Mount Vernon & Cascades Amtrak

Judging by the surprise of the guard at the border Mount Vernon isn’t generally visited by tourists. It was a small town snuggled up along the banks of the Skagit River to one side and the Cascade Mountains to the other. The scenery is beautiful, amongst the farmland and back drop of the mountains.

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I planned to take it easy whilst there and apart from an unfortunate incident that caused me to exit a compulsory right turn and cut up another road user it was fairly uneventful. This driver took great exception to the Canadian car in front of him not knowing where they were going and followed me into Walmart’s car park. I apologised to him and he insisted that I drove like an idiot and did all people from Canada drive like that! He couldn’t even pick up that my accent was not Canadian and that I was really unaware where I was. So I took one for Canada and agreed that I drove like an idiot. He didn’t really know what to say after that. I think I have seen too many movies where stranger danger is present but it was diffused quickly.

Unlike railway station parking in the UK Mount Vernon had a small car parking lot that was FREE on a first come first served basis. I got down there early and wandered around the small main street. Dominated by the court building and an art deco cinema the area had a few antique boutiques and cafes. I had breakfast at a Mom & Pop diner with plenty of coffee refills.

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If you are ever there the walk along the riverfront is delightful and the famous annual ‘Tulip Festival’ is commemorated with a gigantic pot of tulips on the paved walk. Even the water tower is painted with tulips around it.

The waiting room at the station was modern, clean and to my surprise had a very large coffee shop which was privately run. A few people started to flow into the waiting area as the departure time neared. The security guard that had been stationed at the front strolled up to the doors to the platform to announce that the Cascades was going to be six minutes late and that boarding will be the nearest coach to the waiting room. Again unlike in the UK boarding was through one coach for economy and one more for business class. This was a great idea to keep available space all in one place as the journey unfolded and having travellers walking up and down looking for spare seats.

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The cabin was spacious and I had two seats to myself. Journey time was around two hours and there were only four more stops to go. The train had a speed reading displaying at the end of the carriage and the bistro was a couple of carriages down. I thought that $2.25 was fair for a coffee on a service where there was no competition.

The stops along route included Everett where I visited the Boeing Factory

Amtrak Cascades literally hugged the coastline of Puget Sound almost the whole way. Shame it was a cloudy day though.

Seattle King St Station arrival hall and waiting room was very impressive. The bright hall with Corinthian plaster decorations was purchased by the city of Seattle for $10m in 2008 and renovated at a cost of $50m to reflect it’s former glory. The clock tower is based on San Marco tower in Venice and was designed by the same architects as Grand Central Terminal in New York.

Skipping along to the return journey that I had reserved in Business Class the train was running on time and arrived from Portland where it stopped for about 30 minutes to take on new supplies. An announcement was made to line up to get your seat allocation and if you were continuing to Vancouver to have your documentation ready for inspection. The line for coach was really long in comparison to the Business class line. I got a seat allocation and $3 voucher for the Bistro car. It only cost me $12 to upgrade and then they give you money off as well.

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The Business class car was spacious and I had a single seat by the window facing away from the direction of travel. As the sun was beginning to set the reflection across Puget Sound was beautiful. This journey was ninety minutes and with the same stops as the outbound leg.

I will plan more train travel when visiting America as it is a very reasonable and reliable way to get around without the hassle of trying to navigate and find available parking.