Coasting Home

Amtrak Adventure 30/31 (about October 29th, 2021)

We made it! Our train pulled into LA yesterday morning only 16 minutes late—well within the 1.5 hour margin of safety we lost about a year of our lives stressing over—which meant we actually beat Mom & Ivan (my grandfather) to the station!

After a quick pit stop there, where I told my coworkers about my now-complete lack of WiFi—my last hotspot data source just got throttled to 50 Kbps (that’s ~2000x slower than a standard home Internet connection; it took longer to open the website to create this post than it will to write it)—and grabbed a bite to eat, it was off to the races on our final leg of the trip: the Coast Starlight.

One bright side of being functionally off the grid is that it made more time for hanging out; we did lots of puzzles with Mom, and learned lots of train trivia from Grandpa Ivan (who, loving trains, is practically an encyclopedia for all things related to them).

(It also made me forget to take any pictures during the day for this post; thanks for sending me a few to use, Mom!)

The Coast Starlight is beautiful—it hugs the coast (huh) in Southern California, then ventures inland as it climbs all the way up the West Coast.

As it goes off the coast, it goes through Vandenberg Space (neé Air) Force Base—the only rocket launching facility in the American west. We caught a few glimpses of giant vehicle assembly buildings and launchpads for both ULA and SpaceX, each only a few hundred of feet from the train! That was an awesome surprise.

Here’s something we don’t normally capture: at most “smoke breaks,” Mattea and I get out—instead, we walk around and occasionally do pushups. It gets quite a few looks and comments. Today, it got a picture as well:

Back on the train, we had the luxury of real Amtrak food for the first time. Because Mom & Grandpa Ivan are staying in a sleeper car, they get “free” meals from the dining car that we plebeians are barred from entering. After filling up at lunch, Mom smuggled her dinner out for us to try; Mattea got some tortellini with Pesto, I got to taste a side of Mac & Cheese and a slice of cheesecake.

It’s very good stuff, top-quality restaurant level! Their disposable plastic dishes are nice, as well, comparable in quality to some cheap-but-reusable plasticware. If they managed to offer that food and stable, fast WiFi to everyone onboard for a somewhat reasonable price point, I expect there would be a lot more demand for train travel. (Going twice the speed wouldn’t hurt anything, either…)

Anyways, that’s it for now! Here’s to our last night on the train (spoiler: I normally write these the night of “yesterday,” right before going to sleep); when we wake up, we’ll be near home in mid-Oregon… and after that, back with family, safely in Seattle.

It’s been a good adventure, but I can’t say I’ll miss sleeping in coach.