Last week, I took Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train from Los Angeles to Seattle, which meant 36 hours on the rails. That’s a very long time to spend in linear motion, but it was worth it.
My goal was to get some quality, uninterrupted writing time for the oft-delayed Tarzan, and I got it. I wrote long-hand, as I usually do on first drafts, and faxed the pages back to Los Angeles once I got to Seattle. Once everything was typed up, I had 41 more pages finished, which is good for three day’s work.
I’d recommend the train for any writer looking for some good alone time. Some caveats:
- American trains are much, much slower than their European counterparts. We averaged 35.6 miles per hour.
- My train was 2.5 hours late getting to Seattle, which is apparently the norm. So don’t expect to make it somewhere at a specific time.
- You absolutely need a sleeping car. I have no trouble flying coach, but beyond hour ten, you’ll be pulling your hair out if you don’t have a door you can shut.
- The dining car seats parties of four, so they’ll put you with strangers. Everyone I ate with was friendly and talkative.
- Bring a pillowcase. The Amtrak linens are scratchy.
- Cell phones work almost everywhere, except parts of Northern California.
I flew back from Seattle, which was always my plan. As much as I enjoyed my Amtrak time, I don’t know if I could have taken another 36 hours of train so soon.