08/28/2012 01:14 pm ET

Amtrak's Coast Starlight And The Joys Of Slow Travel

NEAR SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Three hours into what will be a long day's, night's, and another day's journey along the edge of the continent, Ron Douglas tucks into a mozzarella and tomato sandwich and gazes out a window on Amtrak's Coast Starlight.

His view, just a few yards away: an idyllic stretch of California beachfront, empty save for a handful of boogie boarders and a sea lion doing lazy acrobatics beyond the surf line.

"Who doesn't like trains?" muses Douglas, a Denver travel agent who has ridden the rails from Italy to South Africa and ranks this 35-hour trip between Los Angeles and Seattle as one of his favorites.

"It's the soothing, almost therapeutic motion, the ambience, the people you meet," he says.

And, on this route, "it's the scenery, above all."