Getting the flavor of...
America’s most magnificent train ride
To see the best of the West Coast, hop aboard Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, said Jessica Mattern in CountryLiving.com. The journey, known since the 1940s as one of America’s most beautiful train rides, carries passengers from Seattle to Los Angeles and offers stunning views all along the way. During its 35-hour run, the train rolls past lush valleys and pastureland, golden sand beaches, the snowcapped peaks of Mount Shasta and the Cascade Range, and through several national parks and forests. The train makes nearly 30 station stops, including Portland, Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose, and Santa Barbara. Tickets start at $97, but travelers should consider upgrading to a $325 Superliner Roomette, which comes with two beds, meals, and “your very own sightseeing window.” The Observation Car can get crowded, but with good reason: Its floor-toceiling windows and swiveling recliners allow for unmatched panoramic splendor.
Mark Twain’s journey west
In 1861, Mississippi riverboat pilot Sam Clemens boarded a stagecoach for Nevada, planning to spend a few months digging for silver. Seven years later, said Christopher Reynolds in the Los Angeles Times, “he emerged as Mark Twain.” I recently retraced the writer’s steps, heading into the Sierra Nevada with Twain’s 1872 memoir, Roughing It, in my backpack. My first stop, the old mining settlement of Virginia City, Nev., is now “part ghost town and part tourist concoction.” Clemens took a job at the local newspaper after failing to strike it rich, writing under the name Mark Twain. Today, the newsroom is a museum, with a wooden toilet that says “Mark Twain sat here.” In California Gold Country, I found a replica of a cabin where Twain spent a wet winter. I imagined the scene in 1865, the year he wrote “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”: “A young author shivers, his notebook full, his fortunes about to change.”