Passenger rail service between New Orleans and Bay St. Louis is one step closer aftera vote by Mobile to support it! When it's restored, there's a great, big world out there to explore, and the author provides a fine example of the adventures possible.
- Story and photos by John M. Dumoulin
From Chicago, you can transfer to the California Zephyr and take it to San Francisco, or take the Empire Builder to Seattle, or catch a train to Toronto and travel through Canada. If you prefer to go to New York City, you’ll ride from the Bay Saint Louis station to Slidell and catch the north-bound Amtrak’s Crescent. Once aboard, you can sit back and watch the Eastern United States whiz by all the way to Penn Station. Oh, the places you could go!
For now, though, if you want to get to the Pacific Ocean by passenger rail, you’ll have to start in New Orleans. We did. And since it’s a two-night trip, you’ll really want to book a bedroom in a sleeper car. Your ticket includes a private window seat; grants you access to the first-class lounge at each train station you visit; provides you with a private bathroom and shower; and feeds you three meals a day in the dining car.
“You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.”
If you travel with another couple, you can all sit together at the dinner table – but part of the fun of rail travel is meeting new people, and what better way to get to know someone new than over polite dinner conversation? On our trip, we met Don, a retired driver-education teacher from Delaware, and his wife, Marty. It turned out that they lived in the same town but at different times as a couple across the aisle from our table. We met Mike from Iowa, who was making a rather circuitous route to Georgia for his daughter’s wedding, and an Amish widow, Lizzy, who was traveling home after a nice visit with her daughter in Montana.
We also met Richard, a North Carolina assistant professor, and his girlfriend, Pat, and I had a nice long talk with Phil on the platform in San Antonio. He noticed my NASA t-shirt, and we compared the NASA center where he worked with my experiences in Huntsville, Alabama, from where I recently retired.
The trip wasn’t incident-free, but what vacation would be memorable without unexpected turns and surprises? At one point Amtrak routed us by bus around floods from a tropical storm, and our departure from one station in California was delayed after a cook injured himself in the kitchen. But we always seemed to arrive in time -- although sometimes a few minutes later than planned -- to catch the excursion bus or hop back onto the rail car to our journey’s next stop.
Once in Los Angeles, we toured by bus and rental car, exploring the city from the Santa Monica Pier, to Hollywood and the Griffith Planetarium, Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. We walked in the Pacific Ocean along Muscle Beach and drove south towards San Diego along the scenic western slopes of the Santiago Hills. From Los Angeles, we transferred to Amtrak’s Southwest Chief for a side trip to the Grand Canyon and eventually Yosemite, the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. But those adventures will have to wait to be included in another article!
“So…be your name Buzbaum or Bixby or Bray
Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!”