amtrakLast 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:

  1. American trains are much, much slower than their European counterparts. We averaged 35.6 miles per hour.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. The dining car seats parties of four, so they’ll put you with strangers. Everyone I ate with was friendly and talkative.
  5. Bring a pillowcase. The Amtrak linens are scratchy.
  6. 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.