My Retreat, Part One – On the Train

My Retreat, Part One – On the Train


An Epithilium from my back yard.

An Epithilium from my back yard.

I love riding trains. I can get myself just about anywhere in London or Paris on a train. I’ve even handled the trains in Rome and Antwerp and Munich.

But California trains? I was shaking in my “stylish but inexpensive boots” at the thought of it (to cop a phrase from Buffy). Ever since I moved to the Los Angeles area, I’ve been paranoid about going someplace new. I need directions. Step by step directions.  A map is also good, but directions are the best. They quiet my inner fear of getting lost in the wilds of L.A.

(As I think back, I believe my fear of driving in this town was entirely wrapped up in driving the manual shift car that my husband owned. Any time I had to take that car out, I freaked. I ended up totalling that car – but that’s another blog post for another day.)

So, Trains.



I knew I was being silly about it. So when the hubs suggested I take a train down to spend the last weekend on the boat in San Diego, and then drive home with him, I took my courage in both hands and agreed. (This is all part of my decision this year to do stuff that scares me silly.)

He found the online site so I could book my ticket (we went to the station here in town and both machines were out of order). And I did. It would be a four hour, forty minute ride. Four plus hours by myself. On a train. Romantic, right?

So the great day came. I had my youngest son drive me to the train station and then wait with me until the train came, because I didn’t want to get on the wrong train. (Yeah, like that could possibly happen. There’s only one track. ONE. TRACK. Which means one train. Sheesh.)

Then it came (a bit late), and those of us who had gathered, about twenty people or so, rushed the doors all entered the cars with our carry ons and crying children and canes and bags and boxes and whatnots. Several of us beelined for the stairs, to get the best window seats. Only – no window seats available. The train was pretty full, in that there was at least one person in every two seats. So I sat next to a nice, quiet college student who was studying, stuffed my backpack beneath my legs, and set myself to enjoy the ride. And of course I took notes!

From the Notebook

My notebook of choice - a graph paper Moleskine. Love them!

My notebook of choice – a graph paper Moleskine. Love them!

3:45pm. The people on the train seem to be either students or vacationers. Mostly backpacks and flipflops. I’d kill for a tablet right now instead of my laptop, lol…laptop is heavy!

It’s very strange, seeing parts of Los Angeles that I have driven/know very well through the window of a train. As if I were in a foreign country. The last train I was on, now that I think about it, was in Disneyland and really, that doesn’t count.

Our graffiti isn’t as interesting as that in the UK. Just saying.

I hope Susie Strong is doing well. (NOTE: She’s doing great!) Which reminds me, my mammogram went fine, the people were nice, and not mad that I didn’t bring in my films from 3 years ago. Was it only 3 years? Seems like a long time. A difficult 3 years…

Does everyone on a train, when there’s a “bump” or an unusual clanking sound, think about how to survive a train crash? Or is that just me?

4:30pm  Finally have a window seat. My seat mate is getting off at Union Station and

Union Station. I did not take this photo.

The area around Union Station. Quintessential Los Angeles, yes?

she’s already gone downstairs. 3 hours and 20 minutes to go!

Leaving Union Station – we’re going backwards! Well, damn. Now I’m on the wrong side to see the ocean. Much gnashing of teeth now. Will know better next time! I am finally starting to relax…two hours into my trip.

Seen outside the window – slag heaps, excess railroad ties, wooden & cement ties with rails, gravel heaps, ceramic pipes easily 2 ft in diameter, portapotties, traffic, road construction, boulders, cement blocks, wild daisies, homes, bushes, wires, empty parking lots newer pre-fab cookie cutter homes. Kids playing baseball – so young!

Sign at the Fullerton Station – “Preserve America – Welcome to Fullerton”. I don’t get the connection.

There’s an army infantryman on board in full gear. One woman who passed him said “I can’t say thank you enough.” I wonder, has he seen combat? (He looks very young and still light-hearted. For some reason I believe that soldiers who have seen combat have a heaviness about their souls that takes some time to offload. But I don’t know. Just a thought.)  I also wonder if soldiers all just accept the public thank-yous not only for themselves, but for all the other soldiers who have gone before?

6pm – Anaheim, CA  Lots of California Native Purple Trees (sorry – don’t remember their real name!) shedding their blossoms, turning neighborhoods beautiful. People are dining out, bringing groceries to their apartment, watching kids swimming. More Americana and less sandpit. Nice.

I have decided “surf liner” is a misnomer – no surf to be seen so far! Way too far inland, grr.

So much of the land looks like a giant’s tinker-toy yard, but with real electronics and electrical panels and car parts lined up. Unsettling. “Integrity Metal” scrap yard?!!

(NOTE: I had some AWESOME photos. But I haven’t seen my small Nikon since I got back from that trip, so all my awesome photos are not here. Sorry!)

6:47pm San Onofre – finally the beach. It’s beautiful. Lots of people still surfing in the

Between the red marker and the Old Pacific Highway is the railroad track. I think.

Between the red marker and the Old Pacific Highway is the railroad track. I think.

water, lots of people on the beach having a great time. I’m still on the wrong side of the train, but so it goes…a marine layer has crept in. I’m glad I packed a coat.

The longest stretch without stopping so far is from San Juan Capistrano (beautiful) to Oceanside. Almost half the train emptied at Oceanside. BTW – the train has plugs!

7:16pm Waiting for a Northbound train to pass, so we can continue on to Solana Beach. From what I can see of the beach, it’s still crowded with people. (I’m on the ocean side of things, now. Much better view!) One of the conductors just ran down the aisle and down the stairs. Not sure why.

7:30 – left Solana Beach. Darker than it would normally be. We’re just stopped now across from the Del Mar Hotel (first time I’ve seen the racetrack/fairgrounds from this side instead of the freeway side). There’s a breeze and the waves are high. Not sure what’s going on. Outside, lots of people in fancy dresses. Prom? Probably. Still a couple of surfers in the ocean, several people on the beach.

Traffic outside is building up. I can see two big police cars – wagons (?) on the road ahead. We’re still stopped. Ah…waiting for a freight train to pass us this time. Stupid one-track train system.

7:49pm – still stopped. The Del Mar Hotel parking lot looks packed. Oh…conductor came on and said “Now let me tell you what’s really going on.” ? A passenger downstairs had become belligerent and was interfering with the duties of the train crew. Apparently that’s as much a crime as interfering with an airplane crew. So they had to stop the train, call the cops, and go through standard safety procedures, which all took some time.

Not Del Mar. But it's the beach, and I took this picture,!

Not Del Mar. But it’s the beach, and I took this picture, so…lol!

At least the view is pretty. We’ve been here about 25 minutes now; I will not be pulling into the Santa Fe station at 8:05pm. It’s almost dark, no more surfers or lingerers at the beach. And, we’re moving again! 8:01pm.

Amazing. I am on the cliffs overlooking the ocean – two feet away there’s a drop-off to the sand. This view is worth the whole trip. Sigh…now the beach is hidden, and we move inland.

We have to make one more stop. Since we stopped on a single track, two other trains had to stop and wait for us. Now we’re on a siding, and waiting for them to pass. Only fair.

Inside the Santa Fe train depot in San Diego. My thanks to Yelp! and Robert H. for the photo.

Inside the Santa Fe train depot in San Diego. My thanks to Yelp! and Robert H. for the photo.

8:25pm…Here! What a ride!

The Santa Fe depot is mere steps from San Diego's Little Italy.

The Santa Fe depot is mere steps from San Diego’s Little Italy.

So that’s Part One. More details next week!

       ~ Until the next time, cheers! ~


Demon Soul and Demon Hunt are available for the Kindle and Kobo! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?




A Retreat For One

A Retreat For One

When was the last time you went on a retreat? By yourself? With no agenda, but just to be?

This would be such a blast!

This would be such a blast!

I can’t remember. All my travels have a purpose – writing conferences, mostly. Or vacations with the hubby, or visiting the family, or writing retreats with friends. But take ME on a retreat, with nothing planned? I am having difficulty wrapping my brain around it.

(I will say the closest I come to having gone on a retreat was when I visited Tehachapi, last December. I stayed with my brother and his gal, and had a wonderful time with no real purpose behind it, other than helping out some friends.)

Leonie Dawson put this thought into my head with her post about her retreat. Now, she has a 3 year old, and I don’t; so she had anxieties about leaving home that I don’t have. (My anxieties are much weirder uh, different.) But where should I go?

Or camping. By myself. Well, maybe not...

Maybe camping. By myself? Well, maybe not…

Aside from where to go, the other question lingers in my mind. What would I do on a solo retreat? Leonie’s retreat didn’t quite go as she had planned, but it was just what she needed. Three nights and days of solitude and the sea and sunshine, which refreshed her and refilled her creative well.

My circumstances are a bit different, and I won’t be planning any three-night stays in a b&b on an ocean cliffside any time soon. (Or on a Boat, Bed and Breakfast…) But I really want to go on a retreat, so I am going to start small. I won’t be all alone, but I’ll have my days free and I won’t be at home for two nights. Two absolute musts, as far as I’m concerned.

I shall go prepared, but without plans. Which means I’ll take my camera and my computer and my drawing stuff, and see what happens. And I’ll meet up with my man at nights for a yummy dinner and great discussion about what we did that day, plus the comfort of not sleeping alone.  Sooo…

Back to Shelter Island Marina go I! Woo!

Back to Shelter Island Marina go I! Woo!

But before I can go, I need to get the Guitar book edited and off to the publisher (fingers crossed). Which means I need to hustle! The last thing I want is to have a deadline looming over me while on a retreat. That is NOT relaxing, lol!

(By the way, welcome to the new look of the blog! My thanks to Kristen Lamb for the new tagline.)

Have you ever gone on a retreat by yourself, with no plans in place? Does that sound like
something you would ever do? If so, where would you go? How long would you go for?


Thanks so much for stopping by. Until next time, cheers!

I Heart San Diego, Naval Base and Everything

I Heart San Diego, Naval Base and Everything

San Diego is where I was born. I did not live there long enough to get to know the city well as an adult; the places I drove to when I was 16 – 19 were the high school, the ballet studio, Balboa Park, the beach, my boyfriend’s house. That was pretty much it. Oh, and yeah, the mall. Back when indoor malls were new (late 1970s, for those of you who aren’t sure of the time frame).

Having a boyfriend (aka now the Hubby) meant my horizons got wider. Which means, I never went to the beach before driving there with him. It was our first date, actually – I drove us in my new-to-me Toyota Corolla, a pretty yellow four door, in 1977, to La Jolla Shores and we walked along a spit of land that fell into the sea a few years later.

But This Post Isn’t About That.

Two weekends ago I spent the entire weekend down in San Diego with the hubs. I hope to do so again, very soon, and stay on the boat he’s staying on while he performs there. In the meantime, I want to share some of the beauty that is Shelter Island (and I’ll tell you the story of my first time there in a bit).

Just the most beautiful view. I wouldn’t mind living in one of those houses on the hill. Or, for that matter, one of those bigger boats…You?

Shelter Island is beautiful. Now, my sense of the geography of San Diego is totally off, so forgive me, but I believe Shelter Island is a part of Point Loma. At any rate, it’s also called the America’s Cup Harbor – there are even signs to that effect. More on that later. While I was waiting for the hubby to finish playing banjo and take me to the Starbucks so I could plug in and write, I took this photo.

I’d live on one for a summer. Would you?

And of course, here’s one of the hubby playing banjo…

My man, practicing the banjo. One of the hardest working actors I know, anywhere.

And some dogs I saw, racing along the water together. They looked like they were having SO much fun!

Two dogs having a roaring good time in the water. No, they’re not mine. Yes, their owners were not far away.

But now I suppose you want to know the story of my first time on Shelter Island. Well…hubby gave me really good directions. Except he said the fatal words – “You can’t miss the turn. There’s a huge sign.”

This was my first time to Shelter Island. I was still in The Boot, but I decided to go down, visit my dad for a half day, then hie myself hither to see my hubby. Unfortunately, while his directions got me to the right place, his “you can’t miss it” had me expecting flashing lights and pointing fingers and a sign that said “GO THIS WAY CHRISTINE”. So I kept driving on Rosecrans, passing the small street sign that said Shelter Island, and the sign that said “America’s Cup Harbor”, figuring that the sign to turn must be bigger. In fact, I went so far on Rosecrans that whenever I looked to my left, between the houses I saw water. I figured I was getting close.

And I was. Unfortunately, I was very close to the Point Loma Naval Base. Ahead of me by almost 500 yards I saw a guard shack and two armed military men. Knowing I was in the wrong place, for a few seconds I thought I should make an illegal U turn and flee…but I wasn’t sure if they wouldn’t have a military helicopter after me, what with the strange goings-on in our country lately. So instead, I sedately crept forward, getting my self-deprecating skills polished as we inched ahead. (Everyone was stopped.)

(BTW – I was going to put a photo here of the checkpoint, but I couldn’t find one and OF COURSE I didn’t take one.)

When I got up to the soldier, I rolled down my window and expressed my abject apologies, saying I was supposed to go to the Shelter Island Marina but my sense of direction kind of sucked and could I please make a U turn? He listened, nodded politely, asked for my license, walked around to the back of my car, called in my license plate and probably my drivers license number. When he came back I smiled self-deprecatingly (practice came in handy) and I said that I hadn’t wanted to make an illegal U turn.

He nodded again, politely, and then told me that I would proceed to the armed officer ahead of me, make my U turn, and he would hand my license over to me on the other side of the cement berm.

Um, okay. So I went ahead, turned at the young (SO YOUNG) soldier’s wave, came around to the other side, and accepted my license. The other young soldier waved me on and wished me a good day.

I headed to the hubby and the marina, chuckling at my encounter with the military but still in awe and a bit trembly. SO glad I wasn’t a Bad Guy at that moment. Did I mention the (no clue what type weapon) guns they had slung over their shoulders?

But I finally met the hubby at the Tiki of Bali Hai. And I leave you with that photo…

This is the parking lot not only for the Bali Hai restaurant, but for the Shelter Island Marina. Oh, and at night, the Tiki on the roof only has one glowing red eye. Spooky…


Thanks so much for coming along on this journey. What unexpected encounters have you had while adventuring? Animal, mineral, or vegetable, lol?


Until next time, be good to one another. Cheers!

Of Theater Widows and Broken Legs

Of Theater Widows and Broken Legs

Sorry for my lack of posting. It’s been a bit of hell around here this week. Both good and bad, and don’t they always seem to go hand in hand?

Me and the Boot on vacation in Mammoth Lakes, California. August, 2011.

First off, I’m back in The Boot. Yes, that lovely fashion statement is once again a staple of my wardrobe. On Monday, I managed to step wrong and cause a hairline fracture just slightly off from the place I broke my fibula 18 months ago. When the pain didn’t go away immediately, I made an appointment with my bone doc – and back in the boot am I. For a minimum of two weeks, then we take another x-ray to see what’s what.

At least it’s not the four months like the last time.

Theater Widow

And in other good/bad news, my hubby has been hired in a theater production down in San Diego, starting early next week and running until the beginning of June. He’s excited (when I have more detail, I’ll share) and I’m so happy for him. But right now, past midnight, I’m miserable. I mean, I’m used to being the kind of Theater Widow where the hubby is gone for hours, not days. The type where I go to sleep by myself, but wake up next to him in the morning. So this is different.

Plus, right now, he’s off auditioning for other jobs that don’t even start until this one is

From L to R, Tim, Tom and Chet Ashworth. Mammoth, 2011

over; and they aren’t here in the L.A. area. Which means more being apart. Which totally sucks. Since I turned fifty – since my warranty broke, lol – we’ve grown so much closer. He’s been there with me through all the worry and adversity and we’ve come out the other side a lot stronger, together.

I’m not good at being alone, I find. I don’t eat well. I drink a little too much. I don’t write, which is a damned shame and something that I must fix. I feel very alone, which is silly since my two grown sons are just down the hall. But a part of me is missing, and I’m not at all happy about that. And he’s only been gone since Tuesday!

In the grand scheme of things, I’m slightly ashamed at my weakness. I mean, my husband isn’t serving in the military, half way around the world. He’s not in mortal danger every day. I know a lot of military wives, and I am in awe of how resilient they are. I suppose, if my husband had traveled a lot throughout our marriage, I too would be much more resilient and self-reliant and stiff-upper-lippy about it. But I’m not. Inside, I’m whiny and mopey and feeling very sorry for myself.

I probably need to make a plan for these long nights. First off, eat extremely healthy and have only one glass of wine. Second, write. Third, figure out Face Time. (I have skype but the hubby’s iPad has Face Time.) Otherwise, I will waste my time in front of the TV set, watching Project Runway or NCIS reruns or something like that, when I should be doing something much more productive, like getting this book finished. And the next one. (Because I can’t sell them if they’re not finished!)

So, deep breath. I will survive. (Not too sure about the garden, though – hubby was my main garden hand. Will need to press the boys into servitude.) I’ve got RWA Chapter meetings to go to this weekend, and I’ll actually see the hubs for a few hours. Plus writing will get done. I swear it.

How’s your week been? What’s been Good? What’s been Bad?

~ Until the next time, cheers! ~


Demon Soul and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle and Kobo! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?