A Travellerspoint blog

Twenty Four Hours On A Train - My Last Journey

semi-overcast 15 °C

I was woken at about 6:00am by the sun rising over Oregon horizon. As I was waking the train was snaking its way around a deep valley and I could see its entire length. The morning sun burnt the ordinarily silver carriages red and orange. I packed my sleeping bag and moved up to the lounge car, finding a seat facing directly into the valley. What was immediately apparent was how brilliantly and luscious green Oregon is. Had I not exhausted my enthusiasm for exploring America's more wild side with three weeks under the stars I'm sure I'd spend time here. I have always said along my way, however, that I don't want to see everything of the places I visit, otherwise there would be no reason to return.

I spent most of the day in the lounge car, making notes and watching the world go by. We made a few longer stops along the way, the longest being in Oregon's major city, Portland. I noticed during the journey that my fellow passengers were much more reserved. With hindsight, when reflecting on my train journeys along the east coast, it says a lot for the friendliness of the people of the South that they are comfortable just sitting down and talking to anyone to find out something about you.

We eventually arrived in Seattle, a day after leaving San Francisco. I knew that the hostel wasn't too far from the station, so I planned to walk there hauling my bags with me. This would have been a fine idea had I more properly looked at a map before planning my route. I ended up heading the wrong way and I didn't feel as though I found my self in the safest neighbourhood so I hailed a cab and soon got to my final hostel of the trip.


Posted by MattOGrady 10:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Leaving San Francisco

sunny 16 °C

I really didn't do much today. I had to check out early this morning and so I pretty much just hung out at the hostel with my bags and reading about Seattle.

I got down to San Francisco's Amtrak office and caught the connecting bus to Emmeryville train station at 9.10pm. I had expected the train I would be taking for my final journey would be much the same as those I rode down the east coast. They couldn't have been any more different - these silver trains were the size of houses. After clambering on board and finding my American sized seat I went about exploring as most people were starting to sleep. The feature of these trains are the lounge cars. As well as having standard tables there are rows of seats that face outwards, rather than forwards and backwards. The windows of the lounge cars fill the entire side of the train and roof so that passengers can appreciate the views. There obviously wasn't much to see in the darkness. What with thousands of miles of driving and also some internal flights I had forgotten how much I enjoyed travelling by train when I was on the east coast. I don't think driving or training are more enjoyable than the other or necessarily any better than each other, they are just different. Whereas driving invariably requires a great deal of concentration, travelling by train is effortless (even when its a twenty four hour journey like this one). The different part of travelling by train is that it takes much longer (it is 800 miles from San Francisco to Seattle by train and takes twenty four hours. You'll remember I drove 800 miles in about ten to twelve hours a few weeks ago). It taking longer to travel by train, shouldn't be seen as a disadvantage necessarily because the journey is as much a part of the experience as the destination. My advice would be to find the time to do both train and drive if you're thinking of doing something like this.

Before too long I too needed some sleep so I grabbed my sleeping bag and found a pair of unoccupied seats and stretched out.


Posted by MattOGrady 17:16 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Family Time Drinking Wine

sunny 23 °C

Today I met up with one of my cousins who is living out on the West Coast. I was disappointed that I haven't been able to get out to San Francisco's wine country (the Napa and Sonoma Valleys are only about three-quarters of an hour away) - this is mostly because of a realisation that money is short and when there aren't any shuttles, hiring a car just isn't an option. When my cousin and her boyfriend suggested we visit Sonoma Valley I jumped at the chance. At this time of year the California countryside is coloured a burnt orange, giving it its name The Golden State. The vine yards line the routes north and we stopped off a few to sample many glasses of wine. After quite sometime without wine it hit me hard to say the least! I think I just about kept my composure! We ate lunch at one of the vine yards, chasing it with some more wine (I could easily get used to life in California!).

That evening I headed out to their place in a neighbourhood called The Misson, which is a young and stylish area and also happens to be the home of San Francisco's lesbian population. I pretty much fell in love with their apartment as soon as I walked into it and it occurred to me, once I was told how much they're paying for it, that my standards for finding a place for myself back home might be somewhat unrealistic. We walked around The Mission for a little bit, popping into a cool park where people were relaxing in the evening sun, and went to pick up pizza from the very popular Pizzeria Delfina. The pizza was excellent.

It was great to meet another relative who although I've met before, I was much younger to remember. I thought it funny that her main memory of my family's last visit was my brother running endlessly around her parents' dining room table. "Has he changed?" "Not really." They're going to be moving back to Boston soon and they plan to road trip back, so I hoped I was in someway helpful in impartingsome of what I've experienced in America and places they might particuarly enjoy.

I got to Tenderloin late and I braved and, yes, survived the ten minute walk in San Francisco's dodgiest area back to the hostel. All in all it was a very enjoyable last day in California.


Posted by MattOGrady 16:24 Comments (0)

Bookended By Bridges

sunny 16 °C

I was disappointed that when I cycled over the Golden Gate Bridge on Thursday that I really couldn't see any of it. I obviously saw it when we drove over it last week on the way to Muir Woods, but going over it at 45mph just isn't the same. I walked up to the Bridge and I was my timing was fortunate, an enormous mass of fog has just rolled out and the view was clear. As I was walking over the Bridge, just about managing to hold myself up in the cross wind, it occurred to me how my trip has been bookended by walking over America's most famous bridges; the Brooklyn and Golden Gate (or I suppose by three suspension bridges if you consider that on the afternoon before I fly out I was in Bristol) and this gave cause to reflect how far I've travelled. If I had to choose of the two which I preferred, I'd have to go Brooklyn - it's more charming although I couldn't say either was more iconic than the other. I hadn't reaslised that the Golden Gate Bridge's colour (I think it's called golden orange) was only ever intended to be an undercoat, but they ended up sticking with it. Wouldn't you know.


Posted by MattOGrady 16:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Haight and Love

15 °C

Think of San Francisco; some people think Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, cable cars, homless people and others think Painted Ladies. Painted Ladies I hear you ask. No this isn't some Rio style carnival where San Francisco's finest parade up and down the hills covered in body paint. The Painted Ladies are a single row of painted terraced houses, that when sitting in Alamo Park, are backdropped by the city. Think Mrs Doubtfire and you're on the right lines.

One of my Aussie friends strongly recommend I explore The Haight (pronounced hate). The Haight is split into two areas, the Upper and Lower Haights. The Upper Haight is more forward looking that its lower sister, with more recent cafes and shops. The Lower Haight was the birthplace and then home of San Francisco's hippy movement. It appears that that era is so engrared in the area's history that its residents have no intention of doing anything other but pretend that 1970 never happened. There are plenty of thrift shops, used book shops, anarchist shops (I found a copy of The Anarchist's Cookbook in one of these shops, which is very much a prohibited publication in the UK possession of which would very likely result in you being charged with a terrorism offence) and locally owned coffee shops where the stench of cannabis hangs in the air. It was definitely a very intriguing place and I felt sorry for the people who lived there because they are clearly left hanging by their fingertips onto an era, under threat from all sides and which long past, but which they still call home.


Posted by MattOGrady 23:16 Archived in USA Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 87) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 .. »