While most of my journeys to date were taken by boat or by thumbing, I commenced a new chapter of my trip by purchasing a 30 day Amtrak Rail Pass. All of the backpackers I have met to date have been riding the Greyhound buses. God only know why. I'm not a fan of bus travel at the best of times but Greyhound just takes the piss. The prospect of sitting next to a fresh-out-of-prison ex con for a 12 hour overnighter would do nothing for me.
Although I must admit that I have a bit of a thing for rail travel. In fact it was one of the main reasons for my coming to the States. Rather than traveling down mundane highways with only 'gas stations' and McDonalds for scenery, the train slices right through the heart of the fantastic natural beauty that America possesses.
The Yanks are getting into a real state about oil prices. I mean they are getting really fucked off with it. You don't mess with an American and their vehicle. Here the car is sacrosanct, its practically in the constitution. Never before has their right to drive been threatened so much. So in a perverse way, the environment is inadvertantly coming onto the political agenda again, purely because its hitting the pockets of everyone, and doing so in style. I have to remind them that they've been getting the shit for nothing all along anyway. They have started to realise that car usage has peaked. In some ways this may be the only thing that will save Amtrak here (highly subsidised and threatened with extinction for years).
Much to my amazement, I found Amtrak trains to be far more luxurious than their European counter-parts. The seats are designed to absorb the gigantic asses of Fat America and are more spacious than the ones you get in first class on a plane. If train seats were this size in China, they'd probably throw their entire family and their three goats into one seat.
The scenery leaving Seattle was fabulous as the train cut through the Cascade Mountain range before the sun went down and I tucked into my 6 pack .........