Day 5 on the train!
This was the first time that I was getting on the train in the middle of ride and in the middle of the night. Everyone also warned me that Amtrak is known to be late- always. So it was no surprise that the train was supposed to arrive at midnight, did not show up till 1am.
(As an aside- the weather of Sacramento reminded me of Jerusalem. It was hot, not humid during the day. And as soon as the sun went down it was really cold outside. I was really happy that I had a fleece with me so I could stay warm waiting for the train).
I was excited to get back on the train and that I would get to see my brother and sister-in-law soon, but also a bit sad knowing that my trip was almost over. Getting onto the train in the middle of the night was also different. I needed to organize my stuff, but at the same time I felt bad because there were people around me trying to sleep- but you do what you gotta do.
This time I was also put next to another person. I didn’t mind too much. My friend that I was travelling with told me the next day that he felt bad that I had to sleep next to a strange man, and that he almost woke me to tell me about empty seats a bit further up the train. The guy I was sitting next to turned out to be very nice, and most of the day I was in the observation car so I didn’t really care about my seat in the back.
The people on this train were a bit different then the past two trains. There were many more people who lived on farms. I met one guy who has his great-grandfather’s sweet potato farm. His great-grandfather came to the US from Scotland, met a Chilean woman, took a covered wagon west, was part of the Gold Rush, and then started a sweet potato farm. He also searches for metal. What I found funny was the end of our conversation, he told me he had one son (who was with him, a cute 6-year-old), and had one on the way, but his mom thinks the woman should be tested to make sure it is his. His question to me was, “do you have kids”- not are you married.
By chance (as happened through out this trip), I met a Jewish woman. She is Reform and originally from Ohio (who I bizarrely know someone from her community). We had a long conversation about the decline of some Jewish communities. We also ended up talking about Miriam and reconciling her sin/punishment, as well as the point of prayer in Jewish life. She too was shocked that I could become an orthodox rabbi- although she was quite happy about it.
I also met a rancher from Missouri, who owned a limo business. He took a private jet to Vegas, and then was going up North somewhere.
There was a guy from Arizona, who is currently studying business. Although his dream job is to work with Ringling Brothers. He saw the circus when he was a kid and decided that is where he wants to live.
Before the trip, I read a lot of blog posts and articles, and basically every single one says that you must do at least one meal in the dining car (they are right) even though it is a bit expensive. It is true, that it is 4 people to a table, so you never know who you are going to meet. I planned it out before the trip, that I could eat the Haagen Dazs ice cream and get a beer. It would be a funny meal, but it would allow me to get chance to have this experience.
And I am very happy to have had it. I was seated with a very friendly British couple. Not knowing of religion, when they asked where I am from, I said I live in Israel- then the woman asks me if I made Aliyah, so I knew that she much be Jewish. Talking a bit more, she is from Manchester, and we actually have a friend in common…oh the world is so small.
Also seated at our table was a man born and raised in Seattle. He was a special ed teacher, and now works as substitute teacher even though he is retired. He too said that his grandmother was Jewish and from the Ukraine, but his other grandmother was from Norway. His grandparents lived out in Seattle, and that is where he stayed. He even told us about his Norwegian grandmother who fought with the suffragettes and got a university degree because she said she was from Wisconsin, and no one checked her citizenship.
After the meal, I assumed that we had about two hours left of the trip (I asked in Portland what time we were supposed to get in, and that is what the conductor told me). I sat down next to a guy in the observation car, so look out until the sun went down. The areas between California, Oregon and Washington were beautiful and green, with some water on the side. We ended up speaking as well. He is from PA, but has been living in NYC for the past 10 years. He works for MLB and was filming in all 30 stadiums for the past six weeks and Seattle was his last stop.
While talking I said something about getting to Seattle in two hours, and he looked at me as if I was crazy. “Nope- we should be there in an hour.” And after talking for a bit, the next thing I knew the tour guide was sending us to our seats to get our stuff ready because we would be in Seattle in 30 minutes. Like that, the trip was almost over. (And we got to Seattle and hour early!)
I am so happy that I was able to take the train cross-country. I would do it again. I got to meet some really interesting people along the way. I got to see some of the most beautiful places I have seen. I got to see a lot of the US, which I had never done before. And it was so relaxing. Anyone who has this dream (and a bunch of people have told me they have it, I never would have guessed) should do it. It is totally worth it. Fly back to where you need to go to save time if you want, or take a different route back and see something new. 🙂
Some train tips if you decide to go on a long-hall trip:
- Pack comfortable clothing that you can sit in for long periods of time. But also pack PJ’s. It changes so much when you change your clothing.
- Make sure to bring your own pillow and blanket, as Amtrak does not provide them (unless you are in a sleeper car). Also bring a sweatshirt – the trains can be quite cold.
- Bring food and snacks. Food on the train is expensive (and if you keep Kosher there is very little that you can eat). But also know that you can pick stuff up in grocery stores on your long stop overs.
- Check out the cities that you will have your stopover in. One of the perks of train travel is that the train stations tend to be in the center of the city so it is quite easy to go around and see stuff. Talk to friends or find a gym (you can usually get a day pass) to find a shower along the way (also unnecessary if you get a sleeper car).
- Talk to people on the train- you will learn so much. Also if you befriend the people who travel often (or the conductor) you will be told of what places to make sure you look at and which side of the observation car to sit on.
- Go to the observation car! Just stay there, it is the best place to see things and meet people. Also the tours are done in there, so you can learn a bit about what you are seeing too.
- Go to the dining car once. There is something exciting about sitting with random strangers and having a conversation with them over a meal.
- Whenever there is a smoking/fresh air break, go outside. It is nice to be on the outside every so often, see what the weather actually is like. Just stay close to the car or know when you are leaving (sometimes you might have 30 min break) so you don’t miss the train. These trains only go once a day.
- Bring a book or two, a journal and a pen. There is no internet on the trains (for the most part- apparently on the California line, if you were in a sleeper car then you had internet). You won’t be reading or writing till the sun goes down, as there is too much to see beforehand. But you will want something to do, and a way to keep your memories/thoughts from this journey.
- Bring a camera (your phone can work well too). There is just so much beauty. [also just know that you will never be able to photograph everything, and many times the picture won’t do justice to what you actually saw…]
Just go to have a fun and relaxing time and enjoy the adventure!