Thursday, August 02, 2012

To LA And Back, Part 1

Felice informed me that normal people take time out of their schedules for something called a “vacation”. News to me but I figured I’d give it a shot. We decided to visit my cousin Peter and his family down in Alta Dena, CA. I managed to sell the idea of taking the Coast Starlight down and back.
Henry settling in. We booked the “family bedroom” which is not quite as spacious as it sounds. Boarded in Albany Oregon at about 4:00PM.
Late at night in the Pacific Parlor car. Just proving that I’m not anywhere near the most insane passenger on the train. That woman is running some sort of business that involves having fun with hula hoops as a life skill or something else new-agey and vague.
I slept well but the train stopped moving at around 5:00AM so I woke up. We had a relatively long stop in Sacramento so I stretched my legs outside. Not the prettiest vista but a sunrise is a sunrise.
A riverboat on the Sacramento river.
Hanging out in the Pacific Parlor car. Nice overstuffed chairs. Those 4 ladies were returning from an Alaska cruise. Everyone on the train is staring at screens these days. The parlor car is unique to the Coast Starlight and it allows you to relax in comfort without hobnobbing with the riffraff in coach. The Wifi was spotty but I didn’t feel like looking at the internet, too much scenery and conversations to enjoy.
The kids adjusted to 3 sit down meals a day. Felice looks amused.
Henry was a bit tired at breakfast. They almost didn’t get up in time. The man behind us is suspiciously smelling a strawberry.
An ostensibly homeless man in at the Oakland station, pushing a shopping cart with some old vegetables in it.
The San Jose stop. Unlike other stops, smoking is verboten in San Jose.
Looking down the train.
What does the yellow light mean?
Suckers in a plane, getting there faster and cheaper but with less panache.
Henry playing Zombie Dice with a girl from Eugene. She was on a complex mystery tour arranged, according to her mother, by her dead great great uncle who loved puzzles. One day she received a letter from her dead uncle which directed her to complete a task. Upon completion another letter was found guiding her to the next task. One letter directed her family to pack their bags and head to the train station. On the train she had already completed several tasks outlined by letters slipped under the door of their sleeper. Definitely a fun experience for her. Yes, her parents were in on the fun but were tight lipped about the details lest she overhear anything.
We also played Munchkin on the train, all thanks and curses to Wil Wheaton for getting us into gaming as a family (or at least the nerdy male members of the family).
The girl’s mom and two teachers from San Luis Obispo who were coming back from the Oregon Country Fair. The mom is also a teacher in Eugene. She went to Oberlin, majored in Latin American studies and met her husband down in Bolivia. They eat guinea pigs in Bolivia but call them “conejo”, whereas in Peru they call them “cuy”. So I learned something new right there. She learned the hard way that conejo wasn’t rabbit in Bolivia.
Of the two teachers, the woman had just retired. She was originally from Mexico. He teaches special ed and has a small collection of classic cars.
Max wanted to know why I kept talking to strangers. Because I must.
Max is still skeptical.
07221217All your vegetables are grown down here, America.
Not that welcoming behind the chain link fence.
The kids started hopping off at the “fresh air” breaks although they were nervous the we would get left behind.
Henry with our porter, Santa. Her name confused the heck out of the kids. I managed to get her to smile a couple of times.
Max getting up on the bed. Felice said it was like being in a padded cell with monkeys but I thought it more like a 3 dimensional game of twister.
Max. If the yellow stool is still out then the train isn’t leaving (how often do they forget the stools?).
Henry thought this palm tree looked like a pineapple.
San Luis Obispo. It looks nice there.
Getting to the coast.
Vandenberg Air Force Base. That’s a rocket launch tower.
Henry ate his dinner in our room. He looks somewhat disgusted by the pizza.
During the last hour of the trip I took part in a long conversation/tutorial about reverse osmosis water purification and treatment systems in the parlor car. Adam Robbins was an interesting passenger indeed, president of Tomar water engineering systems and an expert in the field. You never know what you’ll learn on the train.
We got into LA at about 9:45PM and were picked up at the station by Peter.

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