I used to take the Coast Starlight to Seattle often, then for a while I decided I needed to get there more quickly so for about 5 or 6 years I forgot about the train, but for my most recent trip I had no particular schedule to follow and I decided that a ride up and down the coast was just what my vacation needed.
A 10 minute ride on an Amtrak bus takes you from San Francisco to the Emeryville station, where you board the train around 10 pm. After a quick visit to the Pacific Parlour Car, which dates back to the fifties and has been completely refurbished and where not much is going on at 10 pm. since most train riders are early-to-bed-early-to-rise kinda folks, it's off to bed in your sleeper. I always get a "roomette", the least expensive but totally adequate private room option (more the size of a closet than a room, but I love it anyway).
The Parlour Car at night
Depending on when you wake up in the morning you may find yourself about to cross into Oregon, or having already done so. Wherever you are the view is awe inspiring.
A funny thing happened. The "who cares, I'm on vacation" effect took over. When I finished breakfast and returned to the Parlour Car, the attendant, a really likable man (good looking too) whom I have been running into on the train for about 10 years, said, "how about a Bloody Mary?" For a second I thought "it's 7:30 am!" then, immediately, "why not?". It's the first time I've ever had a drink in the morning, but it was the best Bloody Mary ever. It inspired me to read the entire manual for the digital camera I've had for 6 years, instead of just the "quick start guide" and, lo and behold, I discovered I can take videos with it!
The windows were particularly dirty because it had drizzled the night before, but my eyes got right past it.
The Portland train station
Somewhere between Portland and Seattle, but I'm sorry I don't know exactly where.
I tried to upload the following image of Puget Sound as a video, but Blogger would not let me, so here it is as a still. I'll save the return trip for another day.