LOS ANGELES (AP) — It was late Friday night and we were scouring the usual sites touting the top things to do in Los Angeles. Uninspired by our options and facing a long weekend without obligations, my husband and I made a last-minute booking on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight. Ten hours later we’re settling in for a 35-hour train trip spanning 1,377 miles (2,216 kilometers) up California’s picture-perfect coastline and Oregon’s rugged terrain. Seattle may have been the end destination, but this weekend was all about the journey.
10 A.M. UNION STATION, LOS ANGELES
At the station we are greeted by a friendly car attendant who shows us to our private room. Amtrak’s top-tier accommodation sleeps up to three and includes a small work or lounge space, your own bathroom, shower and five meals. “This is gonna be fun!” our attendant beams as the train roars to life.
12:40 P.M. SANTA BARBARA
As the scenery changes from urban and industrial to the golden beaches of Ventura, we stumble toward the dining car for lunch. Lunch options include tasty steamed mussels, spicy chilaquiles and a delightful chocolate raspberry tart. Making meal reservations and obsessing about what to order becomes a full-time job as we roll into hour three.
3:30 P.M. SAN LUIS OBISPO
With forced relaxation in full effect, it’s time to kick off happy hour as we pass by the central coast’s sprawling vineyards.
10 P.M. EMERYVILLE
Amtrak’s sleeper cars offer turndown service and with little else to do, we tuck in for the night. Not exactly luxury, but a few notches up from camping, sleeping in the train’s tight quarters was adequate with occasional interruptions from noisy neighbors, announcements or bumpy terrain.
8 A.M. KLAMATH FALLS, OREGON
I wake in Oregon to high desert wilderness and snow-dusted pine forests. We opt for the buffet breakfast and spend the morning taking in the panorama from the observation car, which offers comfy seating. Cell service is non-existent for most of day two, which meant board games, deep conversations and actual human connection sans social media.
9 P.M. KING STREET STATION, SEATTLE
There were a handful of stretch breaks, including quick stops in Eugene and Portland, but I’m ready to get off when we reach the grand, granite-clad King Street Station. With only a few hours left in our spontaneous weekend adventure, we set out to explore Seattle’s nightlife. Finally, an early flight brings us back to reality — wobbly-legged and wonderfully rejuvenated from the journey.
COAST STARLIGHT: https://www.amtrak.com/coast-starlight-train. Coach prices for the Los Angeles-Seattle train one-way start at $98, $122 or $155, depending on date and season; top-tier accommodations range from $374 to nearly $700.