Skip to main content
Savoring America by Rail
Washington Post (1999)
  • C Miller, San Jose State University
Certain journeys are best made slowly, such as when leaving one home behind, without another one to go to. And so it was when my husband, Kerby, and I decided to sell our Zion, Pa., farmhouse and return to California in search of the Golden Dream. Our days in Zion had been spent watching our Amish neighbors plow their 300-acre farm with draft horses. The shadowy sketch we had of our new lives consisted simply of camping on a friend's futon in a notoriously bohemian San Francisco neighborhood while we searched for a place to live. We put our belongings in storage and took the train west, feeling it was best to avoid the cultural bends by a slow transition from the cornpatch to the Castro. As we settled into our sleeping compartment, I marveled at its ingenious design. While I'd taken several train trips before, this was the first time I'd splurged on a sleeper. We had the economy version, but it had everything we needed efficiently compressed into a cubicle about four feet wide, eight feet long and eight feet tall, and with a detail I grew to love, accessed by a door that could be closed and locked. The compartment contained two seats facing each other, drapery-covered windows, a fold-down table, a pull-down sink, a closet, storage and a bunk bed overhead that could be pushed up when not in use. We discovered that what appeared to be a step to climb up to the bed actually opened to reveal a toilet. We even had our own thermostat, tiny TV with movies, reading lamps and a call button that we would later put to good use. Even though Amtrak absorbed all the regional lines in this country back in 1971, each train and route retains its own flavor, and the Crescent's was definitely Southern. Bettilee Hall, chief of customer service, came by and introduced herself and explained the workings of our compartment. She presented us with two complimentary toiletry kits. She also handed us our meal passes for the trip, which entitled us to breakfast, lunch and dinner in the dining car. I stared at her agape, because even though I'd made the reservations, I had no idea the sleeper fare included meals.
Publication Date
November 28, 1999
Publisher Statement
SJSU users: use the following link to login and access the full-text via SJSU databases.
Citation Information
C Miller. "Savoring America by Rail" Washington Post (1999)
Available at: