Friday, September 7, 2018

Centralia Excursion

9/5/18 Amtrak Bistro

About 90 miles south of Seattle is the town of Centralia. Known mainly for its outlet mall and antique shops, it also has many older buildings, some better kept up than others, and plenty of small-town charm. Those 90 miles can be an unpleasant drive (taking as long as two-and-a-half to three hours on a bad day), but one of Centralia’s highlights is that the Amtrak stops there. Kate invited a few of us to join her on a sketching excursion by train, which was a relaxing and often scenic alternative to grim and boring I-5.

The last time I rode Amtrak was decades ago from Seattle to St. Paul (which required two nights in a sleeper car). Although this trip would be much shorter, I decided to think of it as “travel” anyway and make the kinds of sketches and journal entries I would if I were in Europe or Japan. Somehow I observe more when I believe I am traveling!

Antonella, Kate, Loretta and me at Centralia Station
Even while grumbling that the ride was too rough for sketching and the view was uninspiring, we all sketched on the way there anyway. I chose a man sitting in “the Amtrak Bistro” (also known as snack bar) that I could barely see through the frosted door.

9/5/18 Centralia Art Park

In less than two hours, we arrived in Centralia and explored the town. Three of us were immediately attracted to a colorful corner filled with sculptures. As we sketched, Rebecca Staebler, owner of Hubbub, came to chat with us, and we learned that she had curated the Art Park. In fact, she herself had painted the Mondrian-inspired utility box that appears in the corner of my sketch.

Mondrian-inspired utility box

Kate had a mission at the King Agriculture Museum, and I was torn because I knew it was full of tractors and other equipment that I would have enjoyed sketching. But the day turned out beautiful, and I knew our summer could end any minute, so I decided to stay outdoors. A number of interesting buildings caught my attention, but the neon butterfly sign at the Shanghai Café was unbeatable.
9/5/18 Shanghai Cafe
The plan was to meet for lunch at McMenamins Olympic Club Hotel, Café and Theatre. Since I had to leave right after lunch (the others caught a later train home), I decided I’d record as much of the venue as I could in the montage style that Michele Cooper teaches in her Visual Journaling workshop. I arrived at the Olympic Club a few minutes early so that I could start the page with a lamp post outside and the venue’s neon sign.

Inside the ladies' room

Inside, the Club is a visual feast of eclectic antiques and unusual décor. One wall in the women’s room is covered with a collection of faucets and other fixtures. When I used the facilities, I took a couple minutes to put a faucet in another corner of the montage.

As you know, I generally don’t sketch if there’s food in front of me – especially if the food is McMenamins’ famous mac ‘n’ cheese accompanied by an Irish stout. But since my time was short, I carried on a personal drink & eat & draw while capturing a couple of the many antique light fixtures all around us (plus Loretta and Kate).

Yummm. . . 

9/5/18 McMenamins Olympic Cafe montage 

9/5/18 Loretta and Kate

After a quick throwdown selfie, I was off to catch my train.

 The largest windows on the Amtrak Cascades are in the “Bistro” car, so when we started the part of the trip that hugs the Puget Sound shoreline, I went in for a cup of coffee to enjoy the water view. I really did feel like I was traveling somewhere more exotic, and I jotted observations of the day in my “travel journal.”

Tacoma Narrows Bridge

King Street Station from the platform


  1. Looks like a great way to travel in comfort and be able to sketch while doing it. The Olympic Club looks like it is worth a return trip both for the quirky decorations and that mac-n-cheese.

    1. We're definitely thinking about a return trip next spring! Centralia is full of sketchability!

  2. Looks like a funky place to sketch,alt although I would have no idea how to start drawing the taps:)

    1. Yes, very funky and eclectic! You have to be quick to sketch the taps because you have to block the women's room sink to see them! ;-)


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