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All Aboard #Amtrak! Memoirs From Day One Of #HootTrak

By Connor Meakin | 1 year ago | 21 Comments

#HootTrak Day one on amtrak

6:40 am, and we’re off! To my chagrin, they don’t actually say “all aboard!” Nonetheless, my Amtrak train steams south towards the Canada-US border. I found my seat in car 7, sat down, and settled in amongst a couple of other raccoon-eyed travellers.

Incase you missed the kick off blog post, this is the first installment in a series of posts I’ll be writing to document my unconventional journey from Vancouver to SXSW in Austin, Texas aboard one of Amtrak’s fine trains. I’m commuting to Austin, but also working to tell the story of the ‘trak’ less travelled.

So far, two of train travel’s greatest qualities have stood out to me. The first is that it is scenic to the core, and the second completely endearing quality is that the PA system is taking me back in time to my elementary school days.

Earlier today the speakers crackled alive with Planet Earth-worthy commentary:

“If you look out the right window, you’ll notice a lot of bald eagles, young and old. You can tell them apart because young eagles have their ‘caps’ on backwards and their pants around their ankles.”

Owl aboard Amtrak

The train rattles along the tracks, swaying from side to side as I fire off a few emails and plan out my evening in Portland. After getting restless, I go exploring. It’s about 8am now and I haven’t had a sip of coffee yet. I’m honestly surprised that I’ve lasted this long.

I cruise through all the train cars to get my bearings and end up in the cafeteria. It’s coffee time!

After grabbing my brew, I survey the cafe for a seat. All the tables are taken, but something amazing happens. A man in a black baseball cap offers to share his table. Done!

Meet Barry, he was one of the first 500 Apple employees

Barry and I got along swimmingly. He’s a former Apple programmer – starting in 1980,  if you can believe it, and he wrote software for The Apple II and Apple III. Self-described as ‘countryless’, he’s lived in Washington and now resides in Gibsons on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast.

Now a photographer by trade, he’s also a former writer of eight (fact checked) books on Adobe Photoshop and is teaching himself .php to build a new website.

We chatted, exchanged stories and I even set him up with a HootSuite account to promote his website before he hopped off in Seattle.

Stop mops and photo-ops

HootTrak stop in Seattle on Amtrak
I even had time for the mandatory photo-op in Seattle

The train stops about half a dozen times on the way down, dropping off some folks while picking up others. One such stop was Seattle, and I figured it’d be a perfect chance to stretch my legs and snap a few pics with my plush Owly friend.

I was met by Michelle, the conductor. Sporting a terrific smile, we got to talking, and I realized that it was her heavenly voice serenading us train-goers over the PA. She was mad friendly and even took a photo of me posing at the Seattle King St. train station.

Meet Dave and Jenn – promoters on vacation

After Seattle, I retreated back to my seat. A couple from Bellingham were now in my foursome. We got to talking seamlessly. The whole while, I kept thinking to myself: “why is everyone so nice on the train?”

So here I am chatting to this couple about my crazy Amtrak journey to SXSW. I find out Dave promotes music events at a few venues, while Jenn works for a rival nightclub… very Romeo and Juliet of them.

Dave also showed me a killer card trick which I totally plan to use to woo the people of Austin when I get down there.

Onward and upward ~ #HootUpPortland

#HootUpPortland Owls at Lucky Lab in Portland
Kyle, Yuri, Mark, Mike and Kelsey rubbing feathers at #HootUpPortland

Aside from a few unexpected stops, the trip was amazing. I was working the whole time while meeting some amazing and interesting folks.

#HootUpPortland was a blast! Despite having to hustle from the train station directly to the event, I really enjoyed meeting new friends and chatting about social and digital over some of Portland’s tastiest ales. Lucky for me, I got the dress code right – plaid shirts all around, however, my pouring technique leaved a bit to be desired. And my company definitely let me know it.

Long day, and on the Los Angeles tomorrow.

-Owl out . See you on the traks.

Your turn,

What’s your best train story?

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21 comments
Sam Martinez
Sam Martinez

Hello Conner,

You reminded me of a fun train ride that I took from Nuremberg to Prague. So fun!! I have always enjoyed the train rides in Europe, but I have never tried Amtrak. I have to give it a try :)

Connor Meakin
Connor Meakin

Thanks Sam - glad the trip resonated with you. It was a life changing experience for me.

Courtney
Courtney

Loving your updates, have a wonderful ride on the rails. I just got off a DC to Sacramento trip last week and I'm ready to jump back on Amtrak with every train whistle that echos through my city.

Connor Meakin
Connor Meakin

Awesome to hear Courtney - thanks for the kind words!

Courtney
Courtney

Entered my still be developed website incorrectly.. :)

Michelle
Michelle

Wow, part of that made me blush! We DO say "all aboard" (or "BOARD!") but typically only when folks are dragging their feet & we're trying to stay on schedule. Thanks for the nice review, hopefully the rest of your trips are great!

Neal
Neal

Yes! Agreed! I think they call "All aboard!" at pretty much every stop on the Downeaster between Boston and Portland.

Connor Meakin
Connor Meakin

Ha - so excited you found this Michelle. The little things are what people do indeed notice. The passion you work with comes through!

Crystal
Crystal

So many amazing stories happened in one day! Cannot wait to hear the #HootUps and the rest of your #HootTrak adventure.

Connor Meakin
Connor Meakin

Thanks Crystal! Can't wait to share more stories.

Eric D White
Eric D White

Epic! I recently took the California Zephyr from Denver to Sacramento and man those views were INCREDIBLE! Amtrak staff was super nice and that PA system was also a favorite of mine. I'll be heading to Austin for SXSW and will be taking the Amtrak from LA to Austin for the event tomorrow night. Can't wait for another sweet ride!

Arié Moyal
Arié Moyal

The Zephyr is probably the best train on the network in terms of views and vibes - I know that on my annual rail trip around the US the moment of the trip is always on that train! This year the conductor took my free hugs sign and greeted passengers with it in Glenwood Springs :) See you in Austin!

Arié Moyal
Arié Moyal

Strange my original comment was meant to be a reply to your post not to Eric's. Oops :)

Connor Meakin
Connor Meakin

Free hugs should be mandatory signage on all trains. In fact, I may steal that idea and craft a similar sign for the Texas trip tomorrow night.

Arié Moyal
Arié Moyal

Awesome! Do it! I'll be wearing my HugTrainUSA shirt for at least part of SxSW ef Monday afternoon at the Driskill!

Arié Moyal
Arié Moyal

Hey pretty cool that you're going all the way from Vancouver to Austin, I've done Boston to Austin to New York and Chicago to Austin both for SxSW and I always thought it would be cool to have a Geeks on a Train type of trip Although that usually happens by default on trains headed to Austin for SXSW Haha This year I.m flying to Dallas though The train is an awesome way to travel In addition to taking the train as often as i can I actually run a small mental health NPO called HugTrainUSA (http://hugtrain.org) where i travel around the US hugging whoever wants a hug during the holiday season and I've now completed 4 trips around the country and have done most of the routes - I find the train is the most civilised way to travel - huge seats, a lounge and a dining car not to mention great views and downtown to downtown service :) I especially like when the café car attendants get creative with their announcements :) You're going to love the views down the West Coast! Make sure you wave to the sea lions when they wave for the train whistle just south of Emeryville! Also don't miss the burrito lady on the platform in El Paso, TX and expect beautiful views as you approach central Texas!

Connor Meakin
Connor Meakin

Very powerful story - I definitely agree that it is a very civilized way to travel. I love what you're doing with HugTrainUSA - very powerful mission. Thanks for the advise Yuri.

Arié Moyal
Arié Moyal

No worries! Let me know how it goes!

Connor Meakin
Connor Meakin

Amazing Eric - see you on the train. Expect lots of Owl puns and HootSuite swag!

Elaiza
Elaiza

If I had a train story, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't beat yours. Stoked for the next post!

Connor Meakin
Connor Meakin

Thank you so much Elaiza! Can't wait to share more stories.