After a restful night in
room C on the southbound Coast Starlight, we awoke to start our
day in Sacramento, CA our third capital city stop on Coast
Starlight. One of the surprises traveling at night is where you
will wake up in the morning. Breakfast was over and we were
getting ready for the day as we neared Emeryville.
The capital of California,
Sacramento was founded in 1849 as California's original charter
city, rich in the state's history. The gold rush, pony express
and first transcontinental railroad all originated here. As we
approach Sacramento station, note the remnants of the Southern
Pacific's locomotive shops. The Central Pacific Railroad,
Southern Pacific's predecessor railroad, began their
construction in 1864, five years before it linked with the Union
Pacific Railroad at Promontory, Utah, to create the country's
first transcontinental route.
Golden Gate Bridge.
We were running about one hour late currently.
We arrived in Salinas near 12:50pm about one hour late after
having just past the site of Monday night's wreck. The broken
signal cross arm was lying in the dirt at the crossing with many
pieces of paper scattered about as a reminder of the occurrence.
Equipment on display at Salinas station.
Salinas is at the head of
the Salinas Valley and is known as the "Country's Salad Bowl"
because of the many varieties of vegetables grown here. The
boyhood home of the Pulitzer Prize winner John Steinbeck here
has been preserved; the town is the proud home of the National
Steinbeck Center, which focuses on the writer's life and rich
history of the area. A major stop on the professional rodeo
circuit, its own rodeo began in 1901 as a Wild West Show. Every
third week of July is the big event for cowboys and fans of
The sleeper 32117-Wisconsin, our car, followed by sleeper
32094-Montana, with the diner followed then by the business car
then the cafe-observation car and the coach cars.
Russell and I both enjoyed
traveling in our big bedroom, this being the first time for either
of us. Going northbound we had a roomette downstairs so coming
back it gave us a chance to compare the two opinions. For a single
traveler the roomette works great. The second person gets the
upper bunk which was designed for use by contortionist to practice
on but great if you are a teenager or younger. And if you have to
make a night bathroom visit then the upper bunk is definitely not
your cup of tea. Upper bunk or lower bunk you have to leave the
room and go outside the room and down the hall to the restroom.
Hopefully you brought your hard sole slippers to wear on the train
and good for such occasions. Plus your shower and more restrooms
are located downstairs.
We enjoyed the size of our room. Width wise of
the sleeping cars, the roomette is about one-third and big rooms are
about two-thirds of the width so you do not feel on top of each
other. The sofa was great if one wanted to nap while the other could
sit in the chair watch out of the window. One of the best
accoutrements was the enclosed toilet and shower and wash basin. If
you are old enough to remember the telephone booth where there was a
shelf to sit on while you made your call then you can imagine this
shower/toilet set up. You sit on toilet and instead of phone there
is a shower head. The noise we heard when Russell first hit the
flush button was deafening. The room shook and sounded like the
whole room was going to be suck downed the drain. As we used the
toilet, we were less surprised as time passed. I was very curious to
experience this shower so after breakfast I closed the door with a
waterproof sound. It is a tight space if you are under two hundred
pounds, more than that, then the downstairs shower would be more
comfortable as it is somewhat roomier. One of the first things, and
a must to do, is to close and cover the TP. The next customer might
be unhappy to find wet tissue. I turned the water on and washed with
the water going down the drain near the door jamb. I stepped outside
to dry off for more elbow room and then wiped down the shower to
help the drying time along. All in all I thought it was a slick
setup and an excellent use of space. The wash basin was good for a
quick hand wash and also good ice bucket. Getting in the upper bunk
is much easier with more room to turn and you don't have to be as
much of a contortionist. To get in the top bunk you use a ladder
hooked to the top bunk. My only bad effect from using the ladder was
the rubber covering on each step made of several deep ridges. These
are more appropriate for a door stop to scrape the mud and snow off
shoes and boots. Just a plain bare wooden step would be much more
comfortable on bare feet for those of us who don't sleep in our
California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo view from Cuesta Pass
on Horseshoe Curve. The facility houses over 6500 inmates from
minimum to medium security custody.
Our stop in SLO was short
just long enough for crew change. As we were an hour down
leaving SLO and the new conductor was very interested in getting
to Los Angeles on time and he wasn't shy about using the ponies.
After SLO our next stop was Santa Barbara after which all the
stops remaining to Los Angeles were discharge only. After a
short quick stop in Santa Barbara, the conductor was snapping
the whip and letting the ponies run full out and we went through
most stations in the blink of an eye.
Vandenberg Air Force Base.
I'd be remiss in telling about
traveling on the Coast Starlight without remembrance of the
glories of the historic past that are not present today. The crown
jewel on one of Amtrak's premier trains was the Pacific Parlour
Car. Amtrak notes: The Pacific Parlour Car is our "signature"
lounge car available for the exclusive use of sleeping car
passengers. This car provides a casual and nostalgic place to
enjoy the passing scenery in a luxurious and historic piece of
equipment. Many amenities are available to sleeping car
passengers that include bar service, separate menu for
breakfast, lunch and evening meals, onboard movies and daily
wine tasting events.
Pacific Parlour Car
The Pacific Parlour Car
is located between the Sleeping Cars and Dining Car. This
first-class Lounge Car operates only on this train and is
for the exclusive use of Sleeping Car passengers. Pacific
Parlour Cars once operated on the Santa Fe's famed El
Capitan of the 1950's before Amtrak acquired the cars and
upgraded them to their current configuration. The wine
tasting experience will present different wines and cheeses
from locations along the route of this great train. Have
some fun exploring the amazing world of wine that is often
right outside your window. Wine and cheese from each state
as you travel through, California, Oregon Washington. All of
these wines are available for purchase at the end of the
Sip on the wine and
nibble on the cheese and look out the window and see where
it was grown and produced. And you can buy a couple bottles
of the local wine to take for the end of trip drink. What
could go wrong? Sounds like a Chamber of Commerce hot sale
to me. What's not to like? The Pacific Parlour Car is now
deceased and has moved on. Profits over customers is the
motto of the Amtrak sky bus drivers running this railroad.
Be that it as it may, there is a need for a first class
lounge on all the long distance trains. But let's not give
the customers anything nice or extra. I feel lucky today
that I have one punched ticket for the Pacific Parlour Car
ride. Sad that no more memories can be made.
View near Point Conception.
After dinner in Santa Barbara,
we headed back to the room to gather, pack and change into our
street clothes and prepare for arrival in Los Angeles. Since we
brought up stairs only two small bags to the room, there was just
a small amount to stash. One thing that is a must if you are
traveling in the sleeping car is a power strip if you carrying
charging appliances. I had my computer, camera, GPS and we both
had our phones to charge. There is only one outlet per room and
long cord could be plus also.
After leaving Santa Barbara,
the loco's were feeling their oats and enjoying their run and it
made for a more exciting ride. Soon we were galloping through
Simi Valley and doing a final check of the room. Then came the
San Fernando Valley, the Van Nuys Airport, the Burbank Airport
and finally the great city of Glendale. The tensions and
excitement were rising as the minutes ticked away and then I
spotted it, the landmark that signaled I was home-Los Angeles
River. Home, as I went pass the Metrolink shops and then with
the river on the left we were making a right into the platforms
at Union Station in Los Angeles. After having been assigned our
track we passed the first clock on the platform showing 8:58
then passed the next was 8:59 and when we finally came to a full
stop, the clock changed to 9:00. On time! Right down to second.
Excellent job by crew. We left Seattle on time and arrived in
Los Angeles 1377 miles later and on time. Granted there were
locations where we were over a hour or more late so I think that
makes it a most impressive accomplishment. A big A plus for
Amtrak, the onboard crew and the ponies.
Leaving the sleeping car we stepped on the
platform with a waiting Red Cap for us and our bags. After
acquiring a full load and getting everyone's destination, we
took off down the platform to the end then across other
platforms, crossing over the Gold Line tracks and into a parking
area. When a lady passenger shouted, I thought for sure her
panties were on too tight. "Guess we're getting a tour of the
alleys and worker's area tonight." she said as we pulled up to
the first class lounge, Metropolitan. Definitely a coach patron.
Entering through the back we were greeted by the welcoming
attendant, who after checking our tickets pointed the available
snacks and drinks. We settled into the comfortable chairs to
wait and catch our breath before our next and last train trip of
going to the Northwest and return. I saw the attendant
restocking the snacks and she was stocking the big chocolate
chip cookies so I asked her if I may have one? Sure she said and
handed me one. Then I asked for one for my friend? No problem so
I walked away with two big chocolate chip cookies. The Red Cap
knocked on the door and said our train had arrived and we could
now board and to follow him to his cart. We loaded up and
proceeded to the platform for train 796. We boarded and left on
time at 10:13pm southbound out of Los Angeles. A few minutes
before 11pm we were standing on the Santa Ana Station platform
walking to the parking structure and my car. My car looked just
like it did when we had left it and a half hour later I was
pulling in to my parking space at home.
End of Trip.
I am sending many thanks to everyone who helped
to make this birthday expedition a success with long lasting
Extra thanks to Elizabeth and Bob for hosting a birthday feast
with a stunning water view.
And special thanks to Russell for being a great traveling
companion and spending his time on my birthday expedition.