A SOFT RIDE: THE FEATHERBED RAILROAD
August 13, 2021
“We’ve had people visit us from Australia, France, England, Germany, Spain,” Paul Vejar, co-owner of the Featherbed Railroad lists off.
“Spain,” June Vejar adds. Then she counts more countries off on her fingers. “Switzerland, Russia, Mexico.” She pauses. “All over South America.”
We’re standing outside, a red caboose on either side of us. The wind blows unseasonably hard, bending the trees above. Paul and June have been running the Featherbed railroad for four years, after spending decades hairdressing.
“Did you have any of the repetitive stress issues associated with hairdressing?” I ask.
“None at all. Actually,” Paul smiles, “I’m more sore now than I ever was hairdressing. I do all the maintenance on the place,” he continues. “I used to be an aircraft mechanic, and now I do everything.”
“Do you like Casablanca?” June asks, her frosted hair blowing in the breeze, accentuating her turquoise glasses.
“Of course I do,” I reply. “How can a person hate Casablanca?”
June laughs. “Paul, why don’t we show him it?”
Paul steps up the steep stairway to the back of the caboose and unlocks a door. Suddenly I’m back at Rick’s Café, complete with neon light and a bar.
“The bottles are empty,” Paul quickly adds when he sees my eyes widen. “People get excited, but we can’t have an open bar, too.”
I look up and see the small loft overhead. It’s romantic, quiet, and quaint—the kind of place to hide for a weekend, or a great base to explore the county.
We move on to another, caboose, the Orient Express, then on to Easy Rider. Each one has its own unique personality and stepping through the narrow caboose door is like stepping back in time.
People from Europe are always amazed at how large the cabooses are,” Paul tells me. “They walk in and see a jacuzzi tub in the middle of the caboose and their eyes widen.”
Later, we sit in the dining room and chat. June stumbled upon the Featherbed Railroad several years earlier. “It was a Google search,” she tells me, her big hoop earrings moving with her head as she speaks. “I looked up Wine Country Bed and Breakfast for sale. There was one in Napa, but it was far too expensive. Then we saw the Featherbed Railroad, and three months later we were here,” June continues. “We actually opened escrow after we moved in and took over.”
“Two weeks later the Valley Fire happened,” Paul tells me, “And we were swamped with people looking for rooms.”
“That’s an intense way to start a business,” I reply.
“We call it our trial by fire,” Paul smiles. He leans back in his chair. He’s about to continue when a guest appears at the front door. June pops up and heads over to the desk. Paul continues. “For two weeks we were booked solid. Then it slowed down to our normal pace.”
I look around the dining room. A model train sits on tracks above my head, and outside the window it feels like a park. Paul and I chat a bit more (“Did you know only America has cabooses?”), then June, finished with her check-in, sits back down.
It’s going on 2 o’clock. Soon more guests will show up, and they’ll get busy. I say my goodbyes, then walk outside. It’s like a step back in time, to a place where cabooses rest quietly in the grass under the eaves of the trees, watching the sun move across Clear Lake. I look at the phone booth, red like the cabooses, then listen to the sound of the fountain.
The Featherbed Railroad is located at:
2870 Lakeshore Blvd, Upper Lake, CA 95485
This article first appeared in The Bloom. To read more like it, visit their website.