Portland to Seattle for Lunch
My sole purpose for the day was to catch this train and ride it four hours to Seattle to have a sandwich with a friend I’d never met and then get back on the train to Portland. I’d be lucky to have enough time for a coffee. Sounds crazy, right? That’s what everybody kept telling me.
There was an accident on the highway causing a delay in getting me to the nearest Amtrak station in Oregon City, Oregon, so I diverted my route and picked up my train at its connecting point in downtown Portland. Even so, the traffic was horrible heading in, and the value and beauty of train travel once again began to creep its way back to me.
On the train I settled into the free Wi-Fi and started writing, emailing and catching up on my to-do list. When I wasn’t working, I was staring out the window at the houses and hills as they gave way to farms and houseboats before opening up to the coast.
The girl sitting opposite came prepared for her journey with coffee, lunch and her work laptop. She plugged her earbuds in and got to work. While waiting for the bathroom I struck up a conversation with a retired woman heading to Seattle to spend time with her granddaughter. I had expected to find a bunch of commuters on this popular route, but was surprised by how many people were carrying serious luggage!
Time flew by as we clacked along the coast. Tree-covered islands rose out of the bay like immortalized whales cresting before a dive. Soon enough we were gliding into Seattle.
This station is so beautiful that I start to wonder if all the Amtrak stations in America are glimmering temples to the world’s last romantic mode of transportation. I checked the time and made my way over to Salumi to meet my friend and eat one epic sandwich. From what I had read I was expecting a line around the block, but there was no wait, so my friend and I tucked into our sandwiches with time to spare. After that we grabbed a coffee and while sipping it got a very brief tour of the neighborhood.
Did you know that Seattle was built on a swamp, and that many of the ground floor entrances you see today were actually the 2nd and 3rd floor when they were built? I certainly didn’t. You can take an underground tour of all the old storefronts, but since my train was leaving, this would have to wait until my next visit.
On the train, a passenger was diabetic and didn’t plan on bringing extra medicine. When her blood sugar dropped, one person offered her an apple and I provided some peanuts. I started a conversation with my neighbor that ranged from work to travel and politics, and I was reminded how quickly a bond can be formed with a total stranger while traveling.
You might be wondering if the sandwich was worth a 15 hour journey to Seattle. I have to tell you that it really was. But no journey is just about the destination. Certainly there are faster ways to get to Seattle from Portland. Driving or flying would have been faster and allowed for more time to explore Seattle.
But I know that I wouldn’t have had such a story to tell if I took the fastest route.
About the author: Zac Stafford and his wife became nomads in 2015 and have been traveling the world since. They write about their experiences on their travel blog visa-vis.com.