Great Train Escape

What exactly is The Great Train Escape? It’s the awesomest 12+ hour write-in (give or take a few hours depending on which station you join us) you’ll ever spend on a train!

Basic Info:

If you are boarding in San Diego, we are meeting at the San Diego Station (SAN) on Kettner Boulevard at 5:30 AM. I will be wearing a NaNo shirt and a funny hat. The 763 Pacific Surfliner boards at 6:00 AM. We will make a transfer to the Coast Starlight train once we arrive in LA.

If you are boarding in LA, we reserve a 20 seat section of the train. We meet in the center of LA Union Station, in front of Starbucks at 9:30 AM. If you’re late and receive a seat assignment, you don’t have to sit where the conductor assigns you. Just walk the train until you find us. Find the group of people with NaNoWriMo stuff and lots of laptops.

If boarding at another stop besides San Diego or LA Union Station, tell the conductor you’re with NaNoWriMo, and he should be able to direct you.

Boarding Times (for train up to Oakland-Jack London Square):

Los Angeles boards 10:10 AM
Santa Barbara boards 12:40 PM
San Luis Obispo boards at 3:35 PM

Click here for the full Starlight Coast schedule brochure.

Basic Itinerary:

November 17, Friday, WriMos board the Amtrak Coast Starlight train (10:10am at LA Union Station), coach class, and enjoy an 11 hour train ride from Los Angeles to Oakland (arrive ~9:30pm). Then we split cab fare into Union Sq (~$40, $10 each) and go to our hotels.

I’ve heard that the train cruises along the coast for most of the trip, so the sunset is gorgeous. And there is an old fashioned dining car, with waiters, is an elegant experience, even if the food is well… far from gourmet.

The seats are huge and you have a private power outlet. There is no Wi-Fi. That amenity is only reserved for sleeping car passengers.

NOTE: Amtrak gives you a 10% discount with AAA if booked 3 days in advance.

November 18, Saturday, enjoy San Francisco, check out Alcatraz if you’ve never been, and then attend the afternoon Meet & Greet party with the NaNoWriMo staff.

November 19, Sunday, I’ll be organizing a brunch in the morning (time and place yet to be determined!) and it also brings you to The Night of Writing Dangerously (NOWD), which starts at 4pm with an open bar. The Julia Morgan ballroom has round tables, each with power outlets and the room has descent Wifi. Dinner and munchies are provided, and the bar is free all night. This is the Write-a-Thon of all write-a-thons. It’s AWESOME! The party basically goes until midnight. Save some space for the late night milk and cookies!

November 20, Monday, Fly home. The train ride home is really long, and you’ll be all alone, unless a few other WriMo’s plan to take the long ride back as well.

Hotels Options:

Air B&B is a great website for renting people’s apartments when they’re out of town. It’s typically about $100/night. Make sure you look at location.

Kimpton hotels in San Fran are swanky, well-located and keep popping up with descent deals.

Many of the bigger hotels take AAA discount. Always check.

The Mosser is a decent location and decent price if you don’t mind sharing a bathroom. Warning – Reviews are mixed.

The San Fran Downtown Hostel is a good option, and in the past, WriMos have all roomed together in a 4-person room at about ~$30/person/night. The private rooms are also quite nice to share if you have a roommate. Just keep in mind you need to keep very quiet after hours since residents live on that floor and the walls are apparently paper thin.

Keep checking Priceline, and Orbitz. Book something now, and then if you find a better deal, cancel the original reservation.

Interested in doing the Great Train Escape? Please let us know via online RSVP here so we can get a preliminary head count!

If you have any other questions about the Great Train escape, contact Thea at or post to this thread!

3 Replies to “Great Train Escape”

    1. athenaktt

      You’re welcome, Dorothy! We’d more than love to have you guys on the train with us! The more the merrier, we say! 🙂

  1. Anita

    This is my fourth NaNo, but my first time doing the Great Train Escape and the Night of Writing Dangerously. I am really looking forard to next weekend!


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