Facebook Page

Santa Barbara Car Free Travelouge

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner to Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Trolley Tour

March 8 - 10, 2004

Carl Morrison,

Monday, March 8, 2004

    Santa Barbara, California,USA --On time, we boarded our Amtrak Pacific Business Class car (always the car next to the engine) on Train #763 at 8:16 a.m. bound for our 3-day, 2-night Santa Barbara Car Free adventure.  While we waited at the station, we saw seven trains pass: Two Metrolinks, and five BNSF freights.  Fullerton station is a great place for railfans!  Most of the passengers detraining were a mix of business people and California State University Fullerton students.  A 'Titan' van picks up students and takes them to campus.  At the station  are taxis and limos.   Orange County Transit District busses are only a half block away.   An Orange County Transit District 'Access' vans for handicapped travelers.  One blind traveler boarded this vehicle.

    The Business Class car was full, and since we needed handicapped seating, the Business Class car attendant, Mary Jensen, asked two ladies to move to upper level seats, vacating seats for us.  It is understood on Amtrak trains that lower level seats are for handicapped passengers if needed.  After the Los Angeles stop, only 5 passengers remained in the 17 seats on the lower level of Business Class, so Sue moved to a two-facing-seats section with a table between in the middle of the car, and I moved to a four-facing seats with a table across the aisle from her.  We were prepared to sit together if need be, but there were not enough boarding passengers to warrant our moving.  We enjoyed the space, tables, and ocean view, all the way to Santa Barbara.

Double-click any picture in this report to see a double-sized image, click BACK in your browser to return to the report page.


Former UP station, now a Spaghetti Factory sits west across the parking lot from the Santa Fe Station.

Sue awaits the Pacific Surfliner.

Business Class is always the first car behind the engine.

    We had coffee, apple juice, and pastries (from Edna's of San Luis Obispo), provided in Business Class, as well as a USA Today newspaper.  We enjoyed the extra legroom and electrical outlets at every seat.

    There was not enough space for all the luggage from passengers who would be transferring to the Coast Starlight in Los Angeles.  Therefore, others and we should have checked our luggage through to Santa Barbara, which I will do on our return.  Our luggage, which did not fit in the convenient overhead racks, was in plain sight all the way, however.


Each seat filled downstairs in Bus. Class to L.A.


Bathroom and luggage do not leave enough aisle room.

Upstairs, practically full as well.

Facing center two seats have table between.

    As soon as the transfer passengers who would take the Coast Starlight northward, plus the others who detrained in Los Angeles, were gone, Sue and I moved to the two facing seats with a table between, and the four-facing seats with a table between.  This was a great workplace for me to use my computer and start this report.  So few people used Business Class between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara that we had these extra seats to ourselves all the way.


Is this 'carefree' or what!

Workspace for laptops with electrical outlets for power.

Cafe on lower deck of center car.


Business end of the Cafe car.

    Our only non-station stop was at 10:27 when we took the siding for a few minutes allowing southbound Amtrak Surfliner #774 to pass, just south of Camarillo.

    At 11 a.m., we caught our first sight of the brightly sunlit Pacific Ocean at Ventura pier.



Santa Barbara station (I liked it better white).

    We arrived in Santa Barbara on schedule at 11:36 a.m.  We left our luggage with the Amtrak station agent with the understanding that we would be back, after lunch, to get it for transfer to our hotel.  We walked 50 yards across the parking lot to the Enterprise Fish Company for lunch.  Lunch prices range from $6.95 to $29.95.  We had pacific Red Snapper for $9.95 and Alaskan Halibut, $10.95, with mixed green salad and Romano potatoes, served with a purple orchid garney.  I had a glass of Enterprise Fish Company's white zinfandel, $5.50.  Waiter Cameron said it was Matalina Vineyards, CA, wine.  Our total for lunch was $30.87,



The Northbound Coast Starlight passed through town as we returned to the station to pick up our luggage and continue on to the Hotel Santa Barbara.

    We arrived at the Hotel Santa Barbara and were cheerfully accommodated when we asked for a last-minute change to a handicapped room.  Our room, 400, was a double queen with ample room for 2 chairs and a table at one end, a knotty pine TV cabinet and luggage holder in the middle of one wall, as well as a nice chair and table for working...very spacious.  The bathroom had a large entry door, raised stool seat on the commode with handrails behind and beside it.  Large sink with 2 bottles of water, which I hadn't seen since being in Mexico.  There was a curtained tub with handicapped bars and a hand-held shower nozzle.  Between the two queen-sized beds was a nice table with clock, tissue, and telephone.  Two windows looked toward State Street over the lobby, past the rooms on both sides of the 4-story u-shaped hotel.  The room was painted yellow with white woodwork.  A Santa Barbara scene painting hung on the wall.  Yellow patterned bedspreads and green patterned drapes with sheer curtains finished off the roomy accommodations.

Hotel Santa Barbara



Entry and front desk beyond flower arrangement.




Double-Queen Room 400



Room 400 views left and above.

View on the wall.

    Our 90-minute city tour on the Santa Barbara Trolley was scheduled to leave soon from the Stearn's Wharf, so we took the electric trolley, a half block south of our hotel, down State Street to the wharf.  We walked a few feet in the sunny, shirtsleeve weather to the open-air covered trolley and started our tour.  As we went east on Cabrillo, we could see the Channel Islands and the biggest, Santa Cruz.  Santa Barbara has 'Mediterranean Weather" with the summer day highs about 75 degrees, and the winter day highs about 65 degrees.  They get 18 inches of rain a year, much like Los Angeles and Orange Counties.  We drove through Montecito where homes average $1.5 million.  Many entertainment people own homes here including:  Steve Martin, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Dennis Miller, Julia Child, Oprah (who has a 46 acre, $50 million estate here), and Sigourney Weaver.



Electric Trolley Stop, 25 cents per ride.

View on Cabrillo Blvd. from SB Trolley

Montecito hotel by famous actor.

Andree Clark Bird Refuge

We crossed the railroad near the beach cliffs, and the guide mentioned that it was built here  in 1877 because land prices on the beach were less than the more fertile land inland.  It is the Amtrak route today on which we came into town.  Originally private rail car owners used to stay on the sidings and live in their cars and enjoy the weather and water here in Santa Barbara.

We passed Butterfly Beach where Monarch butterflies stay during migration.  They eat milkweed seeds and like to stay in Eucalyptus trees in this area.  Cheryl Teague lives on the left side of Fairway Road off Butterfly Beach.  Not far down this road, at 1035, was Robert Preston's house.

In this area there is a building moratorium, so to build a house, you buy one, tear it all down except one wall, and rebuild a larger house around that wall.  Therefore it is not a new building, but a remodel.  We passed a cemetery where the 'ocean view lots' cost $51,000.

Back in Santa Barbara, we learned that the average house sells for $900,000, too much for working families to buy, so they live in Oxnard, Ventura, Santa Maria, and Lompoc.

Fess Parker has the biggest hotel here.  He lives in Los Olivos.  Bob Eubanks owns in Los Olivos as well and has a horse ranch where he puts on a Western Art Show each year.  Fess donated a lot of land along Cabrillo including the spot where the carousel is located.

In 1925 an earthquake destroyed much of Santa Barbara.  At that time, during rebuilding, the city fathers decided to establish building regulations to keep the 'Santa Barbara Look’, which included archways, tile roofs, and wrought iron work.  There are many restaurants and bars on 'lower State Street' or 'Old Town' which reaches up to Ortega Street.  Outside dining is encouraged by the city and each chair outside costs a restaurant $185 a year in taxes.


Santa Barbara Mission




View from the Mission steps.


We stopped at the 1786 "Queen of Missions" named this because of the twin towers.  After the tour, the driver took us directly to our hotel entrance and we rested until 5 when we went to the movie theatre a few blocks north, followed by dinner at Joe's Cafe, a local favorite since the twenties, then to bed for a great night's sleep.  As we returned, the doorman open the door and welcomed us back...a nice touch and making my wife feel secure.  Before turning in for the night, I took my laptop down to the lobby and used their free Internet connection to process my e-mail...very convenient.  If you did not bring your laptop, or if someone in your party did not, or if your laptop is wireless Internet capable,  the hotel will loan you one.  We used my laptop and one from the hotel the next night and spent about two hours on the Internet....Free!  There is an Internet Cafe just south of the RR tracks on State Street that charges $3 an hour for access.



After the Trolley tour, we were dropped at the hotel.  We refreshed and had time to walk to a nearby movie theatre on State Street.  After the movie we walked back toward our hotel and had dinner across the street at the local favorite, Joe's Cafe.  Street activity was beginning to pick up with shoppers, diners, and club goers.  The doorman at the Hotel Santa Barbara as well as the friendly front desk staff made us feel at home.
We drank a toast to Nadine Turner, our host, and looked forward to tomorrow's Wine'edventure.

[ Next ]