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! ~


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