Los Angeles to San Diego

7:40AM PST Tuesday December 29, 2015 (time of writing)

Riding the Pacific Surfliner was pretty good. Since it’s not really an overnight train, the seats are a little less comfortable and are pitched slightly shorter (pitch, in regards to seats, is the distance between the same point on two seats) than the Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited that I took to California.

The ride down the coast wasn’t that exciting initially. The train line passes through urban areas south of Los Angeles. I think the only thing that I found particularly interesting was coming up to the Anaheim stop because it’s near Angel Stadium. I tried to grab a picture, but as soon as I got my camera ready, the overpass blocked my view of the stadium. Darn.

After passing Orange County, Anaheim, Irvine or so, the track started following along the coastline. That was pretty neat.

I posted this one on Instagram:

 

But I like this picture that I took a lot better:

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This picture turned out way better than I thought

At some point, I went down to the cafe to grab something quick to eat (pretzels and hummus) as well as a bottle of water. I realized I hadn’t been drinking a lot of water in the past day. It was pretty nice since there weren’t a lot of people on the train so I didn’t have to walk over stray feet and awkwardly stare back at people on my way back to my seat.

After finishing up my “breakfast”, I decided to change back into jeans knowing that I’ll be out and about later after arriving in San Diego.

Honestly, this ride between Los Angeles and San Diego felt like nothing. It went by so fast. Before I knew it, I arrived at the Santa Fe Depot near downtown San Diego.

Once at the station, it took me a while to figure out the best way to get to my rental car, which was at the Hertz at the airport (SAN). I called Hertz asking if they’d send someone, but they told me they don’t. I asked the Information Desk at the station to see if there were some other means to easily get to the airport. I ultimately went for taking the metro bus to the airport ($2.25 well spent) with the intent of taking the Hertz bus from the terminal to the rental car area. I realized that the bus could have probably stopped at the rental car area because the bus passed it and there was a bus stop there, but I decided to play the slow-but-sure card and take the Hertz bus anyway.

While heading over there, I took this:

 

Mmm. Japan Airlines. Makes me think of all the trips I’ve taken to Japan (which I need to blog about…).

Anyway, I eventually obtained my rental car (a blue Hyundai Accent). This officially ends my #AmtrakAdventures2015.  I’m here in San Diego until Thursday morning, and I’ll share the adventures here soon–stay tuned!

-JD

El Paso to Los Angeles

6:30AM PST Monday December 28, 2015 (time of writing)

We sat at El Paso station for a while, then we were on our way. I guess I never appreciated how close the Mexican boarder is in El Paso, and we were pretty close to it for the first 15 minutes after leaving the station.

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A Mexican border sunset! With snow! You can see the border fence in the lower half of the picture.

After passing through El Paso, I did some things on the computer to kill time before my dinner reservation. I might have taken another nap.

They started late on dinner and were falling behind on schedule with the reservation times. I figured that I should go up to the lounge car to hang out and read on my Kindle while waiting for the last hour before my dinner reservation time.

They finally called it. And the dinner special, Salisbury steak, was delicious!


Amtrak staff had me sit down with a mom and her daughter, and later on an elderly man sat down with us. We had some good conversation. The mom and daughter were returning home as well as the elderly man. We talked about our train experiences, the crazy weather back in Texas, and retirement in general. The elderly man, I found out, is a retired electronics design engineer who worked on the first cell phone for the military. Whoa. And he stayed with whatever company that was until they forced him to retire, which he didn’t mind though he stressed that he could have kept working.

We parted ways after our meals. After leaving the dining car, I hit up the cafe for a post-dinner drink. It was red, dry, and had notes of grape. That pretty much knocked me out at 9PM, and I didn’t really wake up until Tucson.

A larger man sat right next to me while we were in Tucson. He was clearly sick with a cold and he coughed up a lung every so often. And he talked to himself. I tried falling asleep again, but in the back of my mind, I was trying to come to terms with the fact that I’ll probably get sick after sitting next to this guy.

I was slightly frustrated that he sat next to me, but ultimately I felt bad for him because I can tell he was having a miserable time because he’s sick and he couldn’t fall asleep so easily. I just kept trying to fall asleep to pass the time.

At around 2:30AM, I woke up and got up to start packing up my things. I knew we’d be arriving in a few hours and my sick companion was in such a position that I could step past him into the aisle. When I finished, we apparently hit the Pacific time zone, and I got confused because I saw that my phone read 2:00AM. Did I just time travel–again?!

I get back in my seat and drift off to sleep. At some point my companion takes over the empty seats in front of us because the previous occupants left and disembarked at a stop.

A few hours later, and we stopped in Los Angeles!

The Pacific Surfliner, which I’m taking to San Diego, pulled up at about the same time so I didn’t need to wait in the cold (how is LA sooo cold this morning?!) for too long.

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My new view for a while

I’ll try not to fall asleep so I don’t miss out on palm trees, mountains, beaches, and In-N-Out’s.
-JD

San Antonio to El Paso

12:53PM Sunday December 27, 2015

I had a pretty rough time trying to fall asleep last night. I thought my walking around San Antonio would have tired me out to fall asleep faster,  but alas it was not so. I found it pretty difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position in my recline-and-foot-rest coach seat. I guess I’ve been too spoiled in my business class trips to Japan with angle flat and lie flat airline seats… Most positions I tried hurt after a little while, and that complicated my being able to fall asleep.

But then there were the two college guys. They boarded at San Marcos, but in the shuffling around at San Antonio, they got placed across the aisle from me. They didn’t go to bed until  5:30AM because they were up all night talking, playing cards, singing, and taking swigs of their own concoctions. Because of them and not being able to find a comfortable position, I only slept intermittently.

This morning was rather amusing because one of them, in their hungover stupor, went on a frustrated rant about why the birds outside of the window were only perched on one particular spot on the fence and not the rest of the fence.

Kids, don’t drink to drunkeness on trains lest other sober passengers use you for their own amusement.

When the guys finally went to bed, I was able to fall asleep for a while before waking up again at 7:00AM. I decided to go grab breakfast in the dining car. I sat with a mom and her boy as well as an older woman. I got to know them for a bit and learned a few more considerations for riding Amtrak trains. All of them are in sleeper cars so it was interesting to get some insight on what those are like. Unfortunately, I don’t remember their names due to my sleepless daze. I already know that I’ll ride Amtrak again so maybe I can go for a sleeper car in the future and not have to deal with loud, under the influence college kids. Breakfast was delicious.

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#Consolations

After breakfast, I decided to lounge around in the lounge car finishing up blog posts regarding yesterday. Eventually a middle-aged woman sat next to me and we conversed. Her name is Judy and she is a contract nurse. Her husband has some sort of manueuverable job so they travel a lot because of work. I got to hear about some of their adventures as we watched it snow outside. My phone was about to run out of battery so I headed back to my car to charge. And to take a nap. When I woke up, I had the lunch of champions:

 

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I don’t even know who Sara Lee is

More of the same after lunch. If Texas had tundras, I’m sure they would look like this:

 

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#SchoolCanceled

 

And lastly, we’ll probably be in New Mexico by the time dinner rolls around. But hey, it’s all good because I’ve got a reservation!

-JD

Austin to San Antonio

8:55AM Sunday December 27, 2015 (time of writing)

Last night in Austin, I had to move again because more new passengers showed up in Austin. I sat next to the grandmother of the Five Guys family from earlier in the day yesterday. 

I went down to the cafe on the lower level of the lounge car. There, I enjoyed microwaved cheeseburger and white cheddar popcorn. I decided not to do dinner reservations this time.

  
We finally arrived in San Antonio at like 8:30PM last night, but I didn’t realize that Amtrak circles around downtown San Antonio slowly for like an hour. I guess we were running ahead of schedule and stopped at the normally scheduled arrival time of 9:55PM.

I also didn’t realize that we would have four hours between arrival and departure. Fortunately, San Antonio Station is only a fifteen minute walk from the River Walk. So, I obviously had to go.

  
I was actually here back in September when a buddy of mine and I used our nonrev standby flying privileges to do a downtown San Antonio day trip. Because I only saw it during the day, it was pretty cool to check out downtown and the River Walk at night with the Christmas decorations still up.

I haven’t done a good job of studying the schedule for stops, but it’s good to know that some stops have opportunities to explore for a bit. Although, San Antonio has the longest layover for this trip.

I grabbed some McDonald’s fries and a drink to go on the way back. 

When I neared the station, a young Chinese woman stopped me asking where the nearest hotels were. I figured that she was Chinese because she asked me if I spoke Chinese. Lo siento, pero no sé. She had just arrived via Amtrak from Los Angeles. I pointed out some of the nearby hotels within visual range, but ultimately escorted her to the Best Western next to the station. After she went in, I headed back.

When I arrived at the station, I didn’t realize they had been working on switching train cars so I didn’t immediately find my car. I awkwardly stood around for a bit and even awkwardly walked around the train that connected in front of my car. I eventually found it, and got ready for bed.

-JD

Ft. Worth to Austin

2:36PM Saturday December 26, 2015

I initially sat by myself, but the conductor called for solo travelers to sit together so that families can sit together. I didn’t mind, so I nonchalantly went across the aisle to join a guy very engrossed in Clash of Clans on his phone. During a break between rounds, I had the opportunity to meet him. He was real nice and asked about my final destination so I told him. Because of my long trip, he offered one of his ham sandwiches. I didn’t take it, but I appreciated the consideration. He made his way to the sightseeing car because it was warm in our car.

The family who replaced me in my initial seat brought Five Guys so it smelled like hamburgers and French fries for a good long while.

Restrooms are difficult on trains. ‘Nuff said. In Japan, it’s easier to use a restroom on 180MPH train than on this however-fast-it’s-going-but-it-ain’t-Japan-bullet-train-fast train.

I took an opportunity to go down to the lounge car at the suggestion of the guy sitting next to me. I didn’t think to grab a picture then, but I will later. I found a seat facing the right side of the train.

I brought my Kindle with me to continue reading the adventures of Tris and her band of survivors in Insurgent (I read Divergent on my last trip to Japan). I couldn’t focus on reading because I kept staring out the window. Nothing out of the ordinary. Lots of cows, goats, trees, fields, and pastures. Because you know, it’s Texas. I swear I just saw that same goat 256 fields ago…

I thought about how cool it is to be up in the air in an airplane and see the world from the sky. However, there is a lot going on here on the ground, even as it whizzes by. I thought back to my experience driving to/from Colorado earlier this year for a snowboarding trip and how creation is beautiful because it points back towards its Creator. I’m sure I’ll be staring out the window a lot whenever it’s daylight.

After a while of staring and “reading”, I decided to head down to the cafe and grab a bottle of water. I sat around some more, but it started to rain as we hit the first wave of thunderstorms rolling through the area. We eventually had to stop for a while because the weather got pretty bad.

 

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View from the back the train

I busted out my (actual and not smartphone) camera to make it more accessible to take pictures later. Who knows what Kodak kaliber pictures I’ll get to take along the way!

-JD