Now that airfares are beyond what’s reasonable to pay, I’ve been forced to resort to the Amtrak train for my Vancouver to Portland travel. There is really just one daily train: the #513 Cascades departing at 6:40am from the Main Street Terminal arriving in Portland, theoretically, at 2:50pm.
All the rest are in fact buses to Seattle, where after an hour layover you board the actual train to Portland. That rigamarole means what would be a seven hour drive becomes what in New York might be called an 11 hour schlep ride.
I’ve taken the #513 three times and will do so again. Although it is a pathetically slow haul, it has its Old World appeal in its waterside views and leisurely pace. It leaves early enough to catch the sunrise over the delta in Richmond, B.C. or over the various broad bays that lay south of Vancouver all the way to Bellingham, Washington, where the waterways fragment and multiply until reaching Tacoma. Unlike the highway, the train track hugs the coast and steers clear of civilization, and I have each time caught sight of herons, hawk, eagles and seabirds, and even an occasional otter and seal.
Because of the early hour of departure, most of the few passengers on-board for the first couple of hours are content to doze, and you can gaze on this splendid view of water and wildlife with only your thoughts.
If that’s not enough entertainment for you, the wifi usually works and there are power outlets next to the seats. The bistro opens as soon as the train leaves the station. I hear the coffee is not bad.
After Seattle the tone changes brusquely, as groups board and some people invariably make for the train bistro to drink beer regardless how early in the day it is to begin imbibing. The landscape changes and becomes industrial, sparsely populated with the odd homestead of small house with peeling paint and rusted farm equipment, or lonely nondescript clusters of new houses, squalid strip malls and truck stations. You are half-way there. Forests open occasionally to the water or a flat industrial or agricultural establishment.
What a chill from the train windows this Sunday morning! I imagine the people in their homes snug and snoring under warm blankets. Luckily, the train is toasty too.
After weeks of rain in Vancouver, I am surprised to see so much snow. The colors under the heavy clouds are white, gray and brown.
Here are some other views taken onboard.