Here it is again…..my travel log of my over 6000 mile trip. Doubt anyone will read it all, last time some
did though, but I want to make sure I can remember it all. So thanks for visiting!!!
Well….here we go again……
My every other year or so trip to California to visit Terry and family.
I’ll leave from White Sulfur Springs WV on the Amtrak Cardinal.
Overnight on it and then board the Southwest Chief and my private room to LA but really Fullerton,
Looking forward to it.
We get to WSS a little early with a just as early dinner from McD. I’m not hungry but know I need to eat
as I ate last at breakfast. I am excited, nervous with a bit of anxiety. Not 100% sure why I am
anxious…...This ain’t the first time I’ve done this….but that’s part of the fun. At least no body cavity
search at the airport!!
The train is 20 minutes late...not too bad….but we are still caught off guard when it rounds the curve
before the station. I grab my bags and head for the coach door. My grandson is with us, babysitting
today, and he jumps in front of me….ready to go! Say my goodbyes and climb on. In my seat I feel a bit
better….I’m on the train and underway after a year of planning, But I am hit with a wave of anxiety….not
even sure why. But having to rely on store bought legs to get around you do have to worry about
mechanical failure! And being away from my support team doesn’t help. I sit back and try to relax.
And much like last time I watch out the window. I always look with an eye toward model railroad
scenery. And again I see scenes that if I had dreamed up I’d think they were a bit ‘staged’. Two couples
in canoes on the Greenbrier river, A hunter in camo in a field with his dog and ATV, A farmer getting the
last round of hay out of his field. All perfect vignettes for a model train layout….and real not made up!
People that ride the train are different. They have a different expectation of travel, a different view on
life and a different demeanor. But every trip I take has some standard players. There’s always a wild
child that runs the isle. The very loud overly friendly guy, The proud grandmother that has to tell all who
will listen about her grandkids….even stories I’d not tell…( He’s failing all his subjects at Chapel Hill but
he’s getting the tools for life so it’s all worth it). There are a few new ones this time. Two ladies about
mid fifties acting like high school girls…..giggling and eating bad snack food…..and making a mess. But
no crazies yet….and now that I have my own room for the rest of the trip...not a real worry.
We sit just outside Huntington WV for 45 minutes….we find out a 18 wheeler hit a bridge we need to
cross and CSX needs to inspect before we continue. Could have been worse…..real damage and we may
have been delayed 4-5 hours. I sleep a little more than last time…..and I have both seats so I can spread
out some….still not that wonderful cocoon ‘roomette’ I have had…..just thinking about it helps! I still
wake up at the major stations...Cinci, Indy I wake to watch what all is going on. The Amtrak crew is
great as they have been every trip so far.
We make it to Chicago 30 minutes late but I still have 4 hour layover at Union Station. But I get to use
the Amtrak Lounge for first class….and not to sound like a snob…..most of us are quite and civil….I may
be the youngest in here…..what’s that say about me!?!?!?!? I’m going to go check my bags and walk
around some. Take a few more photos this time in the station.
I head up to the food court before my walk around. Breakfast was a raisin cookie and water….so I better
eat. A Chicago hot dog with chili and onions and a bottled Diet Coke …...hmmm,,,, sounds familiar. $6 is
not too bad either. As I grab my order and walk through the court I get a ‘Blade Runner’ feel. There are
lots of Asian folks here….and each food store has native language being shouted from the back. After I
eat I find so much unbelievable foods….a bakery sandwich shop, a popcorn and nuts store, all kinds of
stuff….you could spend a week here! And even though it’s extremely busy it’s kinda orderly and…...fun?
After eating I head toward the old main waiting room. It’s no longer the ‘busy’ spot in Union Station….but
a great space and a sit in a old bench and just look and relax.
I return to the Amtrak lounge and wait for them to call our train. They actually call us just a little early
and I gather my stuff. The long walk, when carrying 3 bags anyway, to the Chief and I find my car
number 30. My car attendant is Andrea the first female attendant I have seen. See directs me to my
room #8 on the left hand side of the train. Both trips last time I was on the right side….so some different
scenery this time! Climb the stairs and throw my bags into my room….and I flop down in the oversize
seat. Ahhhh…...back in my favorite little cocoon. We sit for 20 minutes or so and at the exact departure
time the train starts rolling out of Chicago Union station.
Soon the dining car steward comes around to hand out reservations. I am not hungry so I ask for a 7:
30….latest time available. Until then I sit back, get my cabin arranged and relax. We move along pretty
quick through the suburbs of Chicago. Tracks run right down the middle of town. We are going 45 mph
at least. No one on the street even looks up at this massive chrome train running a few feet away. But
between the number of Amtrak and commuter trains I guess it’s just a background noise.
The 7:30 dinner call comes over the PA and I head the 12 feet to the dining car….my car is right next to
the diner car. Amtrak has group seating for meals so you never know who you sit with. They seat me
with a couple in their early sixties. We do the normal ‘where are you going, where are you from?’. Martin
and Jane are from Cotswold England and going to LA. L give my name and where I'm from. Being last
call for dinner we can kinda take our time and talk a good bit. They are great folks and we talk about a
great number of things….I explain some terms they’ve heard and things they’ve seen. We cover a wide
range of topics from British progressive rock to Winston Churchill. They are great folks and made for
another fantastic meal. Oh….I had the steak with mushrooms, corn with peppers and wild rice….as
always great food.
After dinner I return to my room. This time of year it’s dark a lot earlier so not much to see out of the
train window. Sit for a while….and then call Andrea to convert my room to my bedroom. She does in
seconds, I get changed and settle in. After not much sleep on the Cardinal the night before a 10:00 bed
time seems late and I fall asleep easily.
I wake early and dress….head to breakfast. It’s first come first serve. I just get eggs and bacon. I eat
quick and return to my room to watch out the window. We have made it to Kansas and it’s mostly rural.
Nothing sticks out too much….it’s somewhat different than I think of being Kansas….more dry and
looking like New Mexico…..but this is the southern part of the state. One fresh air stop and I get off the
train and see the local area. It’s cool….in the 50’s and crisp. (dry) I walk the station platform and I find a
Coke machine. Amtrak serves only Pepsi so I grab some change and buy a Coke just as we get the ‘All
aboard’ call. Lunch is a big burger, great, I sit with what must be a rich couple as they are leaving their
home in Chicago to there home in Santa Fe New Mexico. They don’t fly but don’t really like the train so
I eat and return to my cabin. I walk back to the observation car and go down to the cafe downstairs. I
never made it down here last trip. Kinda plain but this is where the coach folks for the most part eat. I
sit upstairs for a while and watch things go by. A few station stops, more flat prairie land and farms with
giant watering machines that swing in an arch….so fields are semi circle.
I pick a 7:30 dinner again and when seated I find Martin and Jane again! I tell them I got the right table
and they say they are flattered that I’d want to sit again with them. We talk more about American things
they don’t fully understand, the Grab Canyon and why it’s closed (Govt shutdown) and how we don’t
much care for politicians as a whole. Steak again as it’s always great….why not. Martin and Jane finish,
my meal order got lost and was delayed, and say night and return to their cabin. They tell me how much
they enjoyed sitting with me both nights as did I. My meal takes a while but across the aisle are two
guys talking trains. I listen for a while and one of them really knows his stuff. He’s talking about Cajon
pass we will go through in the middle of the night. He talks a while about Cajon and I, between bites,
say loudly ‘you know way too much about Cajon’ and it causes him to look up at me. I throw out some
info about Cajon and he sees I’m an informed railroader too. Most folks on the train do not have any idea
where we are or what is ‘famous’ along the way. We sit and talk trains and I trump him by telling him
about my rides on 765 NKP on Horseshoe curve in PA, our trip on the Western Maryland track Elkins to
Spruce, Cass trip, Durbin and attending the 611 event in Roanoke he knew he had been ‘out fanned’!!
More die hard train talk and I get up and tell them I’ll be right back. I return with my copy of the new
Trains magazine Railroad Atlas. I walk up and toss it on the table, The magazine has a 3 page fold out
on Cajon Pass…..he knows I’m just as diehard as he. We talk until the Amtrak crew chases us off. Back
to my room…..I convert it to a bedroom as I knew how and was in a hurry. Off to sleep as if we are on
time I arrive at Fullerton at 5:30 am.
I wake up at 5:00 near Barstow just in time to see some of Cajon pass. But between being dark and
missing most of it I don’t see much. I skip breakfast as Terry and I had agreed to get a meal when I get
to Fullerton. The Fullerton station call is made and I gather up my stuff. As I enter the area of the
Superliner where you get on and off the train I see my train buddy from the night before. He too is
getting off at Fullerton. I tell Andrea thanks for the great ride and lug my stuff off the train. I find a nice
bench, buy my morning Coke and call Terry to tell him I’m here. And once again I am reminded how
different California looks and feels…...and how much I enjoy visiting. And this time of year is just
PERFECT. While the week before they had high 90’s temps….today at 7:00 am it’s high 60’s, clear and
Terry drives right up to the bench I am sitting at. We say our greetings and load my luggage and go to
Ihop to eat. After our meal we head to Terry’s place and get me settled. We sit for a few minutes and as
our tradition we head out to some hobby shops. We hit a few shops, I buy a weird Japanese space ship
kit for $10 that I look up on ebay later that sells in the $50 range. At lunch we eat at In and Out….best
burger place I ever ate at…..good thing we don’t have one…..I’d eat there way too often. We head back
to the house and look at the car collection….try and lay out some plans for my visit. We ain’t much for
late nights so we watch some TV and head for bed.
Today we will travel downtown LA to the Peterson Museum. We usually make a stop here as it’s a great
place to visit. But this trip is special as Terry’s Dad’s 1934 Terraplane Pick-up truck is featured in the
‘Art of the pick-up’ display. We leave Buena Park and head toward LA. We have a good almost traffic
free trip downtown. It seems like we always catch good days like this. We get to the Peterson and go to
the office as we get in free today because the Terraplane is here. We get our passes and are almost
immediately greeted by a Peterson guide. He starts talking about what’s in the museum not knowing
who we were. When he gets to the ‘Art of the pickup’ he notes the Terraplane and we need to see it. I
jump in at this point and say ‘I’ve sat in it’....which I have. He looks a little terrorized as the Peterson has
guys wondering the floor all the time looking for folks that may want to touch something…..which is
good if you own one of these vehicles! I then add ‘It’s his Dad’s truck’ pointing to Terry. He then
realizes we are not just normal uninformed tourist. We talk a little about the truck and head out into the
displays. On the second floor we find the ‘Art of the pick-up’ display. The display is great and the
Terraplane looks great in this environment. Of all the trucks here the Terraplane may be the best
restored vehicle. The only one that comes close is a 1910 International that is well done but the 48 inch
tall wooden spoke wheels must have been difficult to restore to say the least. I still give the nod to the
Terraplane. Both cool.
We have lunch on site at Johnny Rockets. Good but no In and Out still. We go to the gift shop after
lunch. We are in there 2 minutes when these two guys run up to us and start asking me about the
Terraplane. I defer them to Terry…..they ask a bunch of questions about the truck...rave over it, proving
me right about it being the best of the display, and Terry tells them it’s just one of 4 restored cars back
home. We find out they are out of Whittier and we inform them that we will be at a car show in Whittier
Friday if they want to see another HET car. (Hudson Essex Terraplane)
We leave Peterson and head toward Hollywood. Lots of places I never went before….even when we lived
here for ten years. Some Hispanic music thing is going on and add that to all the tourist and we just
drive through. On to Farmers Market. This is one place my folks did go to on a regular basis. But the
area has gone up and become so congested. We circle the block trying to find a parking place but all
say full at 1:30 on a Tuesday. So again we drive on to our next stop. Griffith Park and Griffith
Observatory. Yet another place I had never been to before. On the way there we get a little lost….but it’s
all good as again I see areas most folks NEVER see unless they live here. Ten story apartment buildings
with bars over the windows all the way to the top! We make it to the park gate and drive in. It’s a twisty
narrow road. We get to a tunnel and realize that it’s the tunnel used in BTTF movies, and Roger Rabbit
too I think. We arrive at the top of the park/mountain and thanks to my ‘differently abled’ parking pass
park ‘on the front row’. Good thing too as we walked a lot already. Griffith Observatory looks just like all
the photos I’ve seen and just like all of it’s move appearances. It was the pivotal place for ‘The
Rocketeer’ a favorite of mine most have never seen. As we walk around the fantastic place we notice
we are about the only English speakers here! Tourist from all over the world are here. Later we talk to
folks from Australia here form a weeks ‘holiday’. They did speak English but not many are. Griffith is an
unreal place to visit. The displays are world class, the original building is more traditional displays,
many very old but still relevant. When they needed more room they lifted the original building, built a
new building under it, and replaced the old one. Doing this allowed them to retain the look of what they
say is ‘the most photographed building in California’ but double their space.
The place stays busy even as the daylight dims. Many photographers are set up taking sunset shots. I
take a photo of the statue in the courtyard and my battery goes dead. No more photos today! We load up
and head home. Wednesday is Disneyland day so that means early and very long day.
Disneyland. I have not been inside the park since 2002 when I came for a short visit solo. Pirates was
closed at the time and I’ve never been to Disney California so we planned a day. Park hours were short,
8 to 6, so we had no time to waste. We get inside the park 15 minutes after it opens...and it’s packed
and somewhat chaos. We see a long line near CARS ride. Is this the line?? We ask one of the many park
cast members. No...this is the line for Fastpass tickets. The line is well over 200 yards long…..a line to
get tickets to get in line??? We take our chances and just head to the ride without a Fastpass. (Fastpass
is a crock Disney folks….dump it!!) The queue is cool….not just the normal cattle gates…..but it ends up
being one and a half hour wait. This better be good. We load our car and it drives off into the fake
desert. After a stop to check our seat belts we are off. A slow drive into a tunnel and the dark portion of
the ride. We see all the CARS world characters and end up in one of three stores. We end up in the paint
shop. Our car gets painted and it smells of paint thinner. After we exit the paint shop another car from
the tire shop exits beside ours…..and it’s a side by side race. The flag is dropped and we are off. Lots of
hills and steep banked turns. A very cool and fun ride. And we win the race too. A very cool ride that has
the old school Disney feel that I feared they had lost. But a hour and a half wait, combined with the
Fastpass folks walking by us without the wait tempered my enjoyment of the ride a lot. We decide to
walk DC in a figure 8 pattern so we can see the entire park. We walk Carsland, very cool if you like the
films as its exact. Cut through Bugs land and empty onto old Hollywood street. First thing we come to is
Tower of Terror. I know it’s a drop ride but other than that know nothing about it. We had not planned on
riding but almost no line, says 20 minutes, and it looks so cool…..we walk in. It’s set in a 1930’s era
Hollywood high end hotel. You enter the front door and the lobby looks dusty and dirty…..frozen in time
for 80 years. They put you into groups and send you off to a smaller room where all the doors close and
a old TV set flips on…...The Twilight Zone is on. It tells about a family caught in a storm at the hotel and
how they were never able to leave. The TV screen goes black and a big storm is going on out the
window. Another door opens and you are headed to the service elevators. A very cool but somewhat
long walk into a 1930’s era basement with glowing growing boilers and generators that glow and spark.
I had no idea what was going to happen. And that may be the best thing ever. So if you are going next
week you may want to skip ahead…..but even knowing will not fully prepare you.
We load the elevator and sit down putting on our seat belts. The Hotel bell hop tells us goodbye and the
doors close. It goes black and you feel movement but not sure how fast or even direction. Then lights up
a little and you see the closed elevator doors. But they are moving away from us at a great rate…..
surrounded by a bright star field. Now it feels like you are moving backwards fast. We stop, go black…..
then we see the family again….in ghost form this time. They waive at us. It goes black again and we
drop maybe the full ten stories….it’s hard to tell. I have never ridden a drop ride…...kinda like a coaster
without the rough ride. The feeling is unreal…..falling through the dark and then stopping. I think ‘was
that it?’....no way. Now you’re going up again, fast. All the sudden doors open and you are on top of this
12 story building in open air. The elevator shudders a few times then drops again! It does this a few
times. You get to where you have no idea are you at the bottom or top. It does this a few times. You
then exit the ride through the lower basement.
I think this was the best ride at Disney. It is themed so well. The look is fantastic. The story is great.
The queue looks so real and the ride combines story and thrills like no other ride I ever rode. This ride
becomes even more brilliant when we ride other rides today. Possibly the best thing about this ride is
Disney showing that they can do a thrill ride with a theme and blow the others away…...still. I thought
that magic had been lost. Between CARS and Tower…..doing well. (not $100 a day well but close)
We continue to walk the park. It looks great although some of Hollywood street buildings look empty.
Odd. We cross over to the area with the pier and roller coaster. Neither interest us but I see a ‘Little
Mermaid’ ride. I tell Terry we have to ride or my grand daughter would never forgive me. So two 50 plus
year old men without and kids enter the line. Wait time only 10 minutes so another plus. Again not sure
what to expect…..never read much on it. The ride has the ‘doom buggies’ like mansion does. It follows
the movie pretty much….it thing is it starts on land then the dunk you under water with a GREAT effect.
Looks like you are going under water and even feels like it. (I notice feel and smell has been added to
many rides) I enjoy the ride but kids would LOVE it. Abbey would be thrilled in a different way.
Terry wanted to ride ‘Flying California but your legs hang from the seat and I worried my leg may pop
off…...and not sure if I could take it off beforehand. So we eat lunch. Burger for Terry, chicken nuggets
for me. McDonalds level food but Disney price. I’d love to know what they make on food alone daily. Our
two meals…..$22…..could be worse. We eat, say goodbye to DC and head for the original Disneyland.
Disneyland. While a kid growing up in SoCal in the sixties there was no greater worlds than ‘going to
Disneyland’. My first date was to Disneyland. Kim Bjork asked me to go in the third grade. We only have
about five hours left so no shopping or looking around. We go to Indiana Jones ride. Went on it in
2002…..about the same. A few things added. Cool ride but not Disney’s best. I’d say maybe a ride that
helped put them back on track. Not a real long line so we are in and out in 30 minutes. Pirates next.
Pirates was my favorite ride when it opened. And the WDW version is poor compared to DL version. And
it was closed during my 2002 visit so the last time I rode may have been 1974 visit. It was good. Again a
few things added. Johnny Depp at the end…..some new dialog and visuals. But the whole ride seemed
darkened…...very dark in some places. I thought it was me but many folks on the way out said the same.
Lighten up Pirates Disney!
Next stop Haunted Mansion. Maybe the 2nd greatest ride at Disneyland….and again better than it’s WDW
version. They say DL Paris is best with it’s western theming….but may never see it. HM is decked out in
Halloween style...I knew it would be….but was unprepared for the terror inside the ride. The elevator
room sets the tone in a number of ways. First off people are bringing very small kids…..2 and 3 years
old. When the lights go out and lightning flashes these kids go bananas! You can’t hear any of the spiel
at all!!!! When I was a kid small kids did not ride….and the dead silence added to the spooky-ness. But to
add to the terror…..the room is altered to ‘Nightmare before Christmas’ and it’s done so poorly if I could
bail I would….but you must go on…..screaming kids and all. The entire ride a altered….it is a mess. A
total cluster. I have never hated a Disney ride ever…...but this is a new low…...it has changed this
classic ride that had no equal to one lower than a West Virginia corn maze done by a first grade class. I
am livid and say so to the cast member as I exit. It was so bad we had to get a drink and sit on a bench
for a while to recover. All those HM memories crushed in minutes. It really was a mess.
We find a bench and sit with a Coke and pretzel. It’s getting very cool now…..with some sprinkles now
and then. We decide to ride the river boat ‘Mark Twain’. But it starts raining for real so we run into the
dry goods store (get it??). We buy sweat shirts to wear. Onto the boat. I rode it last about 1969 Terry
never had. A nice and slow, rainy and somewhat realistic trip. The cool wind and rain make it easy to
feel the heat from the real steam boiler. We get back and head for Tomorrow land.
In Tomorrowland we ride the Monorail….never rode it in the rain before...and these are new Mk VII
models….seating a little different. When we get off the Monorail the sky opens up. We hide under the
Monorail track for a while. Not a lot to do in Tomorrowland. People Mover/ Rocket Sled gone, Rockets
gone, Inside the snowflake gone. Something about Buzz Lightyear and Space Mountain….neither of us
want to ride ‘em. Off to Fantasy land.
For research purposes we head for ‘Mr Toad’s Wild Ride’ . When I bring the grandkids to the park I want
to be sure of what they are riding! It’s about the same as I remember it almost fifty years ago. A old
school carnival dark ride. Very simple….no Disney robots of fancy effects just glow in the dark
characters cut from plywood….but the effects is great if not nostalgic. We head for Peter Pan ride but it
says 45 minute wait…..but Pinocchio is only 10 minutes so we ride it. It’s much like Mr Toad but not as
old school. And just to make our trip to Fantasyland complete we ride Casey Jr railroad, the little train
from the film ‘Dumbo’. This too is an original ride from the 1955 Disneyland park. Again we are the
oldest folks riding without young ones in tow. But This entire trip has been revisiting places and things….
this just another one. We walk toward the Fantasy Land railroad station. This way we get back to the
front of the park and get to see the Grand Canyon display that was at the 64 World's Fair. No tender
rides today anyway because of the rain….so we just get off at main street. The park will close tonight at
6:00 pm….a little early...but we can go back to Disney California as the passes we have allow us to use
any park any time. As we enter main street it starts raining more so we walk through some of the shops.
Terry tells me his sister worked on main street for 11 years…..seems I have a photo of her from back in
the day with her then trendy ‘mod’ uniform. By the time we get to the Disneyland main gate we decide
we have done all we can. We put in a hard 10 hours at the two parks rode about everything we wanted
to and even though we could spend 2 more hours in DC we walk to the tram and the parking lot.
We did what we set out to do. And did what many said could not be done...both parks, all major rides,
some down time eating and looking. So we get to the car and we are on the freeway home in less than
10 minutes...we beat the crowd….but not a real tough job as the rain ran many off early. We get home….
and are done.
Thursday is Terry and his buddy's ‘walking’ day. Today we will drive down to a pier at Long Beach. We
park right at the beach about 200 yards from the pier. As we walk down a wide paved path to the step
up to the pier I see a number of stereotypical ‘old surfer dudes’. I thought they were a character in the
movies but it’s just like seeing a 60 year old Jeff Spicoli (Fast Times movie reference). I thought I had
lost my sunglasses and needed a pair so we stopped in a surf shop on the beach. One of our old surfer
dudes tries to sell me some $200 pair that I can’t use….I need clip on type. He’s not happy with no sale.
We walk up onto the pier, out half a mile of so and back to the car. I notice not near as many ‘hot’ girls
as all the 80’s era music videos lead us to believe! A few….but not as many…..and where were all these
old beach bums in those videos???
We try and find a pizza place nearby that was on KTLA today…..rated best in the world. We finally do
find it after driving around a while. We walk in at 3:00 and are told ‘sorry dude we don’t really open til 5:
00’. Oh well…...world’s best pizza is still my buddy Mike’s….he serves it all day! Part of today’s plans was
the film ‘Rush’. A story of the 1976 F1 racing series. A Ron Howard film I’ve been waiting to see. It does
not disappoint and is maybe better than I hoped. Not getting much buzz in the USA as most folks don’t
know or care about F1….but we all do and give it 2 thumbs up! That ate most of our day. Some TV and
again we are done.
Today is a slow day. We have been on the run for most the week so we will go with Terry’s dad to the
Whittier car show. Whittier is where we moved in 1962…..two doors down from Terry. So it will be neat
to go to a car show there. And we are taking the 1949 Hudson 2 door convertible with us. I have never
ridden in this car. Been years for any convertible for that fact. We load up and I call back seat. Back
seat in a Hudson is more like your living room….and I want the full effect of a convertible on a cool
sunny day in California. The car rides like a dream….and I now fully understand the appeal of these cars
on days like this. Nothing between you and the open air. We arrive at the show...a little early so we get a
good spot. Cars are rolling in every few minutes. Some very nice stuff. No one famous shows up,
sometimes they do, but plenty of cars to look at. We get a burger at Carl’s (Hardee’s) and stay until
about 7:00. It’s getting dark and cooling fast. Terry and his dad as me if I want to ride up front for the
heater…..I decline as I have my jacket and am looking forward to riding under the stars. Never has a
convertible been so enjoyable. Mom had a MG Midget and other friends have had them. But none of
them matched the 49 Hudson. I can see how if you were a teen in the 1950’s with one of these you were
King!. No party animals here….a little TV and off to bed.
Hobby shop day!! Hobby City was closed Monday so today we will make the rounds. We hit Brookhurst
hobbies, Hobby City Prestige hobbies then for a bit of a drive out to Pegasus hobbies. They make some
aftermarket model car stuff and are one of the most complete hobby shops in So Cal. About all hobbies
covered and then some. I find model kits from the film ;Cars;, some wheels and some plastic sheets that
are hard to find. On the return trip home we see the Mattel factory and store. We get off the freeway and
stop. A major disappointment. All new current stuff at MSRP. No deals of any kind. Then they point us to
a back room for the deals. But it turns out to just be old stuff that did not sell last Christmas. Left with
nothing….just as well.
On the way home we stop at the grocery store for a few supplies. Tonight Terry and I, his Dad and
nephew will go to a local Mexican restaurant and have dinner. Food is great….real Mexican food. I see a
giant burrito on the menu….but decide I only want the large tonight. Good thing as the large is bigger
than a football….how big is the giant?? I can’t finish it and order a to go box. Home...and done.
Today we will try and recreate the film ‘The Lively Set’ that was filmed for the most part in So Cal. We
will go up into the mountains above Banning Ca. Just a few miles off the freeway and I already feel like
we are on the film set. These mountains are steep, dry and barren. The drive is very twisty and
somewhat narrow two lane road. Terry admits not his normal road…..not after 55 years in the freeway
capital of the world. We keep drive…..going up and up. As we climb the mountain starts to change.
Slowly we are losing the ‘surface of the moon’ look for the pine mountain look. We drive until we reach
the 6500 ft elevation. From here it is downhill. We start down and stop at a rest stop and see the valley
below that in about 6000 feet we will be at. More twisty turny roads. We reach the bottom and are
heading toward…..I forgot. But this smallish high desert town did have a In and Out and it was lunch
time….so….we had to stop. Normal single, fries and coke….normal fantastic for about $5. We eat and
off again. I ask where we are heading and Terry just replies ‘someplace cool’.....it’s warm today….but we
don’t need A/C?? We pull into the ‘Orange Empire Railway Museum’. I have always heard of the place
but never really knew where it was. But from the parking lot I see some D&RGW baggage cars on grande
gold so it must be a good place! They have a old Alco with heavyweight cars running up and back a
section of track...and a old LA Red car and PCC operating on a loop inside the complex. We stay for
maybe an hour, have an ice cream while train watching and head for Buena Park.
Home and we have wiped out almost a week…..still lots to do.
Today we were to go to Conan show. But going all the way downtown Burbank, waiting in line after line...
we decides to not attend. We are pretty well beat….and Conan just does not appeal to us today. Jack
Black is on anyway...not a fan really as he’s doing his ‘music’. So in Conan’s place we will go to Knott’s
and eat at Pink’s a famous hot dog joint. Been in Hollywood since the 1930’s and now at Knott’s too.
GREAT chili dog foot long. We walk around the park outside the fence….not paying the $32 to get in.
Park looks almost empty….good day to go. We walk by season ticket entrance…. no one there…..no
gate...just an opening to the park…..if we weren’t honest we’d had a free park day at Knott’s too. Off to
We came here to do a little shopping…..better today than in the rain last week….and it’s free. We also
want to see Gravity on the Imax screen here. I do my shopping….not something I enjoy...and head for
the movie. Big Imax theater. A cool film...not the normal stuff that the masses flock to…..and it has to
be seen on a large screen otherwise the effect of space will be lost. All the ladies get Thor next week….
the guys Sandra in underwear this week. After the movie, grocery store and Panda express to take
home. Some TV and done. Tuesday is downtown LA day. I see a pattern.
Today we will go down to the Buena Park Metrolink station and ride it to LA Union Station. I’ve been to
the station many times over my lifetime. Arrived there in early 1960 when we moved to LA from Ashland
Ky. Rode trains in and out of there on many trips. It’s a fantastic station that is well kept. They tell me it
was almost torn down. But now it’s the rail and bus transportation hub of L A. We buy our tickets and
wait for our train. This is not light rail but rather duel level 80 ft cars a little like my Amtrak coach. We
board and climb up to the 2nd level. I kinda want Terry to see the view I get from my Superliner on my
trip. We sit down and start moving. Terry’s never been on a real train outside of a park or Disney. We are
up to about 70 mph and Terry admits it’s a bit odd going this fast, not seeing where you are going and
not in control. You can tell he drives almost all the time!
We get to LA Union and walk around a bit. We also find out about how the buses work. We first walk
over to Olvera St….the first street in LA they say. When Terry and I were kids they’d bring us down
here….but neither of us have been here in almost fifty years. It pretty much looks the same. A narrow
little street lined with shops and little stands. I find a neat real Mexican blanket for $9 and buy it. We
spot a few places we may want to eat at later. We find the DASH bus stop and ride over to Angels Flight.
But it’s down after someone was hurt months ago….and the bureaucracy is very slow in getting it back
up. Back on the bus and a loop around downtown. I am seeing areas I’ve never seen...and some even
Terry hasn’t. Off the bus and over to the restaurant we spotted earlier. A nice place with a large covered
patio. We sit outside under a low roof in a nice shady spot. The menu says this place opened in 1932
and the building has been here since 1860. Food is great….I get a big beefy enchilada, rice, beans with
cheese and chips. Big glass of ice tea and my bill was $13.00. Not bad...good service and a nice place
to sit a while. I never did get the name of the place….it’s was unusual, in Spanish and I could not figure
it out! But I will remember where it is for another time. Done we head for LA Union. Find our Metrolink
train number and track. We have a 50 minute wait….so we walk the courtyards. This is one of the most
beautiful stations in America for sure. Time for our train….head for track 8…..up the ramp as I have done
so many times. Grab a seat and sit back. We arrive in Buena Park station 21 minutes later…..record time
if we were driving. We run and get Subway….and another day done.
Winding down now. I’ll get on my return train home tomorrow. So today we take a slow paced trip to the
LA museum where the space shuttle Discovery is on permanent display. You walk through a few exhibits
before you get to the shuttle itself. Nice displays very well done but we came to see ‘it’.
You open the doors to the new building built just for the Discovery and you are taken by the size of this
thing. And it’s pretty much as it came from it’s last mission. Dirty and stained from all the work it did.
Some people there think it’s a model of a shuttle…..where did they think they were going today? It’s
almost hard to wrap your mind around the fact this thing went to space 25 times and returned safely.
Hauled tons and tons of cargo into and from space. It is amazing to see….and well worth the visit. I take
tons of photos and think about the 1/72 scale model I have at home.
From there we head to the port of LA. We watch some container ships come in and walk a few piers.
Over a tall bridge to Terminal Island where we stop at a new display of the USS Iowa. Just finished a
restoration there are not many folks here. We find out it’s $18 to walk onto the ship but we can look and
walk within 6 feet for free. We take the free option. We go over to downtown Long Beach and drive the
roads of the LBGP Indy race held each spring. Further into LB we find a beach access area. Warner
Bros. trucks are loading all kinds of cameras and lights….must have just missed a movie shoot. Find the
park from the real ‘Gone in 60 seconds’ movie. A little worn but still pretty much the same as seen in the
film. We call it a day a little early and head for home. But it takes us about an hour as we hit a few
traffic jams. We get home a Terry’s Dad wants to take us to dinner. We go to a Italian place right next to
the Fullerton station. The Southwest Chief rolls in 16 minutes late….some foreshadowing. Great meal….
the restaurant had O scale models of all the trains that run by the place….some cool models. We finish
and head home. Sit around and talk...off to bed.
The best and worst days of my trip rolled into one. Best as I love getting on the Southwest Chief, going
home and getting into my roomette. Worst because it means I am leaving California and my friends. I
get up and round up dirty clothes so I can pack. I wash all my dirty laundry and split it into what I pack
away and what I need on the train. Terry’s friend Cam comes over and we watch some TV….they go for
a walk in the hilly neighborhood while I do more to get ready. My train is at 6:50 PM. We load all the
photos I took and Terry took onto a DVD….should be more than I can look through. I’ll eat on the train so
about 6:00 we load up my stuff. I tell Terry’s dad how much I appreciated the visit, rides in cool cars and
just great time visiting. Off to the Fullerton station. Very little traffic means we are there in less than 10
minutes. Terry says he will wait with me….he didn’t know what he was asking for. The Chief is delayed a
few times. Seems trains have gotten out of sync and it has now thrown all of them off schedule. The
train pulls in just before 8:00, an hour and ten late. We say our goodbyes and I get on, not really ready to
leave So Cal. Being dark now I turn my lights on and Terry can see what my room looks like somewhat.
He and his dad are talking about riding the train to the next HET / Hudson nationals. They’d take the
Chief from LA to Chicago like I do….but drive from Chicago to the meet in southern Ill.
Then….we’re moving. Over an hour late it does not give me a warm and fuzzy. The train is 35 minutes
away from where it started and it’s 70 minutes late….almost impossible! And as we are so late my dinner
reservation is now! Head to the diner car, steak, rice, corn and salad….why change what works. I am
seated with a couple from LA going to ABQ to see their son. The forth in our party is a meek mid
mannered guy that doesn’t say much. The normal who, what and where is started. The husband, I come
to find out, started with IBM in 1977…..the same year I started in IT. He sold all the machines I had to
run at the bank. So we talked old computer jargon and the good old days of ‘computer operations’. We
both agreed that we were too old for the way things are now. The biz has changed and left us behind
and we don’t miss it. Then our forth speaks up…...’I ran computer systems for Northwest Life, part of
Northwestern bank that FUNB bought in the 1980’s. So our group of four, three of us came from the
same field. This kind of thing comes up all the time….part of the ‘rail magic’ I guess. Then we do the
‘why the train’ Q&A. The couple just don’t like to fly….and thought the train would be nice. I tell my
metal body parts story and the fact I just love the train. The wife speaks up and asks ‘I’m a nurse do you
mind me asking what happened to you’. I tell her the short version of Sharko and she says she knows
about it but had never met anyone that had it. So she asked a few more questions, none of them I mind
as I feel learning can only help us all. We finish, say ‘night and head for our rooms.
I am trying to stay awake through Cajon pass. No matter the time of year….it’s always dark through here
so I never see anything. But a recent magazine article had a detailed map of the pass and some details.
At the northern end of the pass the rail line is fenced, lighted and under guard 24 hours a day. So when
we get there this time I at least know where I am. And sure enough….when we get to the north end
bright flood lamps, fences and railroad police in trucks all over. The official word is this is all anti
vandalism. Others say the Gov’t got a credible threat on the line…..the number one mover of goods and
oil in the USA. Maybe it’s a bit of both. But I kinda like it….good to see some serious security around
me. Not long after Cajon it’s just DARK. I turn my room into a bed myself….such a veteran. I’m just
going to ‘rest’ for a while...wake about and hour later and figure I need to make it official…...off to sleep
in my cocoon.
Awoke early, dressed, converted my room and by that time breakfast was on! I order scrambled eggs,
potatoes and chicken sausage. All good. Sat with a couple going to…..I forgot already...so much for ‘rail
magic’! I am again wearing my Breaking Bad shirt. The couple asks what it is….they heard about the
show but had never seen it and didn’t get the shirt. Back to my room and get caught up on things.
Because we are late ABQ will be cut from 45 minutes to however long it takes to service the train. I’m
feeling a little off….going to skip lunch in fact (and it’s free) but get off the train in search of a Diet Coke
(Pepsi only on the train) The only thing I find is a cold one liter bottle….$3.20 and it looks like a good
deal! While in line I hear the train double whistle….that means moving and or leaving…..but I ain't
getting out of line. I go outside and most of the passengers and the fuel truck are in place….so we ain’t
leavin yet. I look at the vendors but have no idea what looks good so I pass. I climb back to my room
and open my cold Coke. I feel better already…..Coke withdrawal…..that’s what happened!
Running late and now all 4 toilets in our car are closed not working. We must now go two cars up to use
the restroom. I go to the lounge car just to see the sights…..their restrooms are closed too. Then on the
PA the coach car #1 bathrooms are down!!! What is this a cruise ship?!?!? So now we have about 50% of
the rest rooms down...oh joy!!!
We stop in Raton and I get out….it’s a smoke stop. Very cool…..50’s and breezy but feels good. Short
stop as we are still late. Climb on and it’s almost dinner time. 6 pm call is made over the PA and I head
that way. I get seated with a older lady from Chicago on her way home after a visit with friends in LA.
She had never been on a train or to LA. She likes the train better. Steak, corn, baked potato and
salad…..a real change up!
Now all 26 toilets but 4 are down. This is not good. A huge train full of folks that 26 toilets are just
enough for down to 4. I will have to let Amtrak know about this. The fact that all these units failed just
after being serviced at ABQ makes one wonder. Seems someone is not trained right! A little window
watching after dark, make up my room and lights out about 10:00PM.
Last day on the SWC. Up early and off to breakfast. Same eggs, potatoes and sausage again. I convert
my room back to seating. We stop in Kansas City and the Amtrak guys try to fix some of the toilets. A
few more are working but not all of them. Lucky me one of them on the lower level is working. Kansas
was nice a cool…..and running late it’s more daylight. I just sit in my room and enjoy my roomette
watching the scenery go by. I am going to try and see if there is a roomette on the Cardinal when I get
to Union Station as I am beat and would love to sleep some on the Cardinal….hard to do well in a coach
seat for me…..I need to take off my leg for a while.
Lunch time….and I am going to eat today. Not REALLY hungry but last meal on the SWC so I go. Big
burger again. The other lunch choices don’t do much for me. Good as always….sit with another couple
from ABQ. They are the ‘we don’t watch TV or movies’ and ‘we love to weave with hemp’ (for real) type
so not much conversation takes place. I eat, go back to my roomette and relax some as I may not do
much for the next 36 hours or so. I start packing what I have in my room, double checking all my stuff.
The Amtrak car ‘host’ is trying to get everyone to move into empty rooms on the lower level so she can
clean the rooms. I have never had this happen before….and with our running late with way too few
restrooms not a good way to end the trip.
We pull in and we are about 1 hour 20 late. I get off the SWC and head for the Amtrak lounge. I check in,
find there is a roomette on the Cardinal but it’s another $360 to take it. I decline, a decision I will really
regret in just a few hours. I unpack my laptop and check a few things like mail. No one has missed me
yet so all is good. I check all my bags and walk to the food court. I find the popcorn and peanut place,
get two Cokes and a bag of cheese corn. Go to another store and grab some crackers and snacks. I
need some real food before I get on the Cardinal. No place really looks good…..except my regular
Chicago dog spot. For $3 a big dog with mustard….I eat as I walk…..not much time until we leave.
They call for the Cardinal and we make the long walk to the train. I get me seat, they say the train is full
today and it sure seems like it. Note to self….don’t travel weekends. We depart exactly on time, 5:45.
Not 3 minutes from the station we grind to a stop. A train is blocking a rail and rail crossing. It’s dark
now so it’s hard to see anything. We keep being told by the Amtrak staff a freight train has an issue and
is blocking us. Bad sign…..the Amtrak crew announces that free food is available in the cafe car.
Amtrak don’t give away stuff when things are good!!! This goes on for almost exactly 5 hours. I really
feel this is an issue between the freight railroads and Amtrak. They tell us it was a locomotive that
stalled and could not start back up. With hundreds of other locomotives within yards of our ‘stalled’ unit
it seems more like retaliation than a mechanical issue. There are a number of ‘fixes’ that could have
gotten us underway in minutes….but none of them were used. And then the ‘broken’ locomotive started
up and moved the train right at the 5 hour mark almost to the second…...odd. With all the routes out of
Chicago if it was a train with someone important on it….it would have moved in minutes….not five hours.
This just sets the tone for the whole trip. Running late we have missed our window and now will fight for
our rails the whole trip.
I try to sleep some but I’m mad and too tired to. On and off all night….I’d pay $360 for a roomette now
without thinking…..but I’m stuck. The only good thing is places we pas in the dark we now pass in
daylight. Cincinnati is cool...and we see a big ‘grand reopening’ of the Twinkies plant going on! The rest
of the trip until Charleston WV is kinda a blur…..I nod off and just sit. At Charleston my 3.5 year old
Grand daughter will get on the train and ride home to WSS with me.
I have to get off the train and pick up my granddaughter as Amtrak will not allow her to travel alone and
unless I put her on the train she can’t ride. We stop at Charleston, I get off and my Grand daughter runs
up to me. We say bye to mommy and climb on. The trip is much better now. My granddaughter LOVES
trains, any kind real or toy, and as a bonus they move us to the coach that was behind the original
coach. This car has few riders compared to my first car. Everyone is spread out….lots of single people in
two seats. Why wasn’t I in this car first?? Why is one car packed and this one so open?? I don’t ask why,
enjoy having my granddaughter on the train. She settles in and opens her backpack. She says ‘mommy
sent these’ and hands me two McDonald’s hamburgers and a bottled Diet Coke! . Ah…..good daughter
and granddaughter! We sit back and have a good meal! Not really great but great in the situation!
We meet the CP Huntington NRHS New River fall color train at Hinton, just East of the station at the wye
they are using to turn. We see the almost all vintage coaches train for a few seconds but it’s more a
blur. The trip is better now. Some decent food, a Diet Coke and the fun of having my granddaughter
along has mellowed me greatly. A normal somewhat dull trip the rest of the way. Still losing ground all
the time but minutes now in place of hours. We get to WSS almost six hours late. This has caused
issues at home as my family made arrangements to pick us up at 11:30 am…..not late afternoon. So we
find a seat and wait to see who can pick us up. Not 5 minutes after #50 leaves WSS station, #51 arrives.
That’s the most passenger trains in the region since the 1950’s I bet! My granddaughter does tell me she
doesn’t want on that train...I agree today anyway.
My oldest son shows up. He had to take lunch to pick us up. He drops us off at home and my 6000+ mile
trip is complete.
I’ve now been home a few days. There was some major issues I had to deal with on my arrival. I didn’t
really have time to digest my trip until now. And as each previous trip this trip changed me. Last time I
got some of the confidence I had lost back. It was the first time I had done anything on this scale since
my health issues. This time I again gained some confidence that I can function on my own…..and while
things slow me down at times most folks understand and the Amtrak crew helps without thinking. I took
time to enjoy this trip...issues and all. I really enjoyed my time in California. Terry, like me, had some
major personal issues in the last year. We have known each other for well over fifty years now. We are
not much different than we were when we were kids. Just grayer and we have a much different pace
today. But we have so many of the same likes and dislikes…..never have a disagreement or even harsh
word, and I think we are good for each other….wish we lived closer.
Amtrak. I feel they did not do as good a job this trip as they did in 2011. SWC car host Andrea on trip
West was GREAT. The car host East just so-so. Every train I rode was late…..with vastly differing
degrees. Both the Amfleet cars and Superliners are worn and ageing but holding up OK. There seems to
be much more animosity between the railroads and Amtrak…..or maybe it’s just me. Dining on the SWC
was great both trips. Staff in the cars super. I still truly enjoy train travel. I love to get off the train when
we have a ‘fresh air stop’ and feel the difference in locals. I enjoy the scenery and SEEING the USA
rather than the tops of clouds. I love my little roomette and the comfort it offers at night. I don’t know
what the Amtrak future looks like. I’ll keep riding as long as it’s there. Thanks