06 February 2011

list thirty-three: things seen from the window of a train

from the window of the train

part of my belated 40th birthday present involved riding train number 11 (the coast starlight) all the way down to san francisco. after eighteen hours of riding, here's what I know: I love trains. I think they might be my favorite way to travel. and friends, I could not tear my eyes away from the window. I could not. I stared out that train window until the sky turned black and there was nothing left to see but the dim neon lights of the occasional small town we passed through. I did not sleep much but I did make a list of a few things I saw along the way. well, of course I made a list. I made a list because it's what I do. but also, I made a list because I want to remember.

things seen:

1. bright blocks of trainyard graffiti

2. birds swooping in oblong patterns

3. golden magic hour light and the willamette river

4. cobbled-together shanty towns

5. a woman waving from her back porch

6. the insides of a few dimly lit dining rooms, the glare of tiny televisions

7. a rainbow of plastic fruit crates

8. a field full of bright yellow tractors

9. a brilliant pink sky

10. a spectacular jumble of electrical equipment

11. nothing but darkness for what seemed like hours

12. small town neon

13. train passengers scrambling off the train to smoke

14. the insides of a long grey tunnel

15. finally, a sliver of moon

16. and then eventually, milky white light and the beginning of a new day

17. an unfinished highway

18. a neon pink wind sock

19. the first palm tree

20. an unrecognizable word spelled out with pieces of driftwood

21. a swampy area filled with a dozen overturned grocery carts

22. tiny hopeful patches of blue sky

23. and then finally, a wide open blue sky

24. an old turquoise trailer and too many industrial parks to mention

25. the waters of san pablo bay

26. more and more bright-colored graffiti

27. the beginnings of oakland

28. a woman in a row boat

29. the san francisco skyline

I cannot wait to ride again. I. cannot. wait.


  1. How fabulous!! It made a great post! :-) You're the first person I've heard say something good about long train rides, proving to me that it's all about your state of mind...You see, I feel that way about long bus rides too! ^_^

  2. #5. made me happy. it's as if she was waving just to you. just for you.

  3. you make it sounds so good.

    my first thought, after really slowly reading through all those great things and imagining every single one, was: i want to do that WITH YOU. :)

  4. That picture is stunning... And I'm always a sucker for lists, but this is an especially good one :) Hope you've had a nice weekend!

  5. So many beautiful visuals popped into my mind as I read this list.

    I attempted my own 52 list project last year, in part inspired by you and your gorgeous blog... but I didn't get very far! I hope to get back to it soon. Can't live without lists!!!

  6. That sounds beautiful! I've never taken a long distance train ride, but this really makes me want to. Having just gotten off a bus from nyc to boston also makes me want to take trains more often ;)

  7. It sounds like a wonderful experience. I can't say I've ever been on a train journey, but I may just have to add it to my life list :)

  8. love, love, LOVE your lists!
    and also, i can't wait to ride in a train one day. :)

  9. i just found you this very minute and i am here for keeps. i loved your list and would have sighed seeing that sliver of a moon.

    your photographs are inspiring.

  10. So cool!
    I've considered riding the train up your way. I ride it regularly between San Francisco and Sacramento and I love it so much. I have a fantasy of taking it to Oregon or Seattle, WA...

  11. my absolute favorite way to travel, hands down no question. and 18 hours? wow!

  12. I almost feel as if I was there myself :)

  13. I'd never heard of the Coast Starlight, but it sounds amazing! Adding it to my to do list for the west coast...someday!

  14. that sounds absolutely amazing.

  15. We are heading to Europe this summer to see hubby's family and are planning a couple of train rides through Italy and Austria. I can't wait.

    So glad you got to do it all by yourself.

  16. I do the same on flights, assuming I have the window seat - stare out the window the entire time, wishing I could take decent pictures because I know my mental pics of the lay of the land won't last... I love it. You make me want to ride a train!

  17. oh oh oh! how i love this list! i too l-o-v-e train rides. love.

  18. I absolutely love the way you see the world :)

  19. i never get tired of even the little 3 hour trip between l.a. and san diego:

  20. I traveled cross country and I was surprised by the number of shanty towns right next to the tracks. I told my dad and he said, 'Well where do you think they came up with the term wrong side of the tracks from?' Parents always come up with ways to blow your mind.

    Sounds like you had a great time! Love the picture!

  21. train travel is the way to go!

  22. i love trains! we took the coast starlight on our honeymoon. for my next train ride I'd like to try a train through the countryside of Canada or perhaps through Europe. Although I wouldn't pass up any train trip that came my way!

  23. Wonderful...and love the train wher you sit facing the window...never seen or been in a train like that!
    Cool shots...thanks for sharing Andrea!

  24. this breaks my heart in such a good way. i need this kind of list in my life. :)

  25. I love this list and now I want to ride a train even more than I did before. Sigh.....


  26. that sounds so lovely! i want to hop on a train now too.

  27. How amazing. I have always wanted to ride that line.

  28. Travel by train can be so amazing. It seems your trip was perfect. Beautiful photograph as well as so many beautiful images formed in my mind while reading your list.

  29. Ohh, that's it, I'm definitely taking the train for my next visit home! I've been thinking of this for a while, because I hate flying and previous experiences on the bus were uncomfortable. Your pictures are lovely, especially the blurred lights at sunset - love! You've inspired me!