10:30 AM – migrate to the observation car. More glass, more views. Ranger Clint from the National Park Trails & Rails program commentates on the natural and cultural sites as we chug past Puget Sound. This is a nice touch – a rolling play-by-play to the widescreen panorama. A bald eagle lifts off and paces the train for a few moments, Shutters click. People oooh and aahh. Ranger Clint has scored. This is an Amtrak Marketing Moment.
I make a reservation for the 11:45 lunch seating, and soon realize my goal to subsist sustainably is doomed early. The special is hot turkey sandwich with gravy & a biscuit. I don’t even bother to introduce the question of free-range or organically-fed as I open a plastic pack of ‘Ranch Lite’ dressing for my salad.
Most people I talk to are enthused about the space, the pace and the style of train travel vs the airline experience, anyhow. (As my lunch-table-mate Sheri said, “When I flew, I took pictures out the window all the time … now when I do that, I can actually tell what they’re pictures of.”) But few bring up the concept of low-carbon travel. When I mention it, people are aware of the issue, but American Idol seems to be more top-of-mind.
2:10 PM Smoke stop at Portland. I get out to investigate the station. Now THIS is a place that makes you feel like traveling by rail. Gleaming polished marble, original bent-neon signage and a huge clock. Amtrak could do a lot worse than to refurbish all of their stations to this level. It would certainly start the customer experience off right.
4:15 PM – Another cheery conductor toddles by hawking invitations to a wine tasting in the ‘Parlour Car’. Five bucks gets 4 tasters, cheese and crackers. I follow him into a retro restaurant car with small hopes of an organic grape choice. It was not to be, but I did engage in some good sustainable dialogue with a gentleman from the California Environmental Protection Administration. As we swirled our Columbia Valley vintages (local wines, at least!) we debate the finer points of grassroots social change at the community level vs sustainable change by dictatorial decree.
5:45 PM – Dinner Reservation: The options are salmon or steak. Both from the farm. I order the cow.
One in a series of articles on Lorne’s Sustainable Journey to the Sustainable Brands 08 Conference in Monterey CA. Click here for the full list of sessions, or here for the ‘Fear & Loathing’ road trip journals.
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