Entering the Amtrak Zone - "An Impressively Meandering Route" - CycleBlaze

June 11, 2022

Entering the Amtrak Zone

Martinez to Bob’s

We are checked in at the Martinez train station and awaiting the arrival of the Coast Starlight. We entered the “Amtrak time zone” when we were informed that the train is 1 hour behind schedule; par for the course, in our experience. All we can do is relax and wait. I have several books loaded up on my phone and can even browse cycling journals!

I spent most of the day packing and getting our critters set up. Our kitty Mitten will stay home and a sitter will be checking in on him regularly. Our dog, Daisy Diva, was dropped off at the doggie hotel, where she dashed inside without a second glance at us, she likes it that much. I calculate that the cost of having our pets cared for while we are gone is about 50% of the cost of our lodging for the entire trip. Good thing we love them. 

My overly stuffed panniers and handlebar bag weigh in at 16.5 lbs and extra tire and lock add 2 more. A few more last-minute items give me a weight just shy of 20 lbs.  Jim’s  bags weigh in at about 30 lbs including spare tire and lock. This seems about right to me-Jim is about 50% bigger  than I am and he carries a few extra tools as well. He also refuses to compromise on certain things. For example, he is bring 4 bike shorts whereas I am only bringing two since I plan to wash riding clothes in the sink every night. I stuff my small light panniers full rather than adding baggage but Jim carries larger panniers and a heavy trunk pack. How much you carry directly relates to how willing you are to compromise.

It’s been 3 years since our last Amtrak experience. The station is being remodeled; the temporary bathrooms are behind the station. I went out to use the facilities and they were, without doubt, in my top three grossest public bathrooms that I have experienced. The toilets were overflowing and unflushable because there was no water getting to them or the sink. When I informed the station attendant, he said I was only the 2nd person to say something. Really?!

The train arrived and departed 45 minutes late. But our roomette was all turned down and so we settled in for the night. 

6/12/22 - As usual, I slept poorly, tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable. At 5:25 am I got up for coffee, my first and certainly not last of the day. At this time, Mt. Shasta was visible to the right of the train. A light rain was falling and the sun periodically peaked out from the clouds. At one point we rolled through a recent burn zone and the ground was carpeted with pale lavender colored  Lupin.  

Jim slept until close to 7 and once he was up, we walked back to the dining car for breakfast. Here we got a new surprise-the water supply to the dining car was broken so the kitchen crew could not cook. Our meal options were a McBiscuit style sandwich or a continental breakfast, making me thankful that, for me, breakfast is the least important meal of the day, except for coffee of course. 

A quick note about Covid precautions: both of us are recently double-boosted. We waited outside at the Martinez train station. Once on the train, we headed directly to our roomette and stayed there until we went to breakfast-our way of social distancing. Breakfast was sparsely attended during the time we were there. We did not go to the crowded Parlor car.
A few folks did wear masks and eat in their rooms but most people exercised no precautions altogether. 

Another note:  this is the first really full train that this crew has dealt with since before the pandemic and it feels a bit like the grand opening of a new restaurant. I suspect Amtrak is having the same issues as employers all over the country; big employee turnover, labor shortages and so on. There were lots of little issues and at one point a crew member made an abrupt announcement for customers to direct their concerns to USRail. So it was noticeable that there were problems but it did look to me like the crew was trying to keep people happy in the face of being slammed by so many people, mechanical issues and lack of experience working together as a team. 

On we rolled, over the Cascades. West of the summit, the rain picked up. The mountain are verdant and wet; water is running everywhere and lakes are full, a great contrast to our last trip through here in the summer of 2019. The mountains then were bone-dry and the lakes were almost empty. This year Oregon, Washington and western Canada received a lot of rain and snow, while south of that, most of California is extremely parched. 

Rain continues to fall as we traverse the Willamette  Valley. Bob says is is drizzling in Portland but it is supposed to stop after 4:00. We are all waiting to change to cycling clothes in the train station after we assess the weather. 

Another delay due to opposing train traffic caused us to finally reach Portland at 4:20 - about 40 minutes late. Bob was there to greet us. It took us another hour and then some to get our checked baggage, reassemble and load the bikes and change into cycling attire. Good news-all the bikes made it and we were not charged a storage fee for the three that arrived early! More good news-with all the delays, the rain had stopped and the sun was out. 

My bike rolled out of its box with a rear flat. I did the easy thing and pumped it up first to see if it would hold. It still felt pretty firm once we were ready to roll so I decided to just go ahead and ride. Bob led us on a scenic and meandering route back to his house just south of downtown Portland. As we rode along the river we encountered two areas where the path was flooded. Bob rode right through it and so, with a little trepidation, did we. 

After cleaning up we had dinner at Killer Burger. I rarely eat burgers in general. My last burger was here at Killer Burger three years ago when we visited Bob. The previous burger I had eaten was probably 20 years prior. But I really enjoy Killer Burgers. There is another in Eugene so we may eat there yet again at the end of this tour. 

That is me, working on this journal while waiting for the train.
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Early morning in the vicinity of Mt. Shasta
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Rainy, rainy view through the window near Eugene. This lake was dry 3 years ago.
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Crossing the river as we arrive in Portland
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Here we are on our first riding day!
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Flooded river in Portland
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Today's ride: 8 miles (13 km)
Total: 44 miles (71 km)

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