David took this picture of me exhausted but super excited about getting back on the train, on my last day on Amtrak. This is how I really felt. The book tour was, well… scary, first of all. A month ago, when I got on the train for the first time, I was sad to leave my home and my husband for so long, and I was overwhelmed by not knowing what was coming. And it turns out what was coming was huge. It was packed bookstore event after packed bookstore event. It was NPR and talk radio and newspaper interviews. It was encountering more kindness and more friends than I had any reason to hope for. And through all of that, there was Amtrak. The train became a sort of steadying force through the month. It was a place that was always more or less the same. It was a place where I knew there would always be a kind-hearted staff ready to take care of me. And I mean that in a personal way: they reminded me to go to bed, encouraged me to get enough sleep, brought me meals to my room when I was tired, gave me tips on places to go in the next city, and made a lot of jokes. And they did that not because I was special, but because that’s how they treated everyone. And when you add to that the fact that Amtrak actually sponsored my book tour? Well, they have a very special place in my heart.
Plus, let’s face it. The Coast Starlight is some of the prettiest track in America. You go over the sand, through miles of untouched beaches. First class passengers have access to the Pacific Parlor Car, which is a fifty-year-old car that looks like, well, a Parlor. I’ve taken The Coast Starlight a lot this year in coach, and I have been dying to get into the Parlor Car. And this time I got to. They serve food upstairs, and they have a viewing deck with overstuffed chairs, and downstairs they have a tiny and adorable movie theatre. And in the afternoons, they have a wine and cheese tasting. Which, it turns out, is basically the staff pouring you as much tasty local wine as you can drink. We stopped after five pours, though our porter reminded us that we had “nowhere to be.” Which is exactly the point of train travel, really. Nowhere to be, except the place where the train is taking you (a little tipsy, in this case).
So it was a near-perfect trip, and for the first time I had my husband on board. He’d flown down to LA for the final book event, and I begged him to take the train back up with me so I could show him around “my train.” And once he’d gotten the full tour, seen the sights, and read some magazines on our couch, he agreed that it was a really nice way to travel.
At book tour stops, I kept being asked if traveling by train was as nice as I made it sound online. And I always said the same thing: it was better.
So, so long Amtrak. I’ll miss you, but I’ll see you again soon. And thank you. I owe you a whole lot.
Pictures from the train (I know!!) from Instagram, where I documented the trip. Follow me on Twitter for more.
**This post was made possible by Amtrak, who sponsored my book tour. Thank you Amtrak!**