Time away 3, a rolling retreat

Amtrak ticket jacket crop, text onlyMy ticket jacket expressed my ambition, even though I didn’t actually notice its message until a few days before leaving.

Amtrak ticket jacket crop 2

Too many years had passed since I’d visited good friends and family in California. It was time to go – I missed them. When I realized the trip could also include four rolling days of time away to write and read and daydream, the decision was made.

working in roomette 1 color adjI splurged on my Amtrak ticket and got a “roomette” that comes with wide seats that make into a bed, a little table, meals, “room service” if desired, and a power outlet to keep my “devices” charged. It’s a quiet, private place with a constantly changing scene out the window.

river through a passing freight

Scittery skySanta Barbara wall 2Sunset by bay 2

From Seattle, my first stop was Oakland, the Bay area station, one full day and night on the train. My second stop was the Los Angeles area, another full day farther down the tracks. My assigned room wasn’t on the “scenic” west side of the train in either direction, though on the way down I talked my way into a spot on that side for the most classically beautiful stretch right along the California coast from Pismo Beach almost all the way into Los Angeles.

Calif coast at distance 2The train was full. I liked being able to move back and forth between my own quiet little cubbyhole and lively spaces shared with others – the “parlour” car, dining car, observation car.

I spread out my papers and books and computer in my roomette or took my computer and a few papers to a table in the parlour car or propped my notebook on my knees in the observation car. I didn’t write as much as I’d fantasized I would, but that’s almost always true of my “times away.” The reading and especially the daydreaming filled hours.

working in roomette 2 color adj

working in parlour car 2 color adj

I woke early on the last morning of my trip and intended to roll over for a few extra minutes of sleep, but thought I’d take a quick peak out the curtains first. And there was Mt. Shasta, high above us just before sunrise. Sleep vanished as an option.

Mt Shasta 1


9099 Logo-red_D, nick squared


  1. Well, “wobble” definitely describes my train-aided handwriting! Your post is great, and I wish I’d thought to bring along a hunk of cheese, though the nuts I had tasted pretty good. I can’t decipher all your notes, but it seems you might have been in North Dakota . . . ?

  2. For the first year of our courtship, I lived in Seattle and my current partner lived in Portland. We both still miss our alternating weekends on the Amtrak Cascades, where we could sit and work relatively undisturbed, and look out the window at the water and the trees (and the graffitied industrial underbelly, which I also liked). (There was no wifi at the time, which was a plus.) I did have a tough time trying to draw what with the wobbles, though! Did you know that Amtrak has an official artist residency?

    1. The dance of your courtship sounds divine!

      Yes, I know about Amtrak’s residency program and started checking it out earlier this year. It sounded terrific — I even read quite a bit of one writer’s report. But when I saw how many thousands of people apply for a pretty small number of spots, I figured it would be easier to just pull the money together and make my own residency, which I managed to do pretty easily and with very little hassle.

      Thanks for writing!

      P.S. My granddaughter and I love your murals at the entrances to the Capitol Hill light rail station!

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