Mr. Toy's Train Travel Tales
The Coast Starlight
October 30-November 4, 2006
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November , Day 1
Wednesday was my sister's birthday. Most of the day was spent involved in personal matters but a few events are worthy of note to any traveler. My mother and I went out to pick up a birthday cake from a terrific confectioner called Gerry Frank's Konditorei, which has been in business since about 1983, when we still lived here. The shop is highly recommended for anyone with a sweet tooth visiting Salem.
Two views of Salem's
Next we took a short walk through Bush Park, just a few blocks away from the cake store. Mom thought I might enjoy taking in some of the fall colors and I did indeed. In Monterey about the only fall color we see is large quantities of kelp washing up on the shore. But then Salem doesn't have the ability to display bird of paradise and rhododendrons in the same garden as we do, so it evens out.
I treated Mom and Liz to dinner at a place called Rudy's at the Salem Golf Club, a couple miles south of downtown along the river. Of note to railfans, the BNSF tracks (not the ones I rode on) run right through the parking lot. I thought it was kind of interesting until I noted there are few warning signs and no signals, which made it rather disturbing. I don't believe this is a main line, so the speed limits are probably pretty slow. Still, one can't be too careful around railroad tracks.
Dinner was quite good, and the service was excellent.
We were seated in comfortable wing back chairs in front of a fireplace.
We felt privileged, as not all of the chairs were as comfortable or as
well positioned as ours.
November, Day 2
Thursday, Liz was at work and my mother asked if there was anything special I'd like to do. Well, not really. I did say, however, that if might be fun to get some train pictures. One can hear a lot of train whistles from her house, even though it is a few miles from the nearest tracks. There's a lot more rail traffic in Salem than we have in Monterey County, and its a lot closer to home, so for a photographer who likes trains, its kind of hard to pass up.
We had a few errands to run, so we worked it all into one trip. The time was such that it was likely we'd catch #11 or #14 at the station. There's a pedestrian overpass immediately north of the depot which connects Willamette University with the Tokyo International University of America on the east side. (Back in the 1970s there was a Del Monte cannery on the east side.) I thought I'd take the ramp from the closer Tokyo side as I had done in the past, but I discovered the gate was locked. And it was beginning to rain. There wasn't much time before #14 was expected in, and it was starting to look like this train hunting trip would be a bust.
Just to be sure, though, we drove over to the Willamette U side of the overpass, and I found a parking space right near the overpass. There was no gate so easy access was guaranteed. Unfortunately the rain was now coming down in buckets. There was no way I was even getting out of the car. We sat and wondered what to do.
Then within moments the rain suddenly stopped. Somebody up there likes me!
As I walked up the overpass I called “Julie” at Amtrak and she said #14 was expected in just a few minutes. I found a strategic location, and framed a composition.
Amtrak 14 pulling into Salem at 3:18pm
The school bus must wait while the train does business
The train came in, I got several great shots. It lingered less than three minutes before moving on again. Diesel exhaust engulfed me as it passed below. Cough.
I noticed that this train did not have a Parlour Car. This was important to me because it would turn around in Seattle that night and be the one I would get on tomorrow afternoon. It was led by a “Genesis” locomotive #122, with a “Dash-8” #507 behind it. I've been on trains with #507 before, and it came to Salinas with the DMU tour, but this time it had a new paint scheme with the current Amtrak logo.
As events would turn out, #122 would not make it back to Salinas unscathed.
I walked back down the ramp. Before I got to the bottom it started to sprinkle again. The moment I got in the car it started pouring again. Somebody up there likes me!
Tonight was meant to be my birthday dinner, as I would be back on the train on my actual birthday. Mom took us to a place which she had been to for lunch many times, and was highly recommended. For reasons which will become clear in a moment, I will not identify the place, other than to say it was named after a famous composer. It turned out to be in an office building near the southern fringes of town.
The print on the menu was tiny, but it was a fun read. One menu item was called “hummus a few bars.” We ordered. I chose a chicken pot pie, which the server said was one of their best dishes. Liz and I chose salads with ranch dressing over soup. Mom ordered soup.
Then we waited. And talked.
Talked and waited.
Talked and waited.
Talked and waited.
I looked at my watch. We had been there almost an hour and still no salad! I went looking for the server, who I finally found in the kitchen. I asked about our salads and she said in a huffy voice “Well, I'm bringing them out now.” When she put them on the table she said “We take things easy around here.” When I commented that an hour for salads seemed excessive she gave me a rather insincere apology and walked away.
Then Liz said “I ordered ranch dressing.” I then realized we both had vinaigrette. Mom said “This soup isn't hot.”
I said, “That's it.” We were all in agreement. Three strikes. I went back to the kitchen and said “Who is in charge here?” Somebody answered with a laugh “Nobody.” I said the salads were late, we ordered ranch dressing, and the soup is cold. We give up.”
We ended up going to the Great Wall, a Chinese buffet. It wasn't fancy, but it was fun, and the staff was as charming and friendly as could be.
Then we went home for more cake.