Trains are cool

A few months ago Rob suggested taking a train out to California for his Aunt Elspeth’s 80th birthday party as a surprise. I was a bit lukewarm about the idea at first, as it meant I’d have to miss the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild Holiday Sale, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how exhausted I was, and the more appealing a vacation looked.

Actual time when I don’t have to work at all? When was the last time I had done that? Well, we took a long weekend last year, but other than that, um, well, that would be some time before I started my business.

Before I started my business, when I had vacation time from my day job I would spend an entire two weeks knitting, eating chocolate, and watching movies and cartoons. It was good!

Then I started my business, and I spent all my vacation time, weekends, evenings, and holidays dyeing, spinning, labeling, filling orders, working on my website, and other business-related tasks. I thought once I quit the day job I might have time to relax once in a while, but OCD cracks the whip.

So an enforced vacation started to look like just what I needed.

And so it was we found ourselves boarding a train early in the morning.


The great thing about the train, aside from being more environmentally friendly than air travel and not having to be irradiated and ogled or groped, is the scenery! We saw herons, bobwhites, the ubiquitous ducks and geese, goats, a Shetland pony, many cows and horses, alpacas, sheep, donkeys, bald eagles, deer… It was wonderful!

I had lots of time to knit! I worked on my legwarmers (Lynn Hershberger’s Road-Tested Legwarmers), using two colorways of my hand dyed worsted weight, Purplesaurus and Rain Forest, alternating two rows of each. The colors don’t show so well here. I’ll post a better pic when they’re done. I would have finished them on the trip, but I ran out of Purplesaurus with just an inch and a half to go on the second legwarmer, despite knitting fast to try to finish it before the yarn ran out! Fortunately I have more.


This is somewhere in Utah, I think.


This one is either in Utah or Colorado. I took a lot of photos just for color inspiration, and some of them didn’t end up being very good photos composition-wise (being taken through a moving train window and all), but a few did!

high desert

The first thing we saw in California was snow. I have to admit, snow isn’t what I think of when I think of California, but…mountains. Right.

donner lake

We took the train all the way to Martinez, then took a connecting Amtrak bus to Santa Rosa, where Rob’s cousin Anna picked us up and delivered us to the ice cream parlor where Elspeth and the rest of the family just happened to be. Elspeth hadn’t known we were coming. The look on her face was priceless.

We spent a few days with Elspeth and Anna and her family, and then a few days with just Elspeth. They are all delightful people, and it was fun spending time in the area with locals who could take us to the cool places.

We went to the Redwoods. It was awe-inspiring.


This is a sculpture in Sebastopol made by a local artist. Elspeth couldn’t remember his name, but he lives on the street where this sculpture is, and the street is lined with several of his sculptures. They’re all really cool, but I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the rabbit!

sebastopol rabbit

All too soon it was time to leave. But that meant another train trip!

Here are my tips for traveling on the train:

  1. If you’re going any distance, get a sleeper car. It’s worth it. You’ll sleep a lot better if you’re actually horizontal.
  2. If you’re vegan, call ahead and reserve vegan meals. They have vegan meals that they don’t have on the menu. They’re actually quite tasty. But stay away from the spicy udon noodles. It was very tasty, but did not play nice with my digestive tract.
  3. They have a veggie burger on the menu. The veggie burger itself is vegan, but the bun is not. We ordered the veggie burger with no bun on a bed of greens (it comes with tomato and onion). I cut mine up and poured some salad dressing on it, and had a tasty salad.
  4. Some models of Amtrak sleeper car have a little cubby hole next to the seat that folds down into a bed. It seems like the perfect place to put your phone when you go to bed. It is not. Your phone will slide out as the train goes around curves, and it will fall not onto the bed, not through the gap to the floor under the bed, but through the gap and into the folding mechanism of the seat/bed. Fortunately our attendant always travels with a wire coat hanger for just this sort of occasion. Yeah, don’t do that.
  5. The downstairs bathrooms are roomier than the upstairs bathrooms.

Those are all the tips I can think of, but if you have questions, just ask. I really enjoyed the trip.

And just in case you missed yesterday’s post, I’m having a sale in the shop. Take 20% off any order of $50 or more with the coupon code GRATITUDE through Nov. 30.

Oh, also, yes, we ate chocolate every day of our trip. It was good.

1 comment

  1. Marcy

    I second your advice on getting a sleeper car. When I moved to Oregon, I did not get a sleeper car. The seats are not comfortable for sleeping. It was three days, so I managed, but it would’ve been nice to have a sleeper car. I did a lot of knitting along the way and payed hangman with a gal from Ireland during part of my trip.

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