Taking the slow train to meet one of my idols

I was in a cab and on my way to the main railway station in Los Angeles. I was running a little late and my taxi driver, an elderly gentleman, for whom English wasn’t his first language, pretended he wasn’t sure how to get there. I think he sensed that I was a bit tense, and decided to amuse himself at my expense.

“It’s the airport you want isn’t it?”

“No Union Station”.

“Oh, Okaaay”.


Fifteen minutes later he pulled up outside the church like building that is Union Station. Whew!

In the beautiful Art Deco style interior I looked for a ticket machine. I’d packed hurriedly and realised I’d stuffed my purse into my suitcase. I struggled with the old fashioned ticket machine. A friendly member of staff helped me and my ticket popped out. I picked up my case and the contents spilled out onto the tiled floor. I hadn’t zipped it up properly when I took my purse out.

Red faced, I scooped everything back in and started down the wide tunnel to the platform.

I love trains, so was excited to board the huge silver Coast Starlight. My allocated seat was next to an older woman who was travelling alone back to her home in Salem, Oregan. The seat she was in would be her base for the next 17 hours.

My journey to San Luis Obispo was only 5 hours. The trip along the Pacific coast was one I had been wanting to take for many years.

The staff were friendly. The guy in the cafeteria announced over the speaker system that he was getting pretty lonely down in the buffet car and he’d got some coffee and tasty cinnamon buns to tempt us with. And “bacon, mmm bacon, delicious piggy, OK not for you vegetarians, you’ll have to stick with the cinnamon buns – come and get it!”

The main viewing car has huge picture windows, so I moved up there to make the most of the gorgeous blue sky, glittering ocean and the occasional pelican flying overhead. People were camped out near the shore in their winnebagos and Airstream caravans. Children wandered and picked up shells and seaweed. Huge trucks whizzed past as we joined part of a highway, then the terrain would change to fields of giant orange pumpkins and other crops I couldn’t identify.

I chatted to other passengers, everyone raved about the beautiful scenery. A party of British pensioners had travelled from New York and were getting a little tired of train travel as they neared the end of their journey.

Lunch was in the dining car and I was seated with three fellow travellers – a French couple on their way to San Francisco and a large American man with long hair in a pony tail. They were pleasant company.

Freight trains have priority on the railroads of the USA so there are often delays. The convivial atmosphere in the dining car was briefly interrupted by a young man who was obviously in a hurry. He coldly stated that he shouldn’t have to talk to the lowly person who politely tried to reassure him that the train would be on it’s way as soon as possible. A waiter from the dining car made a comment and was told to “shut up, you are even more lowly than this person I’m speaking to now”.

When I returned to my seat, I discovered this man was sitting directly in front of me. He was telling another member of staff how badly he’d been treated in the dining car. He then took a call on his phone and his manner now was as sweet as honey “sure, why don’t you stop by my office tomorrow, we’ll have coffee, relax and talk about this deal. It’s perfect for you”.

Many people prefer to fly between the major cities of the US but I prefer the slow train.

Throw in some people watching, preferably no psychopaths and I’m in heaven.

Next stop was San Luis Obispo and tomorrow I would meet some of my fellow coach trainees and be in the same room as Martha Beck.

For a self help junkie, that’s big!




  1. Lotte said:

    Love this blog! Fab storytelling and… eeek… MARTHA BECK to come!!!

    • sally said:

      Thank you! Better get on with the MB bit then! x


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