Saturday, May 17, 2008

Right Side or Left Side? It Can Make a Difference.

Back in the late 80s, I was traveling from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon, on the Coast Starlight. It was my first trip on that Amtrak train and I enjoyed the ride thoroughly, especially running through the hills north of LA and the frequent views of the Pacific Ocean.

I awoke early the next morning, rose up on an elbow and peered out the window of my roomette on the left side of the train just in time to see Mount Shasta come into view. The snow-capped peak was sparkling in the morning sun and framed against a clear blue sky. Wow! (You can actually see the train tracks in this photo.)

Later that morning, however, the train seemed to be plodding along and there was nothing to look at but an endless wall of rock and brush, a gray-green blur passing just outside my window. It seemed to go on forever, so I finally decided to walk back to the lounge car to break up the monotony.

When I got there, the car was full of passengers, all crowding together to soak in the view out the other side of the train: incredible vistas of mountains and lakes and valleys which we had been passing through for the past hour. I had missed it all.

Today's tip on train travel: When you board, ask one of the conductors when you’ll be getting to the best scenery and which side of the train will it be on.

After all, the reason you’re on the train is to relax and to see this amazing country. Why miss any of it?


Waldron Faulkner said...

Northeast corridor riders, especially between Boston and New York, know quite well that you always want to sit on the east-facing side (the right when headed north, the left when headed south). You get beautiful views of the ocean and pretty New England harbors. It's far better.

Same applies to the New York to DC route, but for different reasons. It's not as scenic but it's very interesting. You get to see parts of town you don't normally get to see. Baltimore, Philly, and the towns near New York in Jersey. More of that on the east-facing side, for whatever, than the west-facing side.

JIM LOOMIS said...

Same thing is true of many other Amtrak routes. Sit on the left side of the California Zephyr out of Denver, for example. You'll head up into the Rockies and through the Moffat Tunnel and the Colorado River will be out there on the left side for well over 100 miles. You certainly don't want to miss all those rafters mooning the train!

Mike said...

...and try to book your trip on the nights when the moon is full or nearly so. The U.S. is stunning by moonlight.