This year’s road trip with Mom wasn’t on the road, at least not one made of blacktop with a stripe down the middle.
The road we rode was Amtrak.
Yes, we rode the rails – to Oregon and Washington.
We boarded the Amtrak Coast Starlight at Oakland’s Jack London Square station, on a warm June night. The train left at a quarter to ten. As soon as we settled into our roomette, the sleeping car attendant made up our berths.
Imagine me, with my creaky knees, climbing into an upper berth. On second thought, erase that image from your mind. But since my mother is in her late 80s, I wasn’t about to make her climb up there.
Not a lot of room in that upper berth. I couldn’t sit up. Initially, the blanket had been tucked in so tightly that I had difficulty getting my feet pushed underneath it. There’s a harness that hooks into the ceiling to prevent one from tumbling out of the upper berth. I had trouble fastening that, too.
But I managed to get myself situated, and I slept all right. Not great, just all right. When Mom and I woke early that next morning, we looked out the window of our car in time to see the sun rising at Mount Shasta.
The tracks run along the eastern shore of Klamath Lake in Oregon, with the Cascade Range in the distance. On that first morning we could see Mount Mazama, which holds Crater Lake in its collapsed caldera. Then the train headed west through the Willamette National Forest, where snow was still on the ground along the tracks, despite the early June date.
After visiting relatives in Albany, Oregon, we headed north again, along the Willamette River to Portland, then across the Columbia River into Washington.
My mother had been to Tacoma before, working in a defense plant during World War II while my father, a Navy aviation machinist’s mate, was stationed on a carrier escort in the area. But she’d never been to Seattle.
On that first full day in Seattle, we walked to Pike Market for breakfast, then strolled around to look at the stalls of fish, fruit and flowers. A visit to the Space Needle and the new Chihuly Museum and Gardens came next, followed by a return visit to the market, a drop-in at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, where I was pleased to see an advance reading copy of my latest book, What You Wish For, due out in September from Perseverance Press. Later we had dinner with another relative.
The second day we went to the Hiram M. Chittendon Locks on the Lake Washington Ship Channel, where we watched boats go through the locks and salmon go up the fish ladder. That evening I had dinner with an old friend from my Navy days.
On the trip home we sampled the pleasures of Amtrak’s Pacific Parlor car, which is available to sleeper passengers. At the afternoon wine and cheese tasting, we sat next to a couple from Southern California. Opposite us was a young woman who’d just graduated from a university in Seattle, heading home to the Bay Area. And next to her, a couple from Manchester, England, on their honeymoon. I love meeting people on the train.
As for that second glass of Reisling, maybe that’s why I slept better on the trip home.
Mom and I are already planning next year’s road trip.
I love traveling with Mom, too.