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Coastal Contemplations day 15

Monday, June 20th, 2016
Amtrak Cascade train captured on a stop in Portland

Amtrak Cascade train captured on a stop in Portland

in beads of dew
one by one
my home village


all things must pass
I made one last stop in The Whit at the New Day Bakery – which was great – before I made my way to the Amtrak Station. This being the beginning of the Amtrak Cascades route the train was ready and waiting for me. I pulled off my bicycle bags and helped the porter left it into the baggage car. I found a seat with a table where I would spend the next seven hours.

amidst blue skies
clouds obscure The Mountain —
traveling northwards
It was a fine day with cloud strewn skies and plenty to watch as the train made its way north: Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens and finally Mount Rainier.  When I finally got off the train and reattached my bags it was late afternoon. It felt good to do even the short ride home after seven hours on the train.  Back home I unloaded the bicycle, put everything way, cleaned up and cooked some dinner. As the sun set over the city long spine-like clouds lit up with dark purples, reds and oranges. Tomorrow is the first day of summer.
the sinking sun
lights clouds on fire —
last day of spring

Photos on Flickr: todayall days

Tour without a goal – 1 September 2014

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

On Amtrak near Stellacoom

Bottle in hand,
I climb out on this great rock.
Since Heaven and Earth began
it’s stood a thousand feet above the water.
I raise my cup and smile at the sky,
and the Heavens whirl until the sun shines out of the West!
I could sit here on this rock forever! hanging my hook
    like the wise men of old.
At least I’ll send this to those who came before me here:
may the music I make, make harmony with yours.
-Li Po

Day 60
After a fairly fitful night sleeping on my coach seat on the train, I spent the rest of this day riding up to Tacoma. Sunrise was a bit past 6am and in the pre-dawn light we moved on the western side of Mt. Shasta. From this angle the mountain looked spare and barren as when I rode past it’s southern extents but there are a few more glaciers visible on this side. As the sun rose this was quite a striking scene. I ended up having breakfast and lunch in the dining car and there they fill every table with guests. On the border with Oregon the train takes one valley over than the one I rode down on and it was a lush wetland and lakes fed by Klamath Lake. Whereas the valley I’d ridden down was dry, barren and almost desert-like. Water, the staff of life. North of Klamath Falls was some really stunning scenery as the train rode high up on a valley wall over trestles and through tunnels. The valley was filled with trees and the far walls were craggy cliffs. Further on it went to the east of Mount Bachelor and the Three Sisters – neat to see stuff from the tour from this perspective. However best part of the Coast Starlight IMO is from Olympia to Washington.

down from the mountains
only mountains of the mind remain
like dragonflies over water

From Olympia the train cuts across the Nisqually Valley and actually onto the coast. I don’t know if it does much travel on the Coast in CA before San Francisio but this is the only section actually along the open water, albeit the Puget Sound, from that point on. The sun is always setting in this section as the train comes up in the summer and as you pass Anderson, McNeil and Fox Islands the sun was sinking toward the water. Finally after 26 hours on the train it pulled into Tacoma Station right on time. I had to get off at Tacoma because as far as I can tell only three WA stops have baggage service: Vancouver, Tacoma and Seattle. Happily my bicycle came through all right and with no hassles (especially as I hadn’t taken off the pedals as they require) and I very quickly straightened the handlebars and minimally strapped things on to ride the couple blocks to the bus station. There I had a few minutes to re-combobulate the bicycle a bit more and catch the bus to Lakewood where I managed to catch the last bus to Olympia. I can’t say how happy I was to see that that bus didn’t have a full bicycle carrier! Finally just around 9pm I was back in Olympia, exactly 60 days after I left.

beyond the vast expanse
the fiery sun sets
behind jagged hills

This was been a great tour with achingly beautiful scenery the whole way. I’m so happy I did it and now as autumn approaches, my favorite season, I’m happy to be back in the Pacific NW. Over the next days and weeks I hope to write a post-mortem and get some pictures uploaded. Stay tuned for all of that. Thanks to all who’ve read my attempts to capture this trip. I know I couldn’t do it justice and I hope that I at least gave an impression of it.

walking alone in the darkness
light pouring out of windows
one foot after the other

Tour without a goal – 31 August 2014

Monday, September 1st, 2014


all day I said nothing
unable to sleep
the moonlit night

this train is bound for Oly
My train didn’t leave until the evening so this meant I had most of a day to kill in Bakersfield. I was close to the central downtown and let me tell you there isn’t much action on a Sunday in Bakersfield. I found the most active coffee shop in the “arts district” and hung out there until the Art Museum opened. My plan was to spend the afternoon there and then ride to a store to get some supplies for the train trip and the head to the station to box up the bicycle. Well the best laid plans &c – the art museum was closed to install new exhibits. So I went to the natural history museum instead. This was a bit more kid oriented but there was some nest stuff there. Not far from Bakersfield is “Sharktooth Hill” a large fossil bonefield from when the Pacific Ocean ran into the San Joaquin valley. They had many fossils of sea creatures both extinct and still existent. They also had a quite interesting mineral collections with beautiful examples of petrified wood particularly standing out. I spent as much time as I could there but eventually I’d seen it all and I headed out

Fox Theatre

I rode around town checking out the Fox Theatre, public art, the Aquatic Center – the most active place in town on this hot day – but eventually I headed toward the closest store. Apart from the small central downtown Bakersfield seems to be all edge city of check cashing places, pawn shops, hairdressers and fast food. Needing to eat I was at a Subway when a guy pulled into the handicap spot, didn’t stop and went through the sign and into the window of the next door Panda Express. I took it as commentary on Panda Express’ menu. I got some supplies at the store and headed to the Amtrak station. There I struggled mightily to get the pedals of my bicycle, but the seemed to,have gotten bound on. While I was engaged in the struggle four cops showed up, entered the woman’s bathroom and removed a woman in handcuffs. Welcome to Bakersfield.

Changing trains in Sacramento

I finally just stuffed my bicycle in the box and wrapped in all in duct tape and checked it in. Not long after I boarded the San Joaquin train that would take me up to Sacremento where I’d board the Coast Startlight at midnight. The San Joaquin is a wide flat valley with small hills far in the distance to the west and the Sierras towering to the easy. All cultivated farmland it seemed really flat all the way to the hills. The sun set a fiery red ball over the hills and later on a wavery crescent moon was reflected in the train windows to the east. Only an amazing ten minutes late I arrived in Sacramento and transferred to the Coast Starlight, which was already running twenty minutes late, so technically I left Sacramento the next day.

on the train north
three weeks of travel in five hours
— crickets