March 14, 2016

West Coast Amtrak to Santa Barbara: The Coast Starlight


Last fall I headed down to Santa Barbara to visit one of my oldest and dearest friends to meet her new baby.  Over the years I have made a variety of trips, usually by plane, and a few road trips when Brent could come with me.  This time around I decided to try something different and ride the Amtrak train from Sacramento to Santa Barbara on The Coast Starlight.  After doing a little research, the price was way cheaper than flying and it seemed fun to be able to ride the train.


I don't travel by myself very often so when I do it's fun to feel independent, adventurous, and have high expectations of all the things I am going to get done during travel time.  When in reality I just take a bunch of pictures! 


Many of the Amtrak trains provide free Wi-Fi but unfortunately mine did not.  But I came prepared and used my phone to work online.  A major bonus is that all seats on the train have plenty of outlets to charge your electronics.


I am all about creating atmosphere wherever I go so I packed up some hot water, tea, and creamer on the go.  It was a treat to sip on my hot tea as I watched our train go by some pretty beautiful sites. 


This west coast route is supposedly one of the most scenic routes in the country (it travels all the way from Los Angeles to Seattle).  The ocean views were pretty spectacular and traveling both ways provided a different experience each way.


The assigned seating area is very spacious and cozy.  Way more room than what you get on an airplane with great views on each side.


I ended up spending most of my time in the viewing lounge area where there were tables to spread out all of my things.  Anyone is allowed to sit in this area at anytime.  But it did end up getting packed during the ocean views so I tried to stake out a spot and stay there most of the ride so that I was guaranteed a good view when it came.


There is definitely an eclectic mix of people who ride the Amtrak.  It makes for some good people watching!  It was interesting to talk to quite a few people who shared that they do not like to ride on planes and that they only travel by car or train.


The beautiful farmlands of northern California!


Along with my tea, I came prepared with plenty of snacks to eat.  But I had planned on paying for one meal each way since I knew it would be a little pricey.  I had lunch on the way to Santa Barbara and then dinner on the way home to Sacramento.


The dining area is adorable and feels kind of old timey.  I'll admit the food was average - close to something you might experience with airplane food.  But the table service, salad, and refilling of drinks made it feel a little more special.


Since I was traveling alone, I was seated with people I didn't know.  Talking with strangers isn't always my favorite thing to do, but I ended up really enjoying the company and hearing about where people lived (most were from the west coast) and where they were heading.  I met one family who was traveling with their kids and grandchildren from somewhere in the Midwest all the way to Disneyland!  That is a little long for me but it was fascinating to hear about some of the other amenities Amtrak offers in their sleeper cars!


The one draw back to riding the train is that it takes quite a bit longer to travel.  We had to stop at some point both ways which ended up adding a few hours to the trip.  If you have flexible travel plans and have someone to come pick you up like I did, it wasn't a big deal.  But because of the delays, the travel time messed up a few people's hotel reservations.  Definitely something to consider when traveling by train.


This is one of few places where I remember where we were because we were stopped - somewhere close to San Louis Obispo.  Not a bad view to be stopped at!

The train also provides a snack bar for snacking in between meals.


We hit the coast right near sunset making for some amazing photo opportunities!


I'm not usually one to take a bunch of public selfies but the opportunity outweighed the self conscious factor!


After a long but lovely ride, I finally made it to Santa Barbara, just a few hours late!


A few photos from my stay in Santa Barbara...


After a fun few days of catching up and baby snuggles, I headed back home.  Leaving at a different time of day from a different direction proved to be just as exciting as the first ride.


Traveling home from Southern California brought a larger crowd on the train, many getting off in the Bay Area.


A little tiramisu to hold me over the long night of travel I had ahead!


We ended up being delayed for over 4 hours between Oakland and Sacramento (which would take less than 2 hours to get home!).  So it ended up being a long night of following asleep and then waking up to text Brent an update of how long it would be.  I was pretty exhausted when I got home.  But the experience was still worth it and a fun memory I will always have!



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