Book Tour By Amtrak: LA to San Francisco

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!**

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  • Swoon, swoon, swoon, swoon, swoon! That beach photo from the train is so GORGEOUS!

  • I took the Coast Starlight from L.A. to Seattle when I was about 13 with my best friend. I believe that was my first trip unchaperoned away from home. That train trip was magical! When I think back on it, I sometimes wonder if my memories of traveling along the coast and the beautiful vistas I saw were real, or have become embellished in my mind with time. These pics prove it was real!

    Now. This wine and cheese car makes me think that we definitely need to get back to the west coast this summer and visit our friends in Seattle.

  • KA

    Aw, sleepy happy yay.

    Love that picture.

    Been pondering a trip from LA northwards for a while now, and I think you’d just proved train is the only way to do it!

    Hope you’re soaking in the awesomeness of being home. :)

  • Okay, so I’m totally sold on train travel now. I would love to do it with our son to go see his great grandparents in San Diego (I just wish the Coast Starlight went all the way down). But I’m wondering if it really would be easier. People on planes complain about kids, but they know they will be there. Our kid is pretty easy going and happy, but since I’ve never travelled by train before I wonder if its just wishful thinking that it will be easier. Did you see other passengers with small children and babies? How were they received?

    • meg

      Oh god, tons of babies on trains. I was a tiny kid on a train, and I used to race around the aisles and make friends with the other kids and then run off to color together in the viewing car. That’s kind of how it goes. But yeah, tons of kids. And you have the whole train, pretty much, so if the baby is fussy, you just walk around, or go to the cafe car, or whatever. Plus, the lovely movement will help them sleep (if the car is any indication).

  • So amazing! Thank you for sharing!

  • Traveling directly over sand with the ocean a breath away sounds absolutely heavenly.

    P.S. I wasn’t trying to twitter stalk you when you originally posted your beach pics. They just totally blew me away and I was so excited and in awe at the loveliness. Hence, the replies. :)
    I <3 your Amtrak posts. Train travel is something I never considered doing outside of Europe. And now, I am completely enthralled.

    • “Train travel is something I never considered doing outside of Europe. And now, I am completely enthralled.”
      Me neither, but now I think it would be really fun and am hoping to do it on some future North American trip…

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  • DKR

    Glad to ‘hear’ you made it home safe after your amazing book tour. :-)
    And those pictures make me miss the Pacific coast. ;)

  • Class of 1980

    “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.”

    Maybe I could LIVE on the train. I need someone to remind me to go to bed and bring me meals. ;)

  • loovee the last picture! beautiful

  • Brooke

    Hooray for trains! This is what I love so much about living in Britain (I’m from Seattle originally) – it’s so easy, you can stand up and move around, and I can get from London to Paris in under three hours. Although I don’t know if I could get a free wine tasting… :)

  • I’ve loved these posts. Welcome home and thanks for sharing the last month with us so beautifully. And now I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to get myself on that Coast Starlight track at some point.

  • Tamara Williams Van Horn


    I am currently in kind of an angsty miasma, but these book tour posts, and the whole book release and push, have reinvigorated me. Thank you for living your dream and singing your song.

    • meg


  • Amy

    I’m not even engaged yet, but reading these posts have me convincing my boyfriend that we aboslutely need an Amtrak honeymoon. The best part? He’s totally in!

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  • Anna

    I have a soft spot for the Coast Starlight. It’s the only way my grandmother would travel between her home in the North Bay and her summer in Skagit Valley, WA. I have dear memories of cramming into a 2 berth parlor car with her during two of her last trips, when the family sent me along to watch over our fiercely independent matriarch when we felt she could no longer travel alone. Though I was a “busy college student” at the time and thought it silly that anyone would prefer to lose a day in travel, I ended up discovering a beautiful world through the windows of the train and the kind accommodations of the good people of Amtrak. Yay Coast Starlight!