The Rails Underneath Me go Clickity-Clack all the Way to Seattle

by Kayla Trail

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March 10th, 2013

Somewhere in Oregon, the wheels on the tracks go clickity-clack as the train bumbles and bounces its way along. We are, as I thought we would be, well behind schedule. This may not be top of the line high speed rail and we may be passed by cars on the freeways or made to wait for hours as freights pass us by, but in my opinion, trains are one of the most exciting ways to travel.

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I board the Coast Starlight Line in Davis, California bound for Seattle, Washington. Our locomotive slowly climbs up the Cascade Range, beautifully covered in conifers and the lingering snow of late spring. The hours slowly pass and I really couldn’t care less about when I reach my destination.

I spoiled myself a little and got a room in the Sleeping Car. We had our our private Parlour Car and it made me feel like I was in 1890, traveling the vast expanses of this country in style.

The Parlour Car

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Davis and Seattle are 746 miles apart, a distance I could reasonably drive in about 13 hours or accomplish in a one hour plane ride. Instead, I am spending about 24 hours on a train.

But why?

For the time, of course! The tracks do the navigating, you simply need to ride the course that has been painstakingly hammered into the earth. I was a bit overwhelmed, feeling that I had to make the most of the 24 hours of free time ahead of me. I mostly spent it taking in the amazing scenery, scribbling away in my notebook and talking to fellow strangers.

Eugene depot

The train passed through an old stomping ground of mine. I had to photograph the station where I left to visit home for the first time after leaving for college which feels like an eternity ago. I had a lot of time to contemplate the past.

Wine tasting through the willammette valley

Luckily, I had things such as wine and cheese tasting to keep me occupied.

I also had a lot of interesting people to talk to. I used to be very adamant about wearing my headphones while traveling, even if I wasn’t listening to music or long after my iPod battery had run out. The more I travel and realize there are so many amazing people to meet along the way, the more I’ve veered from this practice. On this trip I’ve met:

A) Two older ladies from southern California. They are two of seven sisters-in-law who get together once a year. They came from San Diego, were going all the way to Spokane, Washington and were going to make the reverse trip in a week. (That’s about two days, just FYI)
B) A sweet old man from Taiwan who was riding up and down the coast, “scouting” as he called it, seeing where he wanted to come back again to spend more time.
C) A woman who was on her way to Eugene for a training conference. She grew up in northern India and talked a great deal about how Colorado reminded her a lot of home. It really made me want to visit India AND Colorado.
D) A woman from Australia who loves cats so much that she opened up a cat hotel for when her neighbors take a holiday. We were neighbors in the sleeping car and she was quite the storyteller.

Five people may not seem like much but I’ve never been much of a people person or enjoyed talking to strangers so I was really going out of my comfort zone.  As I’ve grown more comfortable in my own skin, it’s been much easier for me to reach out to others. It feels strange to say, but I do believe in these past couple of years, between the ages of 22 and 25, I’ve grown up more than in all previous years of my life combined.

Portland

But I digress. As the sun set towards the end of my travels, thed train steams through Portland, Oregon. The rain clouds loom overhead but the lights burn bright in the parlour car. And I look forward to the next opportunity to follow the tracks to wherever they may lead.

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