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The Night Train to Paradise

Posted on: April 9, 2015 by Naomi M. Pridjian | 4 Comments
The Night Train to Paradise

The Night Train to Paradise

March comes in like a lion and blows out like a lamb, so the saying goes here in the Midwest. Actually, it’s more like a conference of unrelated species—sheepish for a few days, leonine for quite a few, then sheepish for one or two, and so on. Last August, when memory of this lay hidden beneath the colorful change of seasons, we planned a rail train trip to sunny California for the following March. We loved rail travel and hadn’t been on a vacation in a very long time. We were exhausted. Injury, illness, stress and strain had been with us for longer than we’d realized. Getting away… really away would be paradise.


The week prior to departure was balmy and spring-like…until the day of departure when the temperature plummeted to the 30s. Eager, undaunted, and with un-refundable tickets, we set out for our neighborhood Amtrak station. Arriving 40 minutes early, and without winter coats and shoes, we sat huddled together on the outdoor platform. We could see our breath; we chose not to look. Finally, at 3:35 pm, as scheduled, the train pulled in; we greeted our sleeping car attendant and boarded the night train to Paradise CA.


Traveling by train has to be part and parcel of a vacation, or it doesn’t work at all, because it’s slow and inconvenient in this age of immediacy. Growing up in the 1940s, train travel was, and is, part of my memory loop—ingrained and embedded. sleeping on train 438x450The clickety clack, clickety clack, clack is deliciously soothing to me. I slept almost continuously for two days. What bliss for an insomniac!


We had a roomette, a 3’.6” x 6’.6” foot coffinette of a space. Good accommodations for two on a budget, but next time we’ll splurge and go for the larger, 6’.6” x 7’.6” foot cell of a bedroom with toilet and shower inside instead of across the hall. (After the pings and dings of life have left their indentations upon us, we persons of age sometimes take a revelatory view of economy.)


The Roomette night and day



Aside from sleeping and decompressing…one of the great things to do on the train is talking with people you meet. This can happen in the observation car or in the dining car. For us, it was the dining car. It’s so easy to converse with people and be your most interesting, best self, because no follow-up is required. This is great for closet introverts like me…makes me feel downright gregarious!


Our first dining encounter was with Jane, a retired nurse/educator and her husband, John, a retired auto industry engineer from Michigan. Delightful people.


Our second dining experience was breakfast with Pete and Scott from London, UK. They work for the railway system there and take extended trips rail around the world, just for fun. We enjoyed talking with them about all the great BBC shows we love to watch. They loved Star Wars… of course, they did!


The third couple we dined with was Hilda and Klauss from Germany. Hilda is a homemaker and Klauss is a scientist in the medical/technology field. It was fun to hear about all the interesting places his career has taken them. I enjoyed telling Klauss about my friend who once worked at Argonne in a compatible field to his own. That brought a smile to his face. “Ah, I know Argonne very well”, he told us. I could have chatted about this slim bit of commonality, but no point since outside of my scientist friend and my own cancer, I don’t really know much at all. Besides, I’d never see them again.


Then there was the couple from Kansas—she, a pre-algebra teacher in a private school and he, an office furniture salesman with a very well known company. They were returning home to Kansas after visiting their mother in Indiana.


From the beginning to the end…the star of the meet and greet experience was our sleeping car attendant, Peggy Fleming (not the ice skater). Kind and thoughtful, she was great; made our trip very pleasant. Three cheers for Peggy!!


Along the way, of course, there is scenery—lots of it—from the Mighty Mississippi, across the Midwestern prairie states, the western Rockies and on through the California Sierras. Plenty of time for marveling with naps in between. It was a long trip, but a good one. We arrived well rested and well fed. The great Pacific Ocean lay before us, a magnificent planetary marvel, immense and welcoming. Everything is different on the west coast…everything…even the things that are the same are different in one-way or another. We spent five luxurious days with our hosts, absorbing and relaxing into the differences… and the light, the sun and the ocean air: Paradise!


Mississippi from dining car

Crossing the mighty Mississippi while enjoying our first meal with new friends in   the dining car.








Observation car







Watching the world whiz by in the observation car.







Starvation Peak, New Mexico

Starvation Peak, New Mexico



Leaving Las Vegas , New Mexico



Arriving in Paradise

Bird of Paradise sized

La Jolla Cove

Paradise La Jolla Cove sized

From the patio to the sea.

Patio to sea

4 Responses

  1. Anne — April 9, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    Ahh…think I must do a train trip one of these days/years. True that it must be considered part of the vacation and not simply a mode of transportation. Thanks for posting, along with all the lovely pics.

  2. Korin — April 11, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    Wow, what a beautiful and entertaining story of your trip. I’m really glad you guys got time away to relax, see the country and reconnect. Thanks for writing about it. I love train travel, when I was in Europe I was lucky to be able to travel all over by train. It was part of the experience and a great way to get to know the countries and people. It seems like a luxury in today’s world.

  3. Janene — April 14, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Wow! Thank you for sharing your experiences with all of us – visually and through storytelling. I feel like I was there with you and I feel refreshed after reading about your adventures. All the best to you. Looking forward to reading more blog posts in the future.

  4. Judy — April 20, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Good job of posting on your new website/blog. I took me awhile to figure out how to access all the features, but I think I’ve got it now.


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