The Analog Amtrak


Fabulous ceiling at the Pantages


It just hit me.  The train is analog, through and through.  And that is not a bad thing.  In fact, I love analog.  It is the world of knobs and I love knobs.  So, I’m happy as a clam right now sitting onboard the Amtrak train at Union Station in Los Angeles.

The old station looks good.  People of all nationalities inhabit with cameras that flash as they click away at the beautiful building.  One can make a case for losing the wrecking ball when you view the train station.  Not Penn Station, but still, it is a wonderful old station with plenty to offer the weary traveler.  Starbucks is here.  The ubiquitous Starbucks.  A small convenience store.  You can buy newspapers there which I did because I discovered that there is no wi-fi service on the Coastal Starlight train that connects San Diego with Seattle.  At first I was disappointed that I could not surf the web.  On further reflection, however, much better to watch the surfers as we head north to San Luis Obispo.  And for that, I requested and received a window seat.  And the windows appear to be clean (in the shade, where we are parked).  Yippee.

The bathroom is analog too.  Come to think of it, most bathrooms are analog, aren’t they?  Little opportunity to digitize that most private place…except for the new Toto toilet seat that we have purchased for our new home.  It has a handheld gizmo (a technical term) that you use to select various features of the seat which is heated and plumbed.  Jet spray anyone?  Perhaps a light mist?

But I digress.

When I checked in for seat assignment, the train employee had a piece of paper and she wrote the acronym SLO on seat 37 on her paper schematic.  OMG.  No staring at the screen, no clicking away on a keypad (like I’m doing right now).  Just a simple notation.  Pure, unadulterated analog.  Loved it.

The train just started rolling.  Nothing like air traffic.  No seat belts.  No jet engines roaring.  No beverage carts to get in your way to the bathroom.  No leaving terra firma.  Quite pleasant, really.

What it does have is LEGROOM.    Lots and lots of legroom.  And comfortable seats that recline.  And great big windows (that are clean in the sunlight).  And the ability to walk around as much as you like.  And quiet.  The train is incredibly well insulated.  And sitting here in the comfort of the train I am struck why the politicians rail (pardon the pun) against Amtrak.  Rail against the trains.   it is a most civilized way to travel.  And if we had high-speed trains, the trip would beat the planes hands down.  So, we know who the the lobbyists represent that oppose Amtrak and the trains.  The air travel industry.   Air carriers, automobile companies of all stripes , hotels.  But the citizenry needs to speak out and demand trains.  The best trains I have ever traveled on reside in Europe.  They are sleek, modern, and FAST.  200 MPH.  They have their own tracks so they don’t interfere with freight trains.  The U.S. should be embarrassed.  The rest of the industrialized world has left us in the dust on this one.

To those that do’t want our tax money spent on this, I say phooey.  Our tax dollars build airports which include terminals, runways, air traffic control towers and all other infrastructure needed for those airlines.  Take some of that money and redirect it to trains.  And while you are at it, sell all old airports and landing strips that the rich use to help pay for the train expansion.  If the rich want to land their Gulf Streams, let them pay for the numerous landing strips that dot the landscape.  And don’t get me wrong.  I’m not anti-rich.  What I am is pro-middle class.  We, the people, that cannot afford private jet travel (99.9%) need trains.  The economy needs trains (think infrastructure building).  The train would compete with the airlines and isn’t that what capitalism is all about?  Competition?  I think it would be grand.

And may I congratulate the Los Angelinos?  They have build the Metro train line into quite an impressive system.

But I digress.

The Rayman and I drove to Los Angeles yesterday so that we could see Book of Mormon, the award-winning play that was being staged at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.  We had booked a hotel at the Burbank airport because our original plan was to leave today and drive to Ojai to play golf on our way home.  That plan was scuttled when Rayman’s ex-wife’s mom died and the service was scheduled for tomorrow near Temecula.  And that how I ended up on the train.  He is going to the service and family reunion, such as it is on the occasion of a funeral.  I’m returning home to take care of some business.  So,we stayed at the Burbank airport (now known at the Bob Hope Airport) and drove to Hollywood to take in the play.  It took one hour for a 10 minute trip sans traffic.  Parking was expensive.  When we arrived we stumbled on the Metro subway entrance.  Lightbulbs lit up.  There was a Metro station at the Bob Hope Airport.  OMG.  Next time, we will ditch the car and take the train.

The picture at the beginning of this blog was taken in the theatre.  Absolutely fabulous architecture.  But the play.  OMG.  The play.  Run, don’t walk, to see this show.  It is leaving L.A. but going to S.F. the end of this month.  It was hysterical.  And right up my alley.  I’ve been fascinated by the Mormon religion because of my dear cousin, Marilyn, who married a Mormon.  And because of the Mittster who just lost the election.

But I digress.

The train is moving again.  We just left, you guessed it, the Bob Hope Airport Amtrak station.  OMG.  The Rayman and I braved the freeway into downtown L.A. so that I could catch the train.  For heavens sakes, I was three minutes away of train station.    You can’t make this stuff up.  Who knew?  But now that we know, we won’t make that mistake mistake again.  Think of it.  Leave Paso or SLO on the train.  Get off at Bob Hope.  Catch the Metro to Hollywood and see a play.  Take the Metro back to Bob Hope, spend the night at a hotel nearby, board the train home the next day.  NO CAR.  Love it.  And the train trip one way today today cost me $27.

The train is really barreling along now.  The view is ugly.  Lots of tagging.  Lots of apartments with carports.  Lot of industrial buildings.  But it will soon improve as we head for the ocean.


A backyard in Simi Valley

Last night as we were making our way to the Pantages, the phone rang.  Claudia the Uncle Ralph are keeping Beau.  It was Claudia.  The conversation went something like this.  “Hi.  Who’s your vet?”

Rayman:  “Our vet?  What’s wrong?”

Claudia:  “I think Beau ate Ralph’s hearing aid.”

Rayman:  “Coast Vet.  But, really, I don’t think Beau would eat the hearing aid.  He might chew it to bits, but swallow?  I don’t think so.”

Claudia:  “Well, it was sitting on the table and now’s it gone.”

Rayman:  “Well, it’s pretty small.  Maybe he’ll be okay if he did eat it.  Keep us posted.”

You can’t make this stuff either.  At 7:00 a.m. the next day Claudia called to report that the missing hearing aid had been located.  Beau had been falsely accused.  No vet was involved.  All is well.

Returning from this recent digression, I must stay that the scenery is getting better.  Oops.  In a tunnel now.  Dark and mysterious are those tunnels.  And fun except for the smell of diesel now detected in the air.   Leaving the tunnel the views just get better and better.


Blazing by a lifeguard station



So, it’s been over a week since I got off the train.  The ride was spectacular, though overcast.  The stretch of track between Santa Barbara and Casmalia is not to be missed.  You cannot view this scenery without the train as it traverses Vandenberg AFB where they shoot off satellites and rockets.  But you can see it on the train.  Book your trip now.  You won’t regret it.

Seen scenery

Just to finish up the trip, I was joined in Santa Barbara by a recent college graduate from UC Santa Cruz.  What a delight to talk with her.  She gives me hope about the future.  Of course it helped that we saw eye to eye on everything.  She was smart and well spoken and unemployed.  A degree in Environmental Studies and no job in sight.  It is so sad.  She moved back with her parents and babysits for a few days a week.  Being a person that doesn’t mind dispensing advice, I suggested New Zealand.  And Canada.  Two economies that aren’t as “under the weather” as ours.  But her big, tall redheaded boyfriend that greeted her with a long, lingering kiss on the platform when we disembarked the train may have a different idea.  And dare I say, more sway in the matter.






1 comment

add comment

Leave Comment