Travels Of Judge

I’m Going To Spend How Many Nights On The Train? New Orleans to Portland, OR: December 2012

After my last train ride I was now ready to try a multi night ride on Amtrak. So when my travel buddy Dave called me in December 2012 with the idea of taking the Sunset Limited from New Orleans to Los Angeles. Then take the Coast Starlight up to Portland I said yes right away, but then I asked “I’m going to spend how many nights on the train?”  Turns out I spent three nights and four days on the train. This go round we spent those nights in one of the Roomettes on Amtrak’s Superliner. On my first Amtrak ride the conductor took me back to show me what the sleeping accommodations look like. When I saw the Roomettes I thought it looked like a nice broom closet. I could not imagine myself trying to sleep in one of them. Well I decided to jump feet first into this experience. Dave cashed in some Amtrak points for a two zone trip. Not to mention that all meals are included when riding in the sleeper cars; breakfast, lunch and dinner. How could I possibly say no to such a trip? 

 I flew down to New Orleans (MSY) on Delta via LAX. I sat around the airport waiting for Dave’s flight to arrive. The sky was getting dark and threatening, but never produced much more than a light sprinkle. Dave arrived, we jump in a cab and head into the city. We stayed at the Blake Hotel next to Lafayette Square; we dropped off our bags then headed out for some dinner. 

All of New Orleans was decorated for Christmas.

New Orleans 

 I had not been to New Orleans since the end of December 2002 and I was shocked how well I remember the city. After a walk down Bourbon Street we got a good fish dinner then I put on my tour guide hat and took Dave for a walking tour of the French Quarter. 

I easily found my way back to the place I stayed last time I was here, Soniat House Hotel

Soniat House 

 As we walked down a side street there was a couple who looked lost. I asked them if they need some help and right away I caught the Scandinavian accent. Turned out they are from Norway, we talked with them for a little bit and then I helped them with directions. Funny that Dave and I run into people from Norway on a backstreet in New Orleans. Little did we know this would not be the last we would see the couple from Norway. 

 No visit to the French Quarter is complete without a stop at Cafe Du Monde for a beignet. So after walking around Jackson Square we grabbed a table at the famous cafe and ordered up some beignet’s. 

Cafe Du Monde

 The next day we headed down to the New Orleans Union Terminal to begin our Amtrak ride on the Sunset Limited. 

New Orleans Union Terminal 

 As we are getting ready to head out to our train I notice two familiar people. The Norwegian couple are also standing in line to board the train, they notice us too. I tell Dave it’s good we helped them last night or else this could have been quite awkward. We boarded the train and they are not only staying in the sleeper cars but they are in a room right next to ours. Funny how the universe works sometimes! 

Amtrak Train #1 Sunset Limited
My Seat In Our Roomette

 The train departs right on time as we sit in our roomette and watch the city go by

Starting To Head Up The Huey P. Long Bridge
About To Cross The Mississippi River
Work On The Huey P. Long Bridge
Huey P. Long Bridge

 The climb up to and over the Huey P. Long Bridge was quite impressive. Not long into the trip and already this would be one of the many highlights. Dave and I headed to the observation car to kick back and relax while watching the scenery roll by. Hanging out in the observation car is one of the best parts of traveling by rail. The windows are bigger, seats are setup for either watching the scenery or striking up conversations with other fellow passengers. 

Dave tells me how the Sunset Limited use to run from Jacksonville, FL to Los Angeles but Hurricane Katrina put an end to that. Since then the tracks to the East of New Orleans have been repaired by CSX but Amtrak service has not resumed. It is too bad since this was the only coast to coast route in the United States. Hopefully someday in the not so distant future this service starts up again. I would really like to ride coast to coast on the same train. 


 At lunch we ended up eating in the diner car with the Norwegian couple and got to know them even better. The conversation went on for hours as we talked about travel, trains, Norway and the US. We would join them for dinner as we passed through Houston, TX latter that evening. While talking about other trips at dinner there was another couple at a table next to us that jumped in and started talking travel with us. This was a British couple that we would get to know very well over the next few days. Meeting people at breakfast, lunch and dinner is another one of the great parts of traveling on Amtrak. One has to go out of their way to strike up such conversations traveling by plane.

Louisiana Swamp

 We pulled into San Antonio, TX around midnight and I had already decided since we had a few hours here I was walking over to the Alamo to check it out. I had never been to San Antonio and the walk would only take me ten minutes to get over to the Alamo from the train station. Dave decided he would rather call it a night than join me on my dash to the Alamo. 

The Alamo
Alamo Grounds
The Alamo
The Alamo
Historic Sunset Station: San Antonio, TX

 I am very glad I took the time to go check out the Alamo. Have always heard it is smaller than one would think when they finally see it in person. They were right, it is much smaller than I expected. I will have to go back and spend a few days in San Antonio. 

I got back to the train and crawled up to the top bunk. I am 6’3 and it is a bit of a squeeze for me in the top bunk. Really wish they had smaller windows up top to see out of while up there. Dave tells me on the Viewliner train cars there is a small set of windows at the top bunk. After tossing and turning on the top bunk I now refer to as the Ironing Board, I finally get some shuteye.  


 I was woken by “Good morning, this is Veronica in the dinning car” in a far too cheerful voice for that hour. The speaker was right above my head. Needless to say after a restless night I was not too happy with being woken this way. I tried to find a speaker volume control but there was none. Looking back at it now I laugh about it, but at the time I was quite bent.  

The rest of the day we pass through more of Texas along the way to El Paso. As we get near El Paso our phones welcome us abroad as they pick up cell towers that are right across the border in Mexico. 

Euro Rail Map Out Planning Next Euro Trip
Alpine, TX
See Some Interesting Sights When Traveling By Rail

El Paso, TX
El Paso, TX
Amtrak Station El Paso, TX 
Dave Talking To Rin
Our Train: El Paso, TX
In San Antonio A Union Pacific Engine Was Added To Our Train 
UP Engine 
UP & Amtrak Engines 
Our Train: El Paso, TX
Looking Over Into Mexico

 During our stop in San Antonio a Union Pacific Engine was added to our train. Dave tells me this is standard operating procedure when it is needed. With a UP engine helping the train now we are running behind schedule, which Dave and I are quite happy about. This will put us into LA at a more reasonable hour instead of 05:35. 

Leaving El Paso, TX

 The one drawback about travelling during the winter is that the sun goes down so early. We enjoy the scenery as long as we can then head into the diner car for our dinner and another great conversation with our new friends Rin & Val. 

After dinner I got my laptop out to watch a movie. 

 Since the train was running behind schedule we arrived at Los Angeles Union Station at a more reasonable time. Dave and I were both pleased with this. 

Los Angeles Union Station: Original Ticket Lobby
Los Angeles Union Station: Original Ticket Lobby
Los Angeles Union Station
Los Angeles Union Station
Los Angeles Union Station: Original Ticket Lobby
Los Angeles Union Station
Los Angeles Union Station

Los Angeles Union Station
Los Angeles Union Station
Los Angeles City Hall 
Los Angeles Union Station

 Los Angeles Union Station is quite something to check out. I really wish I would have had more time to walk around it and take more pictures. Someday I will go back and see more of it. 


 We boarded the Coast Starlight, Amtrak train 14 that will take us to our final destination, Portland, OR. On this train is the Pacific Parlour Car, which is reserved for travelers staying in the sleeping cars. It is quite fancy and a very nice addition for this leg of the trip. 

Pacific Parlour Car
Pacific Parlour Car
Pacific Parlour Car
Pacific Parlour Car Menu
Pacific Parlour Car
Pacific Parlour Car
Pacific Parlour Car
Pacific Parlour Car

 The ride out of Los Angeles and up along the California Coast is one of the most spectacular rides in the Amtrak system. This one is must for anyone’s train ride bucket list.


Some Pictures Of The Views Along The Coast 


   We heard from someone on the train that during the height of the cold war when the train would pass through Vandenberg Air Force Base MP’s would board the train and make sure all the curtains were closed. 

I have tried to verify this online but have yet to find anything but the same story, no first hand accounts. I did find someone telling a story about stray artillery fire taking out a dining car on May 12 1944. 

 In the Pacific Parlour car they offer limited food menu compared to the diner car. Although what is offered in the parlour car is very good. We opted to have dinner in the parlour car instead of the diner car. 

Pacific Parlour Car
Pacific Parlour Car 

View From The Pacific Parlour Car


 One of the highlights along the Pacific Coast was seeing a whale spout. Made me think of all the changes we had seen along this ride. From swamps and a gator in Louisiana to the Pacific Ocean and a whale. 

As we worked our way up to the Bay Area we called it a day and turned in to our roomette. Dave took pity on me and he swapped bunks with me. The lower bunk felt like a standard bed compared to the ironing board above. Plus I was able to sit there and look out the window. 

Here is a tip, if sleeping on the lower bunk make sure to close some of the window curtain above your head. Unless you like to be woken by bright station lights at stops. Also another fun part is waking up at a station stop and looking up to see someone looking in at you as they pass by your window. At one of these stops I see Rin and Val walking by. I bang on the window and wave my goodbye to them. Both Dave and I are sad to see them depart, we have greatly enjoyed their company for the last few days. 

We pass through the city of Oakland and the train goes right down the middle of the street. 

Passing Through Oakland
Passing Through Oakland

 We woke the next morning in Oregon and got out to stretch our legs at Klamath Falls. This would be the first sighting of snow on our ride. There would be plenty more snow to come. 

Klamath Falls Amtrak Station
Klamath Falls Amtrak Station
Klamath Falls Amtrak Station

Looked Cold Out There

Chemult, OR


 We pass through quite a bit of snow before slowly starting our descent down towards Portland. After awhile the snow turns into rain. 

Pacific Parlour Car

 As we got closer to Portland it was hard to believe the train leg of this trip was coming to an end. I was amazed how quickly it felt to have gone by, before the trip I was not quite sure how I would do on the train for four days and three nights. Turns out I not only loved it, but I was not ready to get off the train! 

 Once we got to Portland we headed to pick up a rental car and drive out to the coast to Astoria. This is my first time in Portland and seeing any of the Oregon Coast. 

I have always wanted to visit Astoria ever since seeing the movie Goonies as a little kid. 

 After spending the night in Astoria our plan was to drive down the 101 to Tillamook then back to Portland on the 6 to the 26. All while stopping and taking in the sights along the way. 

Pictures From Astoria

Astoria-Megler Bridge

Seaside Oregon 

Getting The Above Shot

Lewis & Clark Statue

Along the Oregon Coast

Haystack Rock

Judge & Dave: Cannon Beach

 The drive along the Oregon Coast was spectacular. We timed it just right, the day before it was raining and some of the highway was under water and closed. 


 We stopped for some lunch along the way to Tillamook.

Pile Of Clam Shells 
No Stop In Tillamook Is Complete Without A Stop Here

Sampling Tillamook Cheese

 Dave mentioned there is a cool air museum in the area so off we went to check it out. 

Tillamook Air Museum

P-47 Thunderbolt
A-7 Corsair II
F-14 Tomcat

Nieuport 11
Messerschmitt Me-109
One Of My All Time Favorite Planes: Messerschmitt Me-109
Messerschmitt Me-109
Tillamook Air Museum 
P-38 Lightning 
P-38 Lightning
P-38 Lightning
The Business End
P-38 Lightning
I’m Ready To Take It For A Spin
P-51 Mustang

 I could have spent the entire day at this amazing air museum. The people who run it are great! It is a must see if you are in the area!

We wrapped up the day by driving back to Portland through the Tillamook State Forest, which is a great drive. 


 This was a fantastic way to see so much of the country. I look forward to seeing more of it via Amtrak, already the wheels are turning on future rail adventures. 

4 thoughts on “I’m Going To Spend How Many Nights On The Train? New Orleans to Portland, OR: December 2012

  1. David C Powell

    This was our first of several long-distance Amtrak runs together. Some folks “never want to do That again!” Judge had as much fun as I, and we did several more. We loved the amazing variety and beauty of the USA viewed from the relaxing train rides. We got to learn the menus, and when we could get off the train to stretch our legs. Totally agree on the fun meeting folks on the train and the conversations. Rin and Val were fantastic. Rin was a retired British cop and a writer. Told a great story about their long ride on the Siberian Express.

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