The epic train ride from Vancouver to San Francisco – Part 1

I’m not that much into watching sports (except of course the ice hockey world championship) so the prospect of spending a weekend in Seattle during Super Bowl in which Seattle Seahawks are playing wasn’t very appealing. Especially because last time I watched Super Bowl was in the Bay area when 49’ers played and it was pretty awkward. I was on what turned out to be a date. We were sitting on a coach next to each other and the guy asked me:

 “Can I hold your hand?”

After just a very short moment of processing, did he really just said that?, I said:


That was end of that.
When I thought of not only checking plane tickets back to San Francisco, but also train tickets, I felt giddy with excitement. (Yes, I know, I’m quite easily excitable!). It is almost 24 hour ride, but there was something romantic about it. Perhaps I got this notion as a kid reading Jules Verne Around The World In 80 Days. He spent quite a bit of time traveling on trains and always got in adventures.
Before Seattle I was in Vancouver (the one in Canada) and Whistler so I decided I might as well do the Vancouver to Seattle leg via train as well. So this trip is split in two parts, the first from Vancouver to Seattle and then couple days later Seattle to San Francisco.
I arrived at the Vancouver Amtrak train station straight from Whistler at around 4 pm and had no trouble to buy a train ticket for 5:45 pm. As I was checking in (which started pretty early, as you also have to go through USA immigration) I asked which are the best seats? He was a tall, big, smiley guy in an Amtrak uniform. He responded with a bright smile,

 “Ocean view side, of course!”.

I indeed got the ocean view side. Though I didn’t really see that  much of the ocean as it was already dark.
I wanted to send a postcard. I had it already ready but I had forgotten to drop it in a mailbox. Perhaps in the past I would have said oh well, can’t do anything about it. But now I decided to try my luck. I asked the train attendant if he could put it in the mail. He said sure, as long as it has the postmark, which it did have. He took it, and explained that he is putting it next to the very important peace of paper that has his to do list for that night, which he is putting under a pretty heavy container on the table. He explained to me that after the train leaves which will be end of his shift he will clean up the table as he always does and take the peace of paper and the postcard and then will drop it off in the mailbox on the way home. He seemed genuinely nice guy, so I don’t think he was messing with me and the postcard has a chance to reach the destination.
I have tried relaying a postcard once in the past – in Istanbul. As I was leaving the hotel and heading out to the airport, I gave the hotel receptionist a postcard, money for a postmark and a hefty tip. Even with the language barrier I think he understood that I wanted him to mail it for me. Apparently though, the postcard never reached its destination.
The train had nice wide seats, like airplane 1st class seats. The food was so-so, I got a sandwich and the chicken in it still had frozen crystals in it. As for the ocean view, it was dark and I couldn’t see anything. The lights though were pretty.
In the seat across the aisle from me was sitting an Asian guy. Time to time he glanced over at my side, perhaps he wanted to start a conversation. Right after the Canada-USA border crossing he finally had a chance. He asked 

“Are you a processor?”

I thought to myself, me? a professor? I couldn’t look further than a professor. Loose pants, messy hair, NOT-color coordinated scarf and hat. I asked him back why? He said lots of professors have H1B visas. Oh, that’s right. The border crossing official asked me on what visa I’m in United States. His English was pretty OK, but communication was slow.
About 4 hours later I was in Seattle.
To be continued. The second part of the trip Seattle to San Francisco will come next week.

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