May 30 Coast Starlight

I woke before my alarm, which actually didn’t sound, and showered and packed up before heading to Los Angeles’ Union Station.

The DASH B bus picks up across the street. I got there and it was marked as out of service. It listed the two closest stops, and I headed for one.

Of course the direction I chose had a brutal hill to be dragging your luggage up. Though I did pass an amazing art work built onto an AT&T building on Grand Street.

I noticed the streets were fairly barren compared to the day before. When I arrived at the stop I was looking for, I noticed it said “Weekday”, which reminded me it was actually Saturday.

So reconsulting my map of the shuttle busses, I now found myself in an abandoned downtown with an hour until my train departure.

There was a subway station several blocks away. I dragged myself there and it arrived without much delay and was only one stop from Union Station.

The metro connected to the train tracks from the back side, so I was closer to the track than Union Station actually was. I had to wait awhile for a seat assignment. It seems we were placed on cars according to destination. Car 11 is mostly empty, and this is the first time I’ve had someone sitting next to me. Car 12 is mostly full.

The guy next to me has been Amtraking for 30 days to Toronto/New York/Chicago/Los Angeles/San Francisco/Seattle. He’s from Korea.

I made a reservation for lunch and ate with two guys from California and Portland. Had good conversation with them.

Three different things about this line (Coast Starlight) vs. the last one (Sunset Limited): no power outlets, no outside alcohol, a parlor car for sleeper passengers. There are actually two power outlets available in the observation car.

Also, I noticed my Flip Mino HD LCD screen is broken. It was fine last night. I put it in my bag with my camera and computer, and when I got to the train, it was broken. It seems to be recording okay.

I discovered the name of the tree that has been in fabulous purple bloom in LA and a bit to the north: Jacunda.

We rode along the coast for a while after lunch. I sat in the observer car and enjoyed the ocean views. It was a bit overcast; the seas were quite calm. There were several small beaches that looked fabulous for camping and RVs.

The train passes through Vandenberg Airforce Base. Though you can see many of the impresively sized launch stations, much of the base is in its natural state, grassy mountainous terrain.

The train pulls away from the coast and passes through some farmland and near some dunes until arriving at San Luis Obispo.

When the train leaves San Luis Obispo, it immediately climbs into the mountains, and passes through several tunnels before emerging into more hilly farmland.

All the farms here are heavily irrigated, unlike in southeast Texas. It really gives you an appreciation for the fact that a farm job is an engineering job.

I had dinner with a lady originally from northern Louisiana who now lives in Long Beach. She’s heading to Takoma, then driving with her son to Michigan before he ships out to Afghanastan.

I then watched the sun setting against the mountains as we approached San Jose. I called my old roommate, John DeVenezia, and left a message that we were running on time. He’s supposed to pick me up in Emoryville at 10pm, and if things are still hopping at the fund raiser party he’s attending in Oakland, head back there. Since he’s hanging with the artist crowd these days, I suspect it will still be going.

Amtrak Booking

John D Was my roommate in Webster in the early 90s and the first resident of my house in the Houston Heights (I was living out of town when I bought it.)

He now resides in the San Francisco area and has tempted me with the Maker Faire to bypass Los Angeles.

I called up Amtrak to finalize the California part of my trip. Unfortunately the 5 minutes of connection time between the Sunset Limited and the Coast Starlight is not feasible. So without enough time to go south and visit another friend, I plan to make a day of it in central Los Angeles. Currently my plans include checking out Japan Town and perhaps a beer bar or two.

It ended up that all my previous bookings had been canceled because they were set to have the tickets picked up over a week ago. But it was no problem, they were all on file and have been rebooked.

I have also connected with Dmitri, a previous co-worker who is now at Google. He and I had a very intense software design relationship and it will be great to see him again. He’s gonna show me around the Google campus: should be fun.