October 2, 2011

Once Around the USA on the Train

Settling into the comforts of business class.

Day one: We’re off on our great adventure.

With three pair of pants each, way too many shirts, and too much stuff packed in all the wrong, totally hidden places, we headed out at five AM. The taxis did its usual, follow the GPS not the instructions, but we found it arriving on the backside of the building. Perhaps I didn’t believe we were really heading out on a long trip until we reached the station. Maybe I didn’t trust the reality of it all until I found myself sitting in comfort at the only table for two in Business class.

Dawn rose casting no glow into the coastal fogs. It was still a beautiful day. He sat across from me and played games on the laptop. I read. We sipped coffee and smiled at each other. He was awfully silent until fed, and fed again. When we turned away from the coast, the sun greeted us.

Left: San Onofre in the fog. Right: LA marshaling yard with Metro cars.

Up through the Los Angeles commercial district, we found many buildings empty. The miles and miles of empty buildings were a frightening symptom of our economy, and I used these South LA empty buildings as a bell-weather for the many communities through which we traveled.

Top: Passage to the old Harvey House Restaurant. Bottom: Floor detail in Ticketing area.

Union station remains it’s beautiful self. Of course things change. Trains can pull straight through on their way to Santa Barbara now. The station arrival sheds need painting as they always have. But they had a Red Cap ride for us into the station to a new “first class” waiting area. We found this space fitted into the hall leading to the old Harvey House plus another long unused, beautiful little room. There we drank free coffee and juice while photographing a few corners of the station until the call to board.

The Red Caps whip us right to the door of our car, 1431, room 4, facing the wrong side of the train, unfortunately….and we settled in easily. I love this part of a train trip…the moving in to a new tiny home, the putting things away, the meeting your neighbors, and the signing up for lunch and dinners with the head dining car person, Timothy, as the world flows by your windows.

Again, industrial at first, with the far reaches of the city’s central park on the other side of the train. The sun was still out and glittered off the glass and chrome in the miles of auto auction yards. More miles of small businesses filled newer industrial buildings. Things looked in far better shape at this end of the city before reaching the red rocks of Simi Valley and the flat coastal farms around Oxnard. Up into Vandenberg AFB with our cameras up to the windows of the parlor car hoping to catch glimpses of the gantries and the wonderful rolling dunes.

Left: 1920’s bridges over the encased LA River. Right: The rocks of Simi Valley.

Food, it wasn’t good and wasn’t bad. It was edible. Twice it, or parts of it, have been cold. Real dishes now though, not plastic, and real fabric table cloths and napkins. Ambitious menus that are always above average and sometimes good. It’s an improvement we thoroughly enjoyed.

Left: Gantry for the Atlas Rockets. Right: Sun setting against the green and gold of the fields

The Geezer get’s motion sick, so I make sure he is always facing forward in the train. The little acupressure wristlet’s have always worked at sea, this time I thought they might also work aboard a moving train. For the first time he is able to use his computer, and later read maps, travel books and his GPS in a moving object. For the first time he isn’t just trapped in his seat taking picture and watching the scenery go by. He’s an active participant in his trip. I’m so excited about this.

Lunch, talk, read, dinner, more talking, and finally bed. The attendant, and ours was a spacey, middle aged man with dyed red hair, lowered the upper bunk, made up the lower bunk, and we rediscovered the joy of undressing in a tiny moving cube. Yes, they were a bit hard, but we slept well.


  1. Those wristlets work well. I wish I had remembered them on my trip last week. Even more, I wish we had them sixty years ago.

    I still prefer the train to flying.

  2. I wonder if those patches for sea sickness that Kay and her mother wore behind their ears during their cruise would work on the train. Great going, Mage! Love your posts.

  3. So exciting to come along with you. Just the kind of vacation I'd chose. I'm eally enjoying the photos.

  4. How exciting! A train journey and a long one at that. I can't tell you how excited I am. My favourite type of transport. Can't wait for your daily reports. A safe and pleasant journey.

  5. Glad those wristies worked well for the Geeze-ster. More stories! More pictures! More! Now!


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