Friday, October 14, 2011

Day 4: The Coast Starlight

Trip Leg #2: Portland to Salinas, CA.  834 miles.  21 hours.

First, it should be said that Portland has a proper, old-fashioned train depot, unlike the remodeled warehouse in St. Paul. Second, it should be said that you really need to check the inebriation level of the stranger you choose to chat up while waiting in line at said station.

When I got there, they had already called my train for ticket check-in, or at least that's what I assumed. To verify this guess, I asked the guy in front of me, who quickly revealed himself to be sipping grain alcohol from a 20-oz. bottle of Sprite. I won't bore you with all the details of this conversation, but here's a highlight. At one point, he turned and bumped my bag with his. When he apologized, I replied, "Oh, you're fine." He smiled goofily and slurred, "I am? Wow! You sure know how to compliment a guy." Ba-dum ching!

After boarding, I managed to snag a window seat, but I was soon joined by a seatmate. He seemed like a nice enough guy but, as I wrote in my journal, "I think he thinks I'm a dude." He called me "sir" twice, even after we spoke and I told him my name. Not the best way to start off, buddy.

7:30 p.m.  Miracle of miracles, the dining car steward on this train was not a myth, and I got a dinner reservation. I trekked down there at the appointed time and was seated with Phyllis, an older woman who took the train eight times a year to see her grandkids in Eugene. Also seated with us were Charlotte and Stefan, who thought they'd been best friends forever since they met when they were 16 and were now the ripe old age of 22. Stefan was an ambiguous bearded dude with a ponytail and the smallest hands I've ever seen on a man. Charlotte was his polar opposite, a very cheerful, very big girl who tucked into her BBQ ribs with an enthusiasm rarely seen outside the wild. In the course of our meal, Stefan told us that he throws a dinner party every month at the full moon and stated that he refuses to learn American Sign Language because it's "fundamentally flawed."

Note to self:  When you first head to the dining/lounge cars, make sure to count the cars in between. Otherwise, you might get confused when you try to return to your seat, especially in the dark. Ahem.

9:00 p.m.  Found my seat, thankful to be alone. My seatmate happened to sit behind me at dinner and proved to be quite loud and obnoxious. He ranted to his fellow college-age dining companions that "Facebook is changing societal interactions! That's my theory, I just don't have all the evidence to prove it yet." Uh ... newsflash ... that's not a newsflash. But I have one for you ... I'm a chick.

10:00 p.m.  I think those bastards in the sleepers got to watch a movie in their exclusive parlor car. Well, la dee frickin' da!

2:00 a.m.  Dozed fitfully until I was forced to wake Mr. Facebook so I could slip out to the bathroom. Upon returning, I forgot to duck and cracked my head on the luggage rack. I guess if you don't have Ambien, an actual knockout might do the trick.

Another note to self, regarding bathroom awareness: If you make sure the toilet lid is up before you sit down, you won't have to gasp in horror and then cover your ass in Purell.

11:40 a.m. I arrive in Salinas!

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