As something of a hardcore night owl, I try not to make a habit out of being awake at 6 in the morning too often, but lately it seems to be happening a lot more than I’d really like it to. Then again, given the various reasons that I’ve been getting up early, I suppose I probably don’t have much excuse to complain. On this particular fine morning, my excuse happens to involve catching a train on my way up to Vancouver BC, where I will next be catching a light rail in order to go catch a ship, from which I will be catching… Oh, probably not much really. I suppose that I’ll eventually be catching a ferry, but that one’s still a couple of days off. And then a few days from now when I get off the ship I’ll be catching an airport shuttle, then a rental car, then a Doom Buggy, and finally at the end of all that I’ll probably manage to throw in an airplane somewhere along the line just for good measure. When you think about it, it’s really kind of an unusual trip.
This particular trip started out this morning at King Street Station in Seattle to board the train. The place has been under renovation for a while now (I recall posting some stuff about it back when I was working over in the neighborhood last year, but seeing as how I am currently on vacation I’m being just a little too lazy to look it up right now) which is mostly intended to reverse the effects of a radical stylectomy inflicted upon it back in the mid Sixties, with perhaps the biggest indignity coming in the form of a drop ceiling covering up the ornate original, which remained until the middle of the last decade. As you can tell from the photo above, “Hatchet Job” would probably be a good description of the approach taken to this renovation. I’m sure the whole thing was considered oh so very modern at the time, but then again, so was LSD, and we all know how well that one worked out (your mileage, of course, may vary.)
Anyway, it took about a 40 minute delay before the train arrived at the station, but once it did boarding was quick, mostly painless, and surprisingly free of pointless security checkpoints. As far as I can recall this is actually the first time I’ve traveled on a railroad that didn’t involve an amusement park anywhere in the process. It probably helped that I paid extra for business class, which results in a bigger seat, more legroom, shorter lines and a faster trip through Customs in Vancouver, but ironically, it did also make the train trip from Seattle to Vancouver cost more than the flight back to Seattle from LAX on the return trip. That said, there are a few nice things about the train when compared to flying. For one thing, even with the assorted noises that come along with rail travel, it’s still a lot quieter than having two big jet engines blasting outside the windows. You also have the ability to get up and walk around freely on the train, and don’t need to be in a seatbelt the whole time (in fact, I’m pretty sure the seats here don’t even have seatbelts.) There’s free WiFi on the train, as well as actual power outlets to use it with. In other words, this ain’t the Chattanooga Choo-Choo (although in a certain nostalgic way it might actually be fun to take a trip like that, as long as you weren’t in much of a hurry to get anywhere.)
The scenery on the train is also a lot better, although I ended up on the “wrong” side of the train car to see Puget Sound in all its glory. One thing I’ve noticed about air travel is that even though you’re going about six times faster in an airplane than you would be in a train, the fact that you’re 35,000 feet in the air tends to make the scenery stay mostly the same for long periods of time, which mostly serves to remind you that you’re not going anywhere for a while (well actually you are, just a lot slower than you’d really like to be.) In fact, if not for the nagging reminder in the back of my head that Amtrak would probably implode in a huge crater visible from space if the whole thing wasn’t being propped up by about half a zillion dollars of taxpayer money every year, I’d be tempted to say that rail travel might be a nice way to get around.
Anyway, being on a ship means that I’ll most likely be Internet constrained again for a few days, but I’m going to try to post at least something when I make it to San Francisco in a couple of days. I’m looking forward to sailing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and seeing Alcatraz, even if it does mean I’ll have to be awake way too early again. Oh well, I suppose I can sleep when I’m dead, right?