Monday, March 2, 2009

Riding the Rails: Day 4 Amtrak's Fault

Well, it was time to go home. I checked the train's time and it had been running about an hour late, but of course, I still needed to get there by the scheduled time in case it had somehow made up an hour. I got up and after I had showered and dressed and almost finished packing, I went out to get some of the continental breakfast, and I promptly got drizzled on. It was damp outside. After breakfast, I asked the front desk to have a cab ready for me. I felt a little bad hauling a cab out just to go about ½ mile to the light rail station, but it was wet and I had the big suitcase to manage.

I got to the light rail station but the line I needed only runs every half hour, so I made sure to have enough time to buffer waiting for the cab, and actually had to wait 15 minutes. It has a good roof, though, so I stayed dry.

There were several people further back in the car having an animated conversation. At one point a male voice said he was going to be gone for a week. A female voice asked, "Are you going to jail?" And she said it like it was serious possibility, but without the shock I would express if I got to the point where I had to ask a friend the same question. He said no. A fare inspector also walked through the cars, the first one I had seen. I didn't pay too much attention, but I don't think anyone got busted.

When I got off at the Amtrak station, there were multiple San Jose police on the platform leading two handcuffed people, a young man and a woman, from the platform and through the underground tunnel to the heavy rail station. They weren't dressed like model citizens, exactly, although I'm pretty sure they weren't getting busted for stealing belts. Otherwise their pants wouldn't be hanging halfway down their hips.

sjc The train was still posted as being an hour behind. The station isn't very large, and I'm not sure if it's old or just made to look old-fashioned. It only had one cramped newsstand/coffee-shop for refreshment. The ceiling was incredibly high, maybe 30 feet (I'm terrible at judging these things), which would have gone a long way to explaining why it was really cold in there. Any heat would have risen straight up.

sjc-police Even half an hour after I had gotten there and though they hadn't "escorted" anyone else out, there were still a few police officers walking back and forth and multiple cars parked in front of the station. I got a cup of coffee because I was so chilled. Then I noticed the two college students sitting on the bench behind me were knitting. I talked to them a minute and found out they hadn't heard of Ravelry. I was too chilled and not awake enough (I hadn't slept well) so I just sipped my coffee and read.

The train finally showed over an hour late. They were rushing us on, but it was hurry-up-and-wait. Stand in the drizzle waiting for seat assignments. Get on the train and then wait for another 15 minutes for a freight train ahead to clear the tracks.

I had a seatmate, but once the conductor had taken tickets, two buddies of his came from the back of the car and they went to sit on the observation car. After it became clear he wasn't heading back anytime soon, I moved into his window seat and got comfortable.

We had a, um, humorous announcer. "On Amtrak, you pay for the transportation. The thrills are free." As we passed by the San Andreas fault near Gilroy, he reminded us to buy land on the east side of the fault, because when half of California falls into the ocean during The Big One, it will become beach-front property. "Just remember, it's the San Andreas fault, not Amtrak's fault."

I finished the book I had started 2 days before, did some knitting while I watched part of a movie until my laptop battery died (I probably would have watched the whole thing if Vista hadn't pissed me off so much they I had to mess with it before watching the DVD), then decided to doze a little. I spread out over both seats since the guy hadn't come back.

slo2sba1 I'm not sure if I really napped any, but I sat up about 4:45, as we were getting to San Luis Obispo. I spent most of the time until my 6PM reservation in the dining car staring out the window. This time I was facing east. The region seemed devoid of human life, although there were occasional farmhouses, an old mine, and later, some big farm monsters. Mostly there were just lots and lots of cows. I even saw cattle scampering for no apparent reason. Who knew? Well, maybe people who watch cows a lot more than I do. I also saw a very large, dusky cat walking under a split-rail fence. It was definitely too large to be a housecat, as it was even bigger than Spoon, but I'm not sure if it was a bobcat or a mountain lion. I think the latter.

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In the dining car, I got seated with a young woman and her son. They had started in Eugene, OR. I felt for the woman. That's a really long trip with a young boy. He went through the stages of hyperactive, shy, complaining about the food ("My stomach huuuuurts. The chicken's too spicy." It was an herb marinated chicken, which his mother had pulled the skin off.) More complaining, the eye-rubbing, the sneaking peaks to see if he's getting the reaction he wanted. His mother gently but firmly insisted he eat some chicken or he wouldn't get dessert. He feebly tried the "I don't want dessert" line but it didn't last long. Finally, she asked for some ketchup. He insisted on emptying all five packets onto his plate, and then dipped a piece of chicken in and ate it. Two minutes later, I pointed out that he had stopped using the ketchup. "The chicken's not spicy anymore." He got his ice cream, anyway.

Not much happened the rest of the way. We ended up getting to Union Station only about 15 minutes late. After the slow start from San Jose, I don't remember making any unscheduled stops. I got off, went to the front of the station, called the shuttle company like the reservation told me, waited on hold for 12 minutes, then got an incoming call directly from the driver.

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