The Coast Starlight
June 28 ,2011
Sacramento, Davis, Martinez, Richmond, Emeryville, Oakland, San Jose, Salinas, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Oxnard, Simi Valley, Van Nuys, Burbank, Los Angeles.
Train stations are located in the heart of most cities and Sacramento Station is no different. The décor in the station is turn-of-the century with high vaulted ceilings, marble floors and heat ducts built into the seating. It also had its share of disenfranchised people haunting the urroundings and I suspect this will be a common theme. But the train arrived on time coming from Seattle, so that was a bonus. My friendly conductor, Steve, gave me a westward looking seat in a car that I had pretty much to myself, so I was off to a good start.
And then we were off. But we were not off for long. While the train gets up to 80 MPH pretty quickly, it stops about every 10 or 15 minutes at towns along the way in Northern California. The day was cloudy and threatening rain, which is a really rare occurrence in summertime California, so the scenery was not great. But the seats were roomy and comfortable so I was confident that things would work out.We made our way slowly along the bays that make up the California Delta and through the congestion of the San Jose area. As we got out of the congested bay area, we started to pick up some speed in the fertile Salinas Valley. Salinas is known as the Salad Bowl of America and it could be with all of the lettuce and other vegetables being grown there. The town of Salinas was also the home of John Steinbeck who wrote a book about how to raise vengeful grapes or soemthing. It was also the home of Ernie Irving of past NASCAR fame. I am not sure Ernie could write but he could hold a pretty wheel.
The beautiful fields gave way to oil fields as we entered the area west of Bakersfield. The day turned sunny as expected. And the landscape turned dryer. We went past one of my old friends, Mission San Miguel Arcangel. Apparently my visit there did not bring down the wrath of God since it is still standing.Then we climbed up through Cuesta Pass into the Santa Margarita mountains on our way to San Luis Obispo. These are not much as far as mountains go out west but there were five tunnels which made using my air card on my computer practically useless. Note: I am renting a cellular card that is plugged into a new notebook computer. This is my means of connecting to the internet and it is proving to be bit dicey. I wonder how they downloaded music back in the days of the telegraph?
We went past PismoBeachwhich is the last place in Californiawhere a person is allowed to drive on the beach. I have had some enjoyable times there ripping up the giant dunes with my ATV. We went through Schuman Canyon and onto Vandenberg AFB which was so foggy I could barely make out the missile launch silos. I do remember being out in the Pacific on a sail boat when they wanted to lob one over our heads. They sent a chopper out to get us off of ‘their’ range.
And then just like magic we were riding right on the edge of the Pacific Ocean which was also fogged in. The ocean was as quiet as I have ever seen it and the lack of wind was probably allowing the fog to sit on the coast. But, as always, once we got into Southern California, the sun came out and the beaches got beautiful.
We stopped in Santa Barbara which I have visited many times by water. When traveling north by boat Santa Barbara is the last decent place to stop for fuel and a hot meal while checking out conditions at Point Conception. Conditions at Point Conception are rarely ideal but that is a whole ‘nother story. Santa Barbara is almost always ideal.
Then it was on to Van Nuys and Simi Valley. Simi Valley is famous because of Rodney King got beat up there and because the Lone Ranger was filmed in the surrounding hills. It makes one wonder what would have happened if the Lone Ranger had met Rodney King. I am guessing he would have let Tonto beat him up.
So after 15 hours I arrived in Los Angeles Union Station. Los Angeles is a city of 10 million occupying a space the size of Rhode Island.. Union Station is a train station occupying the space about the size of Manteca where I started.
Factoid: If you took all of the people on planet earth and put them in Rhode Island they would
fit. Now who knew that! (No! I did not make that up.)
So I eventually wandered out of Union Station and started looking for my hotel,The Miyako. I soon gave up. I knew it was close but I had no idea where it was. I got a taxi and told him that I knew I could walk to the hotel but I did not know which way to go so would he please drive me. He said, “You can walk there but you will get killed before you get that far.” Then he tried to explain to me in his best Indian accent how the Tokyo Mafia had either been killed off or they had killed everyone else off. I am thinking why the heck am I dealing with the Tokyo Mafia. I have the Crypts, the Bloods, MS13 and now I have to deal with the Japanese.
Note to Self: If you book a room on Hotels.com and it is named ‘Miyako’ it is probably Japanese.
So I checked into the Miyako and I am sure I am the only white boy here. Most of the people here barely speak English. But after a delightful dinner of chicken, rice, seaweed and Asahi beer I got to feeling a lot better about the whole thing. I even spent some time in the karaoke bar and DID NOT sing ‘Jambalaya” My new best friend George did all of the singing and my new best bartender Yuka served the best drinks. So I thought I would call it a night.
There are 200,000 miles of rails in the USand I managed to cover 553 miles this day. This trip is going to take a lot longer than I thought.