was able to talk to people and give updates to my brother about my arrival. I really want to ride the train again, and this time I want a sleeper car. I was so in love with my experience that I arranged a sleeper car for my parents to meet us for Christmas in Seattle. This way they can travel in style and have a vacation en route to the holiday madness. I believe in rail transit but there is a problem with cost, some of the trips that I would want to take, like to Boston from Baltimore, are significantly cheaper and faster by air. That being said, if the time investment and the cost are relative, I will choose Amtrak every time.
I hope you enjoyed the ride my friends. Please take the train sometime, I think you will have a fantastic time. For me, this trip was just the beginning of many rides to come.