In San Luis Obispo, a fresh air and crew
change stop, I stepped off to photograph the head-end power. It
seemed we had a unique locomotive set conpared to the usual two Genesis
We had dinner at 6 of salmon and pork
shank and dined with a couple from Westminster, CA, who were also going
to Seattle. When we returned to our room, Santi had already made
up our bed! Since it was only 7:30, I had to unmake the bed so we
could use the roomette.
As mentioned above, we moved to Bedroom "A" for the rest of the trip
and we had a restful, rock-a-by sleep. The breakfast announcement
awakened us as we approached Klamath Falls. We were early so we spent over an hour in
the station. This gave us time to shower, dress, and have
breakfast all in a stable train! We had breakfast with a couple
from Echo Park going to Seattle. We each had the Tuscan Omlette
with sausage (the only fresh eggs currently served on the Coast
After breakfast, in our room, we used our computers to listen to Books
on DVD, play solitaire, and I edited photos for a future One-Man-Show
of my photographs in Indiana in May, 2008.
North of Klamath Falls is Upper Klamath Lake. It is 8 miles wide
and 40 miles long and we traveled on the east side. The morning
sun was perfect for watching the many bird species take flight from the
shallow water next to the track, including Canada Geese, Blue Heron,
Egrets, ducks and two bald eagles and many
white large birds w/black wing tips, and the Klamath Falls High School
mascot, white pelicans.
During the night, the train was so smooth, I thought we were traveling
very slowly in Northern California. However, it must have been
because of improved track and roadbed because we were on time when I
awoke in the morning.
Lunch at 12:15 and I had another "chicken sandwich, hold the
bun." We had lunch with a Mother and son from Palm Springs.
I was in the room editing pictures until 3 pm when the Eugene stop took
place followed by wine tasting after we left the station. This,
the second day of wine tasting on the Los Angeles to Seattle Coast
Starlight trip featured a Kendall Jackson
Chardonnay and my favorite, Ironstone's Symphony
Obsession, a semi-sweet white wine. The Symphony
grape, a cross between Grenache Gris and Muscat of Alexandria, was
developed by the late UC Davis viticulture professor Harold Olmo; the
university patented Symphony in 1983. Its aroma is strongly
floral, with some star anise. It’s very slightly sparkling (”frizzante”
is the technical term), and its flavors are reminiscent of a good
Gewurztraminer: strongly floral, with notes of Meyer lemon and prickles
of pepper on the finish.
Southern Oregon on the Coast Starlight.
Upgrading accommodations on Amtrak
As mentioned earlier, we had a Roomette on this trip to Seattle on the
Coast Starlight, and wanted to upgrade to a Bedroom. Steve
Grande, creator of TrainWeb.com, has written, and told me personally,
that you get the best upgrade rate after you are onboard and
underway. This remains true. Let me add a few notes about
upgrading from our experience on this trip.
Upon boarding the Coast Starlight in Los Angeles, I mentioned to the
Car Attendant that we'd like to upgrade to a bedroom or handicapped
room. Some time after leaving LA, the Conductor came to our room
to talk about an upgrade, and asked to see our ticket. He
mentioned that they usually subtract what you paid for your ticket from
the best rate on the accommodations you want to upgrade to and that
becomes the cost of the upgrade. Upon looking at our ticket,
which was 'purchased' with Alaska Airlines mileage, he said, "You
didn't pay anything for this room (seeing that the rate was $0)"
I replied, "I sure did, it cost about 20,000 air miles." He
looked into a book and said it would be, $486 since my ticket said $0
paid. I said what would it be from Oakland to Klamath Falls
(thinking it would be much less if we just used the room for sleeping)
and he replied $300. I said, how much on to Seattle, and he said,
"$360." I replied that this was much too high and asked if he
could check further. He said he'd "Call it in" to get the
Later he came back and said the upgrade rate for the bedroom, from our
roomette, from Los Angeles to Seattle was what he had quoted earlier,
nearly $500. I said this was not a fair price and that I'd check
with the next conductor (knowing there would be a new conductor board
It wasn't until San Jose that I further persued upgrading. At
that stop I found the new conductor, Mark, outside the Transition Crew
Car and asked him if there was a possibility of upgrading to a bedroom
and how much it would be. He asked what room we were in and I
told him. He said that after they left San Jose he would come
down to our room. He also said, "My office is right here
(pointing to the first floor table in the transition crew car), come
down any time."
He eventually came to our room and said he needed to see our ticket, I
feared that we were going to get the same rediculous price. He
copied down a number on the bottom right corner of the ticket stub and
said, "I'll call it in." He didn't return for a while so I went
to his office in the transitiion car, right next to our car 1432, and
asked what he had found out about the upgrade. He said, "I'm just
calling it in." I stayed in earshot and heard him call it in on
his cell phone. There seemed to be no hesitation on the other end
about what I'd paid already, they responded and he wrote down $147 on a
piece of paper and showed it to me. I said, "We'll take
it!" (I'd just saved $339 by being patient!) I wondered if
the LA conductor had actually called it in or not. I gave him my
credit card and the deal was done.
Since our new bedroom upgrade, Bedroom A in 1431, was vacant in San
Jose, he said, "Why don't you go ahead and move up there, I usually
tell the attendant, but you can go on up since it is vacant." We
moved in to our new accommodations in a flash! At the next
station stop I used the platform and moved the luggage we had stored
downstairs to the next car. This a better procedure than taking
them upstairs, into the next car, then downstairs again to the luggage
area of the new car where we had the bedroom.
We certainly enjoyed the Bedroom, with
the rest of the way to Seattle rather than
the Roomette. Room "A" is the smallest of the Bedrooms because a
corner of the room is cut off to make the hallway wider as you enter
the car, but it was still larger than the roomette. In fact, the
lower bed in the Bedroom is one foot
than the lower bed in a roomette!
I can't tell you how many times I've heard passengers, upon arriving in
their Roomette, saying, "It's soooo small, not like the
pictures." Therefore, I'd suggest anyone traveling as a couple
never reserve a roomette (unless you want to upgrade on the
ride). I've found a roomette is adequate for me alone because I
leave the upper bunk down to store my 'stuff' (computers, GPS, radio,
cameras, and the accompanying cords and chargers).
Better yet, if you don't know which accommodation best suits your
needs, look in the National Timetable, available at your local Amtrak
Station or they will mail you one from 800-USARAIL. Look at the
actual measurements in the timetable for each type of accommodation,
mark this off on the floor of your house and see if you'd like to spend
days and nights in that space! I've found that a roomette is
amaller than my closet, and that is where I'll sleep as well!
Final word about upgrading
Because I had to do the upgrade on the train on our return trip to Los
Angeles from Seattle, this time I talked with the car attendant first,
telling him what I wanted to do. Sometimes they have the option
to help you upgrade since they know the occupancy of the rooms in their
car. From Seattle to Los Angeles, we had Bedroom "B" and it was
Now, let's move on to Part 2
, our exciting
visit to Seattle.