Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

All Aboard to Santa Fe

Part 1 of 4

A few weeks ago, PBS aired a 60-minute program about the Museum of Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The program was so intriguing, it lured me to the oldest state capital in the country.

We started our adventure in Oceanside by boarding Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner to Fullerton. After waiting a bit for the delayed train, we met our attendant on the platform outside car number 432 of the Southwest Chief. The attendant helped us store the suitcases and herded us up the narrow stairway just as the engineer rocketed the No. 4 train out of the Fullerton station.

It turned out to be a good decision to take the overnight train to our destination. Santa Fe seems too far to drive at over 800 miles away, yet too close to fly, which is why we chose to take the train.

All in all, it took us a little more than 24-hours to get from home to our final destination. And that was the logic I used when convincing VJ to upgrade into a roomette. The only other option was to sit up all night in a chair.

Even though the space was small (6'6" x 3'6"), we still had two facing leather chairs, a collapsable table, and enough space to store his ukelele and my overnight bag. And as long as the top bunk was closed, we could stand up.

Here's the bonus. When booked into an Amtrak sleeping car, one is allowed to bring along personal booze. An option that is not available when traveling on the rest of the train. Oh-boy! I had just settled in for a martini when the attendant came back with our dining time. All guests in sleeper cars get three squares a day including either a soda or an adult beverage with dinner.

While the dining car wasn't like one you saw in the 1950s movies, it was clean and the food good. Furthermore, Amtrak has upgraded the quality of the tableware from the once wimpy Styrofoam and flimsy plastic flatware to high-end disposable-monogrammed-plastic tableware. Which was very acceptable.

While we enjoyed a tasty three-course dinner, our steward changed the room into upper and lower bunks. Which is why we decided to go to the Observation car to catch the scenery.

On this train, there were two sleeping cars, an observation car with café on the track level, one two-sided dining car, numerous passenger cars, and a couple of engines to pull us.

Several different room sizes were available, from the roomette all the way up to a family room with a private toilet for four. The extra space would have been more comfortable, yet they were fully booked. Although within our space, we enjoyed two-large picture windows, a sliding door with a latch, temperature control, two reading lights, and we were treated to unbelievable vistas from our cozy nest.

What was it like? It was like sitting on a run-a-way buckboard pulled by six-wild horses. Especially when the train rocketed across the plains. The train swayed and bucked which often made walking dangerous.

It was Johnny Mercer who wrote "...on the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe... Whoo hoo, hoo hoo, hoo, hoo." I cursed his grave because his song thrummed in my head all the way from Fullerton, California, through Arizona, into New Mexico, up and until we made our departure at Lamy to meet the Amtrak shuttle to Santa Fe a mere twenty minutes away!

To be continued...

Elizabeth can be reached at [email protected].


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