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Amtrak Pacific Surfliner to San Luis Obispo, Solvang, Santa Barbara, and Ventura, California

Amtrak Ad in the 2011 issue of
the magazine:  Santa Barbara - The American Riviera, The Magazine for Visitors

A "Car Free" Week Along the Central Coast of California

Traveling by Amtrak Pacific Surfliner to San Luis Obispo, Solvang, Santa Barbara, and Ventura, California

Including "The Longest Ocean view Train Ride in America".

By Carl Morrison, Comments Welcomed at

August 15 - 21, 2011

Getting There - "There's Something About a Train That's Magic"

Central California is a magical place for me.  In terms of travel through here on the train, I think of it as, "The Best of the Coast Starlight."
"California's Central Coast" is roughly defined as, Monterey County, San Luis Obispo County, Santa Barbara County, and the northern part of Ventura County.  We have traveled through it many times on the Amtrak Coast Starlight with stops in the towns of Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo, and I've even posted two 'Santa Barbara Car Free" reports in the past at

However, on this week's vacation with Don Roe, we would visit the above towns, staying overnight one or two nights each, rather than just a few minutes' stop in each town as we have on the Amtrak Coast Starlight.  Our goal was to enjoy this full week of Central California
Coastal towns without the use of a car; traveling only by Amtrak Trains and Busses, and walking a bit.

Transportation Cost of a little more than $100 (less than $100 Sr. Rate) all through Amtrak Ticketing Office:

    Monday:  Amtrak Thruway Bus from Fullerton to Los Angeles.  Amtrak Pacific Surfliner from LA to San Luis Obispo.

    Wednesday:  Amtrak Thruway Bus from San Luis Obispo to Solvang.

    Thursday:  Amtrak Thruway Bus from Solvang to Santa Barbara.

    Friday:  Amtak Pacific Surfliner Santa Barbara to Ventura.

    Saturday:  Amtrak Pacific Surfliner Ventura to Fullerton.

California's Central Coast Map
The section we traveled on this trip.

The thing I like about the map above, is that it shows the railroad along the coast.  See why there is more ocean view on the train than by car?!

The above map shows all the towns in which we would stay a night or two:  San Luis Obispo, Solvang, Santa Barbara, and Ventura.

A Closer look at the San Luis Obispo, Solvang, and Santa Barbara Area:

Notice that from Carpenteria to Guadalupe is the "Longest Ocean view Train Ride in America."

Our adventure started in the early morning on Monday, August 15, when we boarded an Amtrak Bus in Fullerton, CA, at 5:50 a.m. for Los Angeles where we would board the Pacific Surfliner 799 for San Luis Obispo.  We chose the Pacific Surfliner 799, a single-level train, because it leaves Los Angeles Union Station about 7:35 a.m. and arrives at San Luis Obispo at 12:45 pm, whereas the Coast Starlight leaves LAUS at 10:20 a.m. getting to San Luis Obispo at 3:43 pm.  We used Amtrak Guest Rewards certificates to upgrade our ride from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo to Business Class. 

Our friend, Steve Grande, Vice President of, had previously recommended Business Class on this single-level train saying, 

"One day you should take Preacher Roe up to L.A. and ride in Business Class in the train that leaves at 7:30am (the same one as the Vino Train on Saturdays) to Santa Barbara (and also on to San Luis Obispo). That train's Business Class is great! It only has about 12 seats! It is 1/2 of the Cafe Car that they curtain off. About 6 or 7 rows with 2 seats on one side and single seats on the other side. Now that is worth the extra cost of the Business Class ticket! It is almost as nice as taking the Amtrak Coast Starlight for a trip that is not overnight." 

Thanks for the tip, Steve, Preacher Roe and I took your good advice.

Upon arriving at the Fullerton Station, we couldn't help but notice 2 Sheriff's vans.  Another fellow, also riding to LAUS on the bus, said that it was a TSA spot check of train riders leaving from this Fullerton Station.  Since we were going on the bus, we avoided the search.  I was also surprised, when we entered the bus, that it was completely full.  We were the only two that had luggage, so I surmized that the others were regular commuters.

We arrived at 6:25 at Union Station.  The bus unloaded near the baggage claim area in the station.  We pulled our bags on to the Amtrak Ticket Window and checked our big bags through to San Luis Obispo.  (The bus would, after an hour layover, take passengers on to Bakersfield.)

The ticket agent mentioned that the train would load about 7:15, and usually is on Track 9.  We waited in the large waiting room at the station.  We noticed that the Union Bagel was permanently closed as was the Traxx lounge that had been used as the Coast Starlight waiting area for sleeper passengers.

We made our way to the Track 9 platform and the Business Class Car Attendant, John, welcomed us onboard.  I chose a seat in the single-seat row on the ocean side.  Don took one of the double seats and had it to himself until Ventura.  My single seat had enough room between the seat and the window wall to hold my backpack for easy access during the trip.  There was enough foot room for my camera/computer bag to be in front of my feet, also providing easy access as well as a place to keep my camera handy, under the tray table.  There is no overhead luggage space in this car, even though there is enough vertical room.  Behind the 14 Business Class seats was a restroom and space for luggage next to the door.

We left LA with only 4 Business Class Passengers, but soon added 6 more in Glendale, and one in Van Nuys.  By Ventura, there was only one vacant seat.  A family of 6 chose to go to the tables in the car, past the snack bar, to play cards at a table.

The free USA Today had an article about Jeff Bridges' singing career starting at age 61.  The paper mentioned that readers could hear the song, "Everything But Love" at  Each row in Business Class has 2 electrical outlets.  Bikes are put on and off the Cabbage Car at many stations.  At Moorpark, it became overcast and foggy, but cleared to partly cloudy past Santa Barbara and full sun by SLO.

Business Class on Surfliner 799 northbound or 792/798 southbound

(Click any photo below for a full-sized photo; Click BACK in your browser to return to this page.)

Business Class had only 3 seats per row.

Comfortable seats, ample legroom, tray table and electrical plugs.

Immediately in front of Business Class was the Cafe Counter.

The rest of the car consists of tables that the coach and Business Class  passengers can use with items from the Cafe counter.

Regular coach seating

Looking from the Business Class into the Cab/Baggage car which trails Train 799 to SLO, but leads 792/798 back to LA.

Seeing the side doors open, I thought we might have engine trouble before we even left the station, but I then realized it was a Cab/Baggage (Cabbage) car painted in the Cascade colors.

The Business Class car on this single-level train.

Under way from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo

Chatsworth Hills where Western movies were made and the tracks go through tunnels.

First sight of the Pacific Ocean from the train is Ventura Pier.

Crowne Plaza hotel, trakside, in Ventura, CA.
We will return here in a few days for our Car Free section of our Car Free Central Coast Trip.

The Fairgrounds is across the parking lot from the Surfliner stop.

Don asked if Santa Barbara was halfway between LA and SLO and I calculated from the schedule that it is 104 miles from LA to SB, and 118 from SB to SLO.

Since we would be spending a night or two in Ventura, I asked the lady who got on the train in Ventura what there was to do within walking distance of the Crowne Plaza Hotel.  She mentioned:  The Pier, Surf Beach, Fairgrounds (the fair had ended the day before this trip), Art Galleries, Shopping, The Mission, and a Movie Theater.

Coffee is plentiful on Business Class as well as cinnamon rolls, muffins, and juice.

The lady seated in front of me was on a mission to find a retirement house on the Central Coast.  Her headquarters for this search will be Morro Bay.

Along Vandenberg AFB, I mentioned how smooth the tracks seemed compared to previous train trips.  I don't know if it is because I've always been on the upper level of the Coast Starlight through here, which might make it seem rougher, or if they have improved the tracks.

I had not seen my wife for a few days before this trip because she had been attending a Quilting Convention in Palm Desert, so when the song by Steve Lawrence come on my iPod with these lyrics, I thought it was most appropriate:

"I took a trip on a train, and I thought about you,
I peeked through a crack and looked at the track, the one leading back to you,
and what did I do, I thought about you."

Coastal Views from the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner
between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.

This section is called, "The Longest Ocean View Train Ride in the USA."

Looking back you can see the track and trestles.

Fellow travellers along the Blue Pacific..

Covered Wagons circled on the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean.

At least two previous travellers had run aground here.

Former light stations are now automated.

This former light station is where Queen Elizabeth came ashore to visit Ronald Reagan at his ranch.  The buildings here are former dormatories for Station staff.

Once we rounded Point Conception, the coast got more treacherous.

Surfliners stop at Surf Beach.

The highlight of the day must be watching the train go by.

"Limited Accommodations" at Surf Beach!

For a complete report on this section of track around Vandenberg AFB, see my earlier report in the LINKS section at the end of this report.

We turn inland, into the "Breadbasket of the Nation."

(Right.) My laptop has a magnetic closer, so I resize my screen and put my reporter's notebook's spiral binding on the magnet above the screen and work on my report while enjoying a complimentary cold drink in the Business Car.

First sight of vineyards along the track just south of San Luis Obispo, this region might be called Edna Valley.

Out buildings still standing, used in an earlier, different kind of farming.

San Luis Obispo, California

(Click Here for a video of the southbound Coast Starlight arriving in San Luis Obispo.
The video will open in a new window, so close that window when the video is over, to return to this page.)

San Luis Obispo, California, - halfway between San Francisco (230 miles north) and Los Angeles (200 miles south) on the beautiful California Central Coast.


The main event on Monday was to reach our destination by way of a train ride along the bluffs above the beautiful Pacific Ocean and checking into our Best Western Hotel.

Lead locomotive, No. 510, Train 799 northbound at SLO.

Coach cars on Train 799 at SLO.

Cafe Roma, Cucina Bustica Italiana, near the SLO Station.

Monument to Chinese Railroad Workers

After arriving in San Luis Obispo, we waited to pick up our checked luggage until we had lunch at the nearby Del Monte Cafe.   After lunch we collected our luggage, called a cab, and made it to
our destination, the Best Western on Monterey St.

Inside the Del Monte Cafe.

Union Pacific locomotives await assignments, perhaps as helpers over Cuesta Grade just north of town.

Back at the station, No. 90230 Cabbage Car stood ready to lead the Surfliner back to Los Angeles, leaving at 2 pm.

We happened to be back at the Station to get our luggage as our Train 799 became 792 and headed back to Los Angeles.

Cab fare including tip from the Amtrak Station to the Best Western on N. Monterey St. was only $10.

After resting in our Rm. 299, we walked downhill, under the Track on Monterey.  We heard a train and watched the overpass (right).  Don was the first to realize that it was the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Red Unit Circus Train heading north!
I had done my annual report on the Circus Train when it was in Anaheim. (

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Red Unit Circus Train crossing over Monterey St. on its way north to Bakersfield, CA.

Just past the overpass, we found our destination:
Vintage 1255, a wine tasting shop.

Vintage 1255 on Monterey St.

We chose the two-cheese/salami/bread plate.  Enough for 2 of us ($20) with 3 white or red wine tastings at $9 ea.

Best Western Somerset San Luis Obispo

"A refreshing mix of high-tech hospitality with warm California Coast personality!  AMTRAK Station - 1.9 miles.

At our front door, hale the Trolley to enjoy local produce, barbeque, and street performers every Thursday evening at the Farmers’ Market. Stroll through downtown San Luis Obispo to Bubble Gum Alley, Historic Fremont Theater and locally owned shops along San Luis Creek.

Trying to "Steer Clear" of using a car (pun intended), we looked forward to using the Downtown Trolley:

San Luis Obispo Downtown Trolley

Visitors to San Luis Obispo enjoy touring the downtown on the old-fashioned trolley.  The fare is only 25 cents and the trolley loops around from the hotels on the north end of Monterey Street, near Highway 101, to Mission Plaza, down to Nipomo St. on Higuera St., up Marsh Street and back to Monterey at Osos Street.  A modified route during Farmers Market takes the trolley north around Mission Plaza.

The trolley runs every 15-20 minutes from 3:30-9 p.m. Thursdays, noon-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays.

Surprise!  Upon arriving at our hotel, we found that the Downtown Trolley now only runs on Thursday...and we were there on Monday.  They should change their website!

We had contacted Car Free San Luis Obispo (Link below under SLO Links) and Meghan Field, Air Quality Specialist, San Luis Obispo Air Pollution Control District, 3433 Roberto Court, SLO, CA, 93401, t: 805.781.1003, had arranged for us to take the Central Coast Food Tour.

Tuesday we took the Central Coast Food Tour.   Laura Gurreau, owner, says, "We are a 'spanking new' business - just starting up in April, 2011, ... but believe that the incredible food and wines of the region merit this sort of tour."

Laura described the tour as such:

The tour starts at 11:30 am:

"Sweet Earth Chocolates" located at  1445 Monterey St.,

next up is Jaffa Cafe, where we'll be tasting fresh Mediterranean cuisine.

We'll also visit We Olive for a specialty tasting of our local San Luis Obispo Olive Oils, vinegars, as well as their trademark 18 year balsamic and peach balsamic vinegars.

Next up will be the Black Sheep Bar and Grill; It's labeled as "a CalPoly hangout" for their bar drinks ... but we know their food is the soul of the place! We'll be tasting their secret recipe Mac and Cheese.

We then visit Vieni Vai for a wood oven baked pizza - they are a small little trattoria in SLO with the only authentic wood fired pizza oven in town! The owner, Guiseppe, is quite a character!

Finally, we'll end up at Buona Tavola - a much beloved local favorite for a special dessert.

We are a 'spanking new' business - just starting up in April ... but believe that the incredible food and wines of the region merit something of this sort of tour.
In regards to your question about wine tasting... SLO downtown has only two wine tasting rooms. The real action is up in Paso Robles and it's environs.

Laura Gurreau
Central Coast Food Tours
Tickets: 800.979.3370
Fax: 805.460.9214
Cell: 805.400.9054

Promptly at 11:30 a.m. we were at "Sweet Earth Chocolates" located at 1445 Monterey St., just a few blocks walk down Monterey from our Best Western accommodations.

Jules DuRocher was our excellent 'Central Coast Food Tour' Hostess.

Jules DuRocher was our excellent 'Central Coast Food Tour' Hostess.

We were served a delicious cold chocolate drink as Jules explained where they import their cocoa.

South America and Africa

South America

Cocoa bean paper mache replica on left.

Look at all the chocolate items they have!

Second Stop:  Jaffa Mediterranean Cafe

Jules pointed out the grocery items also for sale.

Our lunch at Jaffa

Meat being cooked at Jaffa

Jules will introduce you to the Owner, a delightful gentleman.

One-third of the extensive menu.

Jaffa Mediterranean Cafe also has groceries for sale.

Along the way, Jules points out architectural and historical highlights.  This was the first Station Agent's home.

There are a number of these electrical boxes around downtown, and each has been painted by an artist.

The butterfly box was painted by Lynn Hessler.

Next stop, We Olive.

I did not realize there were so many different olive oil items for sale and tasting.

Our Host thoroughly explained the processing of growing olives and making olive oil, and we tasted many flavors.

Next was Black Sheep Bar and Grill where we tasted their secret recipe Mac and Cheese.

Nearby was the historic Wineman hotel.

A former boarding house.

A beautifully restored home currently for sale.

I thought the this truck matched the colorful shingles.

Steeples abound.

Community garden plots are available at $30 yr.

This lady (left) has devoted her whole plot to plants and flowers that attract bees.  I had no idea how many bee species there are.

Original Creamery

Children's Museum

Vieni Vai Trattoria
Italian Rustica, wood-fired pizza along the creek.

Owner of Vieni Vai Trattoria (Center).
Jules DuRocher, right, our guide.

The creek through San Luis Obispo.

Mission San Luis Obispo del Tolosa

Grizzly bears used to be abundant in the San Luis Obispo area.  Jules told us why they are not here today as we viewed this fountain below the mission.

Don Spotted the Phoenix used book store.

Clock near the Court House

Court House

Our final stop for a delicious dessert at
Buona Tavola.

Bright candy counter in the Fremont Theatre

Ticket booth and art deco floor outside the Fremont Theatre.

Fremont Theatre

Firestone Grill - popular tri-tip spot.

Firestone Grill

This brew spot is adjacent to the Monterey Overpass and has an outside patio trackside.  Might be a good trainwatching spot.

Splash, a very popular fish restaurant in Pismo Beach, has a second restaurant on Monterey St.

After our second night at the Best Western Somerset in San Louis Obispo, we walked north on Monterey past a few other motels, and had a hearty breakfast at the Apple Farm Restaurant.

Check out time was noon, so we made good use of the room as an office until calling a cab at 11:45 for a noon pickup.  Took our luggage to the Office, checked out, and the cab was there.  Had him drive us to the SLO Amtrak Station where we stowed our luggage ($3 per bag).  Having 3 hrs. before our Amtrak Bus would take us to Solvang, I went on a photo expedition/lunch place search around what I've heard called a number of things:  Railroad Square, Railroad Plaza, or Railroad District.  I found numerous places for a meal, some with wine, within walking distance south of the station.  More importantly, I found the future San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum (

San Luis Obispo Amtrak Station.

SLO Station includes ticket kiosks, which should be placed in all manned and unmanned Amtrak Stations for passenger convenience.

Cafe Roma
Cucina Rustica Italiana
1020 Railroad Avenue, next to the SLO Station

Thai and Vietnamese restaurants near the station.

Meze Wine Cafe and Market, close to the station.

Sally Loo's had all we needed while waiting for our bus to Solvang:  coffee, sandwiches, internet access, tables and couches.

San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum (

The two-sided sign looks like rusted metal and is beautiful, unfortunately is made of compressed wood and is showing deterioration already and the museum is not yet open.

Two views of Iron Road Pioneers monument to Chinese immigrant railroad construction workers.

This view from the pedestrian bridge.

Iron Road Pioneers monument plaque.

The museum is a short walk from the SLO Pedestrian Bridge.

Inside Sally Loo's

While waiting for our Bus to Solvang, from the pedestrian bridge, we watched the Coast Starlight arrive from the north.

Coast Starlight in San Luis Obispo

(Click Here for a video of the southbound Coast Starlight arriving in San Luis Obispo.
The video will open in a new window, so close that window when the video is over, to return to this page.)

Coast Starlight in San Luis Obispo

Amtrak has a nice fleet of busses, one of which we took to Solvang for one night, then on to Santa Barbara.

Two signs on the bus indicated there was WiFi  on the bus...nada.

I actually got more done without WIFI on the trip.

Solvang, California


We didn't realize it when we made plans for this trip, but Laura Kath, Santa Barbara Car Free, informed us that we'd be in town on the "Third Wednesday."  Here's what we had to look forward to:

What is Solvang Third Wednesday?

Solvang Third Wednesday is a day to Shop Solvang, Save Money and Have Fun! Held on the third Wednesday of every month, over 60 stores, restaurants, wine tasting rooms and professional offices offer special discounts and sales all day. Discover Solvang’s unique stores and boutiques. Delight in a divine culinary experience and take advantage of the Third Wednesday specials offered by participating restaurants, bakeries and sweet shops.

Shop at the world famous Solvang Farmer’s Market beginning at 2:30 pm where you’ll find local and organic produce, meats, herbs, cheeses, jams, honey, flowers and a myriad of other items to tempt your senses.

Enjoy the Solvang Wine Experience on the Solvang Wine Walk held from 3 – 7 pm where you can enjoy tasting at 5 places of your choice for $20/person.
In the summer there’s free music and activities in Solvang Park for people of all ages to enjoy. In addition, there are artist’s receptions, open houses, book signings, live music and other one-time Third Wednesday attractions during the year in a fun atmosphere that showcases what Solvang has to offer.

Join us in Solvang every Third Wednesday!

We were in Solvang on the "Third Wednesday," but arrived too late for the 5 of 12 wine tasting stops on the wine walk, so we just went to Wandering Dog near our hotel and enoyed a couple of glasses of wine...a good move to avoid a Wine Run.

Wandering Dog Wine Tasting. 

Inside the Wandering Dog Wine Tasting Room.

Wandering Dog Wine Tasting Room.

Wandering Dog Wine Tasting Room.

Wandering Dog.

As with most wine tasting rooms, the Wandering Dog sold wine-related gifts, such as these wine cork purses.

Our accommodations at the King Frederik Inn were literally steps from the Amtrak Bus Stop.

Not hard to imagine that this might be how Copenhagen buildings look.

A good place for breakfast.

The Gerlach Photo Gallery was open this morning so I ventured in to see this local artist's 4 x 5 Hasselblad work.

Stork nests are on many building roof peaks.

Alley views look like Denmark, or Disneyland.

The Little Mermaid has good snitzel, based on last night's dinner.

Remember this little song?

The biggest of several windmills in town.

The Inn is exactly a (short) block long.

With an entrance off Copenhagen and Mission, no turning around is necessary.

This young lady, Gloria Garcia, had taken our reservations for the King Frederik.

View from the King Frederik Inn to the Amtrak Bus Stop, literally a few steps away.

There is no hotel in Solvang that is closer to the Amtrak Bus Stop than the King Frederik Inn, shown with the flags from the bus stop.

Hans Christian Andersen statue.

I actually heard the bells play a piece at noon.

Shopping courts even have nice fountains.

Copenhagen?  No, Solvang.

One block east of town is the entrance to the Mission.

California poppies at the base of the sign.

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."  Revelations 3:20.

Santa Ines Mission

A live museum piece motored by.

The King Frederik Inn  provides a 20% breakfast discount here, but we got the same discount for lunch as well.

Santa Barbara, California


As we traveled up the coast on the Pacific Surfliner, Santa Barbara is a 'leg stretching' stop so I stepped off for a couple of quick shots.  When we return to Santa Barbara, it will be by Amtrak Bus, and from Solvang at the north.

Santa Barbara Lagoon, east of town between the beach and the railroad.

Santa Barbara Amtrak Station from trackside on a typical "night and morning low cloudiness"  that "burns off" by early afternoon, keeping it Mediterranean Cool.

John awaits us 'stretch-stop' passengers to reboard his Business Class Car for San Luis Obispo.

Past Santa Barbara, all the way to Guadalupe, the train travels right on the bluffs overlooking secluded beaches on the west side of Vandenberg Air Force Base.  Since 101 turns inland at Gaviota Pass, this area is not accessible from Hwy. 101, except through Lompoc and the SURF Station stop on the beach, .

Back in Santa Barbara on Thursday

Before making a trip to Santa Barbara, CA, in addition to contacting Santa Barbara Car Free, I strongly suggest getting a copy of Santa Barbara - The American Riviera, The magazine for Visitors.  (Links to both can be found in LINKS below.)

From the online version of the magazine: 
Santa Barbara - The American Riviera, The magazine for Visitors:

From the Section, "KnowB4UGo - Getting Here:

Santa Barbara Car Free Ad:


Our accommodations in Santa Barbara were at The Beach House Inn.  Self-described below:


Santa Barbara, California Hotel - The Beach House Inn

The Beach House Inn is a unique, moderately priced Inn conveniently located in the West beach Area of Santa Barbara, California.

The Beach House Inn offers eight comfortable rooms and four suites with extra amenities you don’t find at other local hotels. Enjoy our uniquely decorated guest rooms, all with comfortable beds, great features and a wide range of extra amenities. Start your day with complimentary coffee in our relaxing private courtyard, enjoy the convenience of our in-room kitchens and free high-speed Internet access, and relax at our quaint hotel’s quiet residential neighborhood location.

The Beach House Inn was a delightful place.  I felt I had stepped back into 1950 with the single-level, yellow motorcourt style building.  No drive in or parking between the units, but rather lawn, shade trees, and umbrella tables with comfortable wrought iron rocking chairs, and many brightly colored adarondack chairs, even several for the small folk.  Beach chairs and mats for use at the beach, just 2.5 blocks south.  Rooms are actually apartments with small kitchen, walk in closet, bathroom and large bedroom with 2 chairs, a table, flatscreen TV, and fireplace!  

From the Amtrak Station, we walked, with our rolling luggage, west on the platform to Montecita St. to Bath, left, to Yanonali Street then left to 320. 
(We found a quicker/shorter route back to the station.)

Our Accommodations in Santa Barbara, 2 blocks from the Amtrak Station and 2 blocks from the beach...perfect location for a Car Free vacation.

Don heading into our Room No. 3.

Inside our Rm. 3, two comfortable beds.

Room 3's fireplace, desk, and TV.

Our unit included a cute, compact kitchen.

Kitchen table and 2 chairs.

Bathroom in Unit 2.

Morning Coffee for the adults, cute chairs for the small ones.

Equipment to check out for the beach.

The Breakwater Restaurant at the Harbor for our evening meal was a delicious, economical alternative to the other restaurants at the Harbor.  We had red snapper and tri-tip for $12.95 each.  All their nightly specials seemed to be non-fish, with a full selection of fish choices on their regular menu. 

Santa Barbara Harbor post sunset.

Commercial and recreational boats tie up here.

Unusually painted camper in the Harbor lot.

Unique tour transportation passed us by.

After a good night's rest, we ventured about 2 blocks down to Cabrillo St., on the beach, to the Original, and last, Sambo's Restaurant.  I had the minced ham and eggs w/fruit and 2 pancakes ($9.45) and orange juice.

Sambo's Breakfast Restaurant

Inside Sambos on the beach.

Road signs at the RoadHouse

Road House on East Yanonali, the Beach House Inn is on West Yanonali.

At 11 a.m. we checked out and took our rolling bags 2 blocks to the Amtrak Station--east on Yanonali and across the tracks to the station.  The Station will keep your bags for $3 ea. if you are going on an Amtrak train to an unmanned station, as Ventura is, otherwise you can check your bags.  This allowed us to take the 25-cent electric trolley up State Street.  We rode all the way to Anamapu St. watching all the shops on State Street drift by from our open-air electric trolley seats. 

The Downtown Electric Shuttle is a great non-polluting way to get up and down State Street for only 25 cents a ride!

The Downtown Electric Shuttle is directly across State Street from the Amtrak Depot.  I took this photo from the Shuttle Stop.

Kalyra and Giessinger Wineries are directly behind the Shuttle Stop.

The Shuttle Arriving to take us uptown.  The shuttles arrive every 10 minutes.

The Enterprise Fish Co. across from the Shuttle Stop, is a nice place for mesquite grilled fish.

An option for a guided tour of Santa Barbara is the Santa Barbara Trolley.  Catch it at the pier.

The Museum of Art (1130 State St.) is where we got off the elecric trolley at the corner of State and Anapamu Streets.  This is #3 on the Red Tile Walking Tour.

A favorite of Don's is The Book Den.  As you read the awning, it says it all - The Book Den is Paradise Found.

Red Tile Walking Tour Map.

From the online version of the magazine:  Santa Barbara - The American Riviera, The magazine for Visitors:

The Amtrak Station is south a few blocks on State Street.

Link to Red Tile Map and Description of locations under LINKS below.

At our stop (State St. and Anapamu) we walked one block to the Court House where I photographed the famous murals and clock works.  I also climbed a few steps after the top elevator stop and enjoyed the view from the outside observation area of the tower.

I also stopped in the Public Library and was pleasantly surprised to find 2 art galleries.  I found Don, who had been working at one of the tables in the library, and we visited a used book store before returning to State St.  There we boarded the electric trolley and traveled farther north to the end of the line, Sola, St. then walked to Cantwell's Market on State Street.

County Courthouse, No. 1 on Map above.

County Courthouse Entrance and Clock Tower.

Stairwell Ceiling

Visitors area above the clock at the top of the Clock Tower.

Second Floor historic murals by Cecil B. DeMille's set painter.

Views from the County Courthouse Clock Tower

View North

View Northwest

View West

View South, to the ocean

Northward to the Santa Barbara Mission

A nice placque identifies sites to the north.

As you climb to the observation area, you pass the clock's very large bell.

And, you can look down on the workings of the clock itself, with its 4 shafts to the 4 clocks on the sides of the tower.

After returning to earth, I could look back and see where I had been on the inside of the tower.

On ground level, I saw another bell from the El Camino Real, the road between all the missions.

Above the entrance to the Library.

My favorite painting, "Gaviota", in the 3 art galleries in the library.

Arlington Theater on North State Street

Granada Theater on North State Street

A restaurant on North State Street bears my first name in Spanish.

Back on the electric trolley south, we stayed on for the full ride to the Pier.  On the pier I photographed some birdlife, then we walked to Kunin Wine Tasting Room.  To catch our 4:30 southbound Surfliner for Ventura, we decided to eat at the Roadhouse, right across State St. from the station where we enjoyed Pork Sliders, chips and salsa, and potato skins and a glass of wine each.  We walked back across State St. and retrieved our luggage and awaited the southbound Surfliner.  It was 20 minutes late, so we had time to rest in the shade before boarding for the short ride south to Ventura.

Stearns Wharf

Stearns Wharf is a pier in the harbor at Santa Barbara, California, USA. When completed In 1872, it became the longest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Named for its builder, local lumberman John P. Stearns, the wharf served the passenger and freight shipping needs of California's South Coast for over a quarter century.

When the railroad finally reached Santa Barbara in 1877, Stearns added an additional spur to the wharf, providing a necessary transport link to his lumberyard and the nearby Southern Pacific Depot. The spur was damaged by severe storms in the early 20th century and was finally abandoned in 1923.

The Harbor Restaurant was built on the wharf in 1941, marking an end to the shipping and transportation era of the 19th century. The restaurant proved to be the economic backbone of the wharf.

Since its beginning, Stearns Wharf has had several natural and economic disasters, from the big earthquake in 1925 to a fire in 1973 which caused its closing. The wharf stayed closed for six years until restorations were completed in 1981. Yet another fire in the winter of 1998 devastated the last hundred and fifty feet of the wharf, including Moby Dick Restaurant. Though the rest of the wharf remained open during this period, the rebuilding took over two years. The new Stearns Wharf stands today as Santa Barbara's most visited landmark.

--From Wikipedia   

From the pier, we walked to Kunin Winery's Tasting Room.  This is one of my favorite tasting rooms on the Santa Barbara Wine Walk, because of their White Flight.  I've enjoyed tastings here when I've taken the private rail car - Vino Train (link below) from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara.  I've even done a few reports on the Vino Train.  This is the first I've ever seen the owner and I quickly snapped a photo of him.

Seth Kunin

Kunin Tasting Room

Near Kunin's we spotted a Plymouth Woodie.

We spotted a Ford near Santa Barbara Winery.

There must have been a Woodie Run to Santa Barbara from Huntington Beach.

We had a bite at the Roadhouse in sight of the Station

I had pulled pork sliders shown with one of Don's potato skins.

Back at the station, I took some HDR shots.  The train was about 30 minutes late.

Santa Barbara Station Ticket Counter.

Don retrieved our stored luggage.

Soon the single-level consist returned (right) from San Luis Obispo, and we were on our way to nearby Ventura for our final night.

Ventura, California


Our Car Free Hotel choice, within walking distance of the unmanned Ventura Station, was

Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach Hotel. Watch the video: Ventura, The Real California (Link below).

Located directly on the beach, the subtle sounds of waves crashing against the sand will sooth you from the moment you wake up to the time your head touches the pillow for the night.

Explore Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach hotel and the surrounding areas. Let us get you started, we are:

Adjacent to Ventura's Historic Pier

30 Minutes South of Santa Barbara
Walking distance to Historic Downtown Ventura, and AMTRAK
A Full Service Beachfront Hotel
Rooms and suites with ocean views and balconies and an     oceanfront swimming pool
Convenient Parking

We had Room 611 at the Crowne Plaza, the only ocean-front hotel near downtown.

Excellent room with an east-facing balcony where we could watch trains crossing the Hwy.101 trestle and see the beach and pier.

View from our balcony of the pier.  Other balconies can be seen on the right.

View north from our balcony, across the RR and Hwy. 101 bridge to downtown.

View below our balcony -- Artists' Union Gallery

View below our balcony -- Aloha Grill and beachwalk.



The city gets its name from Mission San Buenaventura, which was established here in 1782. The mission’s name literally translates as “good fortune”—and there’s little question that fortune has been kind to this, Ventura County’s namesake city. With a history that reaches back to California’s Spanish origins and a revitalized downtown filled with boutiques, fine dining, wine bars, and galleries, Ventura is a forward-thinking community that still embraces its past. It blends the excitement of a small city with the laid-back charm of a classic California beach town. And, of course, with a gorgeous oceanfront location, Ventura is a haven for lovers of the outdoors, with all sorts of ways for visitors to get active and discover the local environment too.


Ventura’s long stretch of sandy beaches and its nearly perfect climate attract everyone from sunbathers looking for a lazy day of lounging to surfers dreaming of the perfect wave.

Local outfitters rent gear for a full range of water sports, including surfing, diving and snorkeling, and kayaking. And if you’ve always wanted to try any of these activities, in Ventura you’ll find talented and dedicated instructors who will help you make that first plunge a memorable and successful one. Or, if you’d prefer to be pampered, every summer Ventura’s beaches bloom with festive yellow umbrellas. Inspired by the beaches of Italy, the Yellow Umbrella Company reserves spots for visitors and sets up sites with beach chairs, umbrellas and towels, and supplies.

The beachfront’s most historic and prominent landmark is the 121-year-old San Buenaventura Pier. The 1,700-foot-long wooden pier connects up with a waterfront promenade and offers glorious ocean views and family-friendly restaurant famous for fresh seafood.

Nearby on the waterfront, Ventura Harbor Village is another popular family destination thanks to its antique carousel, arcade, and recreational opportunities including kite flying, sailing, and diving. The sunny waterfront playground is home to a collection of 35 specialty shops and restaurants. You’ll find works by local artisans, a comedy club, wine bar, and frequent festivals. And with its selection of seafood dining–not to mention a fudge shop–you certainly won’t go hungry, whether you’ve come to shop or to catch live music at one of the village’s outdoor concerts. Harbor Village has all sorts of ways to get out on the water. You can captain your own electric boat, paddle a kayak, or venture out on a Harbor Cruise to see the seals and homes of the Ventura Keys. And if you’re looking to explore the wild and unspoiled world of Channel Islands National Park, the harbor is home to Island Packers, the official concessionaire that travels to this island chain. The National Parks Visitor Center is located at the harbor.

For surfing, downtown Ventura’s sacred ground is Surfer’s Point at the end of California Street (known locally as “C Street”). This legendary spot attracts surfriders from up and down the California coast and is a popular site for regional competitions.

The Ventura oceanfront is also an outstanding destination for bicyclists, thanks to the impressive Omer Rains Trail, a 12-mile-long coastal biking and walking route that offers refreshing breezes and breathtaking views. The coastal route helps you connect to the Ventura River Bike Trail, which climbs gently inland for six miles to Foster Park. From there, you can continue nearly ten miles to Ojai on the Ojai Valley Trail. Both of these trails were created from the route of a former railroad line.


Downtown Ventura is an irresistible destination for shoppers, foodies, and anyone who loves history and art. One of the most appealing downtowns along the California coast, the revitalized district has been celebrated in numerous publications, including Sunset magazine.  Many of Main Street’s buildings have been restored to their vintage beauty and now house boutiques, antique stores, and innovative restaurants. Downtown visitors can take guided tours through the city’s most important landmark, Mission San Buenaventura. Built in 1782 and restored in 1809, it was the ninth of the 21 missions established by the Spanish in California. Here you can see remnants of mission life, including Chumash Indian artifacts. Another way for visitors to step back into Ventura’s past is on entertaining and informative city-sponsored walks led by local historians. On the Ghost Tour, for example, author and ghost-stalker Richard Senate guides groups to the city’s haunted buildings and streets as he tells the stories of long-departed Ventura residents. Tours also visit Ventura’s Erle Stanley Gardner Building, where the legal-mystery novelist worked as a lawyer before writing his popular Perry Mason novels (later turned into the landmark television series), with additional stops at Gardner’s home and places he frequented in Ventura.


At different times of the year,  passengers can head out with Island Packers on whale-watching cruises. Boats depart from the harbor on full- and halfday excursions to waters off the Channel Islands. The California gray whale season officially begins December 26 and continues through the end of March. These whales pass along the Ventura County coast on 6,000-mile roundtrip journeys from Alaska to the warm waters of Mexico, where they give birth to their calves. In recent years, blue whales—the largest animals that have ever lived—regularly feed in local waters from June through August. In addition to the blue and gray whales, passengers frequently spot hundreds of other marine mammals, including harbor seals and sea lions, and such diverse species as common, bottlenose, and Risso’s dolphins. If you’re lucky, you might even spot orcas.


The pier is a nice, short walk along the boardwalk.  Ericsson's Seafood restaurant is on the land end of the pier.  I did count seven homeless people between the hotel and the pier, so I would not suggest that ladies walk alone on the boardwalk.  When we walked downtown for dinner on Main St. and back after dark, I was glad there were two of us because of the homeless along California St.  Plenty of restaurants on Main St.

Eric Ericsson's Seafood Restaurant

Dargan's is a nice place for dinner on E. Main St.

I liked the neon on the Downtown Century Theaters on Main St.

This sign is on California St., right above, and viewable from, Hwy. 101.

A long camera exposure makes Hwy. 101 from the California St. Bridge look like a jetway.

The Crowne Plaza from the boardwalk.

Saturday morning craft booths.

Saturday mornings there is a craft fair right below the Crowne Plaza Hotel.  I bought a leaded glass box for Sue with an Iris etched in the lid.  Plenty of photography, clay and glass.

I walked to the pier and had lunch at Ericsson's Seafood.

I could hear this group, playing at a restaurant on the pier, all the way to the hotel.

I found this fellow, outside Ericsson's, playing tunes more to my liking.  He was playing on a 1950s guitar.

I thought his mode of transportation (bicycle) and amplification (batteries) fit well within my "Car Free Central Coast" trip report.

The pier is unique because it has a 'spur' on the end and the ocean end is higher than the land end, having been raised to accommodate larger ships when it was a wharf.

The pier is a nice platform for taking a photo back toward the Crowne Plaza Hotel and the coastal mountains beyond.

Crowne Plaza Hotel, Ventura

Seaside Pool

C-Street Bar

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner from Ventura to Los Angeles

The best map of Ventura is at the Amtrak Stop.

There is only a platform and sign.  We walked, with our luggage, from the Crowne Plaza which you can see a couple of blocks to the east of the platform.

A ticket machine allows passengers to buy and/or print tickets.

A sign announces our arriving train.  I wonder, with all this horizontal space, why most words are abbreviated to 3 or 4 letters when space would allow them to be spelled out.

Unfortunately, within view of the Ventura Platform, with the train arriving, I counted about 13 people and a dog trespassing on RR property.  I looked in the opposite direction and saw 2 more people on the track.  Perhaps Operation Lifesaver should spend some time here handing out citations.

Luckily, none of the trespassers were hit by the arriving train, and we boarded and headed toward LA.

I had not ridden in the cab car on this route and in spite of the  8 closest seats to the end window being blocked and unused, I took some telephoto shots through the window.

RR bridge over Hwy. 101.  I'd hate to be driving toward this bridge at night with a train's headlight in my face.

Approaching LA, a Metrolink waited on a siding for our passing.

Mission Tower entering LA Station.

I turned this spaghetti bowl of tracks entering LAUS into black and white for a timeless emphasis.

Track 10's cover needs paint, which will come after 2 or 3 more tracks being added are complete.

Our "Car Free Central California Coast" trip came to an end after our Pacific Surfliner continued to our final destination, Fullerton.  We had spent 5 nights in 4 different Central Coastal Towns served by Amtrak and Amtrak Busses, and only used a cab to lug our bags between the train station and one hotel.  At the other 3 towns, our hotels were close enough to walk our luggage from the Amtrak Train or Bus Stop to the hotel.

  For a Slide Show of all images in this report, in large format, Click Here.

"A couple of Big Rail Fans."

Don Roe, (above/left).

When my wife, Sue, doesn't accompany me on these Rail Adventures, Don usually does.  He fulfills the following job titles:  Associate, Traveling Secretary, Dispatcher and as with U.S. Presidents, he's my Personal Traveling Clergyman.  As I age, I find I turn more and more to him or Sue, both younger than I,  to remember the unrecorded details of these adventures as I prepare my reports.

"Yours Truly, with a big fan."

When you are a Web Author like me, with no friends, you stick closely to the few Fans you have!"


(All links will be opened in a separate window from this report.)

Before You Go

The Magazine for Visitors Santa Barbara - The American Riviera 

California's Central Coast - Central Coast Maps (Including the railroad!), Itineraries, and Downloadable 'California's Central Coast' colorful booklet: 

Historical and archeological Guide to the California Central Coast by Pacific Parlour Car Attendant, Richard Talmy.

San Luis Obispo

Best Western Somerset San Luis Obispo -  Best Western Somerset Inn - San Luis Obispo, California (CA) 1895 Monterey Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 Reservations: 866-597-0601 Contact: 805-544-0973 Fax: 805-541-2805
Email :

San Luis Obispo Car Free - Save 20 percent when you purchase a ticket for travel on the AmtrakÆ Pacific Surfliner or the San JoaquinÆ to/from San Luis Obispo County Only. Registration required.

Central Coast Food Tours  Enjoy a Food and Wine Tasting Walking Cultural Tour - One Savory Bite at a Time!  Quick Video from their Website, Click Here

San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum  P.O. Box 13260 - San Luis Obispo, CA 93406-3260  Phone: (805) 544-6531  E-mail:


Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau

Santa Ynez Valley Visitors Association

 King Frederik Inn
  Quick Video of the Inn, Click Here.

Solvang Third Wednesday Held on the third Wednesday of every month, over 60 stores, restaurants, wine tasting rooms and professional offices offer special discounts and sales all day.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Car Free Train Discount  Save 20% on your train fare on the AmtrakÆ Pacific SurflinerÆ or the San JoaquinÆ (plus associated thruway buses) to or from all nine Amtrak stations in Santa Barbara County: Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, Solvang, Buellton, Lompoc, Surf, Guadalupe and Santa Maria!

Santa Barbara Car Free - Take A Vacation from your Car.  Tours, Hotels, and Walks that are discounted through this program.

The Beach House Inn and Apartments

Amtrak Guest Rewards Program We earned points on this trip and used AGR certificates to upgrade to Business Class on the trip from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo.
  I also have an Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card with which I earn points/miles for other purchases as well.

Red Tile Walking Tour  A pocket map of 17 sites in downtown Santa Barbara.  Watch or download a podcast of the most treasured landmarks, architectural gems and museums:

Beyond The Rooftops:Santa Barbara's Red Tile Walking Tour (Watch or download)
Covering a 12-block span of downtown Santa Barbara, The Red Tile Walking Tour podcast video is a fun and historical walking tour of Santa Barbara's most treasured landmarks, architectural gems, museums and landmarks. The video is hosted by John O' Hurley, a veteran actor with hundreds of film and TV credits including Seinfeld, Family Feud and Dancing with the Stars.

Santa Barbara Vino Train  A monthly trip from LA to Santa Barbara on the private rail car, Overland Trail.  Their website says:  The Santa Barbara Daylight Vino Train is just the ticket for those wishing a day of escape to the beautiful city of Santa Barbara and the surrounding wine country on California's South Central Coast! Enjoy an easy going get-a-way with first class service and personal attention.  This site links to a report I wrote on the Vino Train in 2009.

Santa Barbara - The American Riviera, The Magazine for Visitors  Free Digital or Hard Copy

Breakwater Restaurant (805) 965-1557 

Go Green in Santa Barbara:
       These are not hot links, nor are they copyable, so type the links into your browser.


Ventura, CA, 60-second You Tube Promotional Video

Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach Homepage

Ventura Pier Historical Information

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