Facebook Page
The Coast Starlight, Mother's Day weekend 2005 -- Page 3
Mr. Toy's Train Travel Tales

The Coast Starlight

Mother's Day Weekend 2005

Page 3

Saturday, May 7

Lunch on the Willamette River

At this point I'll diverge from the train stories to tell about a boat ride, which may be of interest to anyone planning a trip to Oregon's capitol city.

Twenty one years ago when I lived in Salem, nobody really cared that there was a major river running right through town because the view was completely blocked by dingy warehouses. But in recent years the city tore them all down to create a beautiful downtown waterfront park. Among the attractions is the A.C Gilbert toy museum, a carousel, and a stern wheel riverboat. The latter provides one hour lunch and two hour dinner cruises on the Willamette river. My entire family went for the lunch run on Saturday. Our host was Captain Richard, his daughter, and a small crew.

The Willamette Queen

The dining room is on the upper level of the boat. The setting is spartan, but clean, and the atmosphere is fun and friendly. The food was simple, a plate with salad, pasta, bread and a cookie.

The wheelhouse

The dining room

Dixieland music is played over the sound system, and Captain Richard narrates a brief history of Salem and the river. Then he lets anyone who wishes take a turn at the helm. My nieces and their mother Maggie gave it a go. At one point I realized we were zig-zagging all over the river, then discovered that my sister was driving. Nevertheless, Captain Richard gave her a certificate of riverboat navigation, just like the ones her daughters got for driving straight.

After lunch we walked over to the "Ecosphere," an artfully designed globe that was once an acid tank for the former Boise Cascade paper mill adjacent to the park.

Heidi looks up at the Ecosphere

Sunday, May 8

The Capitol dome

Part of the animal parade sculpture

On Mother's Day it was raining on and off. We attempted a walk around the capitol building, but since I was the only one prepared with coat and hat, everyone else went back to the car after a short distance. I alone completed the walk.

The Circuit Rider sculpture surrounded by rhododendrons on the east side of the capitol grounds

Across State Street at the rear of the capitol is the campus of Willamette University

A little rail advocacy discussion

Later that day I had an opportunity to speak on the phone with Claudia Howells. Claudia is the former Administrator of the Oregon Department of Transportation's Rail Division. The first time I heard of her was in October of '03 when I saw her on C-SPAN testifying before a Senate committee on the future of, and need for, Amtrak. I was very impressed with her presentation. I learned quite recently that she has been a friend of my sister Liz for many years, and we have exchanged e-mails several times in the last few months. We had hoped to visit in person, but family activities and obligations for both of us prevented a face to face meeting this trip.

Nevertheless, Claudia and I had a fun and interesting phone conversation about train travel and rail advocacy issues. I was most intrigued by a story she told of a locomotive cab ride she took on train #14 between Klamath Falls and Eugene. Apparently this train had been right on time leaving K-Falls, but was delayed 6 hours, first by some weather related speed restrictions, then in the Cascades by an "armada" of Union Pacific construction equipment.

We also discussed problems Amtrak has in Congress, and some of the political challenges involving Oregon's segment of Amtrak's Cascades service. Claudia mentioned that the rail service agreement between Oregon and Washington, which the Bush administration points to as a model for all interstate rail service, is actually pretty informal. It bears little resemblance to the complex multi-state compacts the Bush administration proposes for the management and funding of long-distance train routes.

Under Bush's plan, California's legislature would have to establish agreements with 17 other state legislatures, each with their own concerns and budget priorities, in order to keep the four long-distance trains that serve the Golden State running. One reason why we have a federal government is to coordinate interstate commerce. Bush is abdicating his responsibility in order to shave 1% off of the federal transportation budget in a disingenuous attempt to pretend he's a fiscal conservative. Fortunately, his plan has gotten a chilly reception on Capitol Hill. Unfortunately, Congress hasn't shown much initiative of its own to give Amtrak the resources it needs to truly succeed, but instead just gives it enough to limp along one year at a time. And so it goes.

Turn to page 4
| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |

Return to
Mr. Toy's Train Travel Tales

See also the

The Del Monte Club Car

And be sure to visit the
Toy Box home
Monterey Peninsula Toy Box