|Beuna Park Hillbilly.............
My trip to California
This is my journal of my trip from West Virginia to Southern California to visit
Terry, my friend since we were five years old. I don’t think anyone will read it
all….it’s more for myself than anything. Any comments or questions amx3(at
4/24/2011 White Sulfur Springs WV Sunday
18:00 Well…..underway..44 minutes late but not too bad. The train is the only
way I’d travel if it were possible! Sit back in a big seat and do what you want. I
just watched out the window for a while….seeing familiar scenery go by from a
different perspective. As always most folks are nice and talkative. Why a train
is more conducive to people opening up about all aspect of their lives is a
mystery to me. But I know the lady across the isle has more dogs than we have
On a personal note, I will admit that when I got up Sunday morning I was a bit
apprehensive about making a 6000 mile round trip by myself.
Since all my ‘issues’ in 2003 I have stuck pretty close to home and always had
someone travel with me. But now on the train and the trip started I feel better
about it. Still going to be an exciting trip for sure…..but the good kind.
Back to train travel. For those that have not traveled by rail…you are missing
something. The interior of our car, though a few years past it’s
prime service age, is much like first class in a smaller modern jet, Big seats that
recline and are more like something out of a living room than
budget class on a plane. And a bonus for those of us with lots of metal parts,
internal and external, no body cavity search, X-rays or pat down by a stranger.
The mood is totally different than flying. But it has to be. Rail travel can take as
long as it takes to drive on some routes…..so
speed is not your goal. Comfortable enjoyable trip is….thus the mood
difference….that and no body cavity search makes everyone happier.
21:30 I called Catie on my cell. Her house is about 3 blocks from a railroad
crossing we will cross. She opened a window and heard us go
by….I waved to her. We just went by Barboursville mall area. It’s neat to see
things familiar at 55 mph in a pouring rain at night….something that would make
my stomach tie itself in knots if I was in a car. Soon we will be in Huntington
WV….all the smokers are salivating already….last smoke stop was Cliffton
Forge Va and some are about to pass out!!! I love trains….and no smoking on
them is one more reason. I’m gonna sit back and watch Ashland KY go by….
another city I know well and will be interesting to see from the rails. Later…..
4/25/2011 Monday aboard Amtrak Cardinal
08:20 Not too long after I wrote the last entry it was lights out! This is
something new since my last trip on Amtrak. At 22:00 they turn off the lights
and require all electronic devices to be powered down and put away! Kinda
nice really. With almost everyone having some type of device I guess they had
to make a new rule.
Overnight I slept on and off. Waking at most every stop. More that I wanted to
see each city than unable to sleep. Cincinnati looked like the Disney city of the
future from the train……very much a picture post card image. As we crossed the
river into downtown the train entered a tall viaduct. These narrow trestles
make it look like the train is floating as from the train you see no bridge. To add
to this the viaduct was very high…a full story or two above the warehouse
buildings! It was as if we were flying….very low and slow! I had hoped we could
see some of Cincinnati’s old train station….but just saw a modern Amtrak
Indianapolis’ Amtrak station is still in the old downtown station but most of it
has been converted into a hotel. And 22 years earlier, while attending the First
Hot Rod magazine model car championship, was where the ’No naked sleeping’
rule was invented. I’ll not say more other than the rule did not have to be
brought up again during our many travels. Funny how things cycle through.
1989 we go to Indy for a model contest…..never dreaming I’d one day ride
through the same hotel on my way to California by rail! We ended up sitting at
Indy for 30 minutes due to the fact we had made up the 44 minutes we were
late at White Sulfur Springs WV and we were now 30 minutes early. We also
picked up two Amtrak coaches that were sitting in the Indy
station……something else was going on but never did find out. So we ended up
late again after they had to route us around some bad order track…..we ended
up going West from the station, backing through a Y track and then going North
toward Chicago. About 20 miles to avoid 20 feet of track.
10:50 Chicago Station! We arrive a little late but my next train is 4 hours away
so I have time. The ride on the Amtrak Cardinal was about as good as it can be.
The crew was super in helping me get on and off and when I got up to go to the
restroom my steward told me to go to the next car and use a bigger ’differently
abled’ restroom in an empty car. (one we had picked up in Indy) This was a
great help to me. The crew also corralled 2 kids, 2 and 4 yeas old, after they
had run up and down the isle ten times at about mid-night. Not the kids fault…..
but oblivious moms.
Chicago station is as busy and as big as any airport I’ve been to other than LAX.
It took me a while to find my way around. LOTS of Mennonites must ride the
train. There are more walking around the station than I have ever seen. Or do
Amish ride trains? Either way they all look lost….I know if I am almost
overwhelmed by this place, and I feel like I’ve been around, what must this
place be like for them??? One group rode an escalator upstairs and then just
stopped at the top…..about caused a big pile-up! Lunch was a big Chicago chili
dog, fries and a 24 oz bottled Coke….for $7...not bad really…..food was great! I’
m gonna see some more of this place…..later!
The Amtrak Southwest Chief loaded a few minutes late. They had us almost
running for our coaches…..and by luck our train was as far from the waiting
room as it could be and still be in the station. My Roomette is about 4 by 9
feet….sounds small but it is made for two people so for me it will be fine. The
two big recliner seats make up into one bed…the other bed (the one my wife
will have to use if she comes next time) pulls from the ceiling. Not using it now
makes my ‘bedroom’ pretty nice.
Just got back from dinner. I had a big steak, wild rice, green beans and a salad.
It was GREAT food. I was pretty full but when they said one of the dessert items
was pecan pie I went ahead and had them bring me some! (did I mention this is
all included in your ticket?!?!?!)
I am totally wiped out now. I tried to see some of Chicago station but hauling
three pieces of luggage around (note: pack lighter next time) was not an option.
I found out later that as a first class passenger Amtrak will store your stuff on
layovers…..return trip I’ll know better. I was the first to ask car steward Rene to
turn my living room into a bedroom. It is all of 21:00 but I am about falling
asleep sitting up. It takes only a minute and I have a bedroom. It takes me a
few minutes to figure out how to change and get settled. I make a few phone
calls, turn everything off…..and I am ready to sleep!
4/26/2011 Tuesday aboard the Southwest Chief
06:20 I hav e never slept like that in my entire life. Getting only 3-4 hours sleep
in the past 24 hours did not hurt…..but there IS something about sleeping on a
train….the motion and noise seem to put you to sleep. The fact you are in this
small little ‘cocoon’ of a room also ads to comfort level. I did wake twice at
station stops….not even sure which ones….but went right back to sleep. The
bed is not real big but the way the room wraps around you makes it work….very
The morning meal is the only one which is first come basis, all other are by
reservation. I am up early so I am ready at 06:30 when the dining car opens.
I figured I’d be the only one up this early but there are a number of others. I sit
with a couple that is going to Las Vegas. I have eggs, bacon, home fries and a
croissant. And just like dinner it was very good and filled me. I broke away from
breakfast before the others were done as I wanted to get a seat in the
observation car. The Obs car is mostly glass and has seats that face the side of
the car it gives you a better view of the terrain than the window in your room.
There is a small bar for drinks and snacks. When I get to the obs car it’s only
around 07:00 am. The Colorado morning fog has not burned off yet. After a few
miles the fog is gone and you can see we are in a flat dry area.
As we ride along I see turkeys! I had no idea in this area of almost desert there
would be these huge turkeys walking around….and not very worried about our
10:05 I had to return to my room so the reservation steward could give me my
tickets for todays lunch and dinner. I had planned on staying in the obs car
longer but they said if your not in your room….’No soup for you!!’. I get back to
my room and it has become a living room again like magic. I was going to tell
Rene to leave it as a bedroom ‘cause it was pretty comfortable that way….but
with the living room I can pull out the table. I close my door and lock it, not
because I don’t want any one to come in but rather if you don’t lock it and
someone is walking down the hall and we hit a big bump the door can open and
you have a guest! So I lock it and pull the curtains and I am in my little cocoon
again. We are starting to climb some small hills and mountains…..slow going as
we must be down to about 35 mph. But riding the train you have already
accepted the fact you did not choose speed. And for me that’s a plus. All day
since breakfast I have been spotting old railroad cars and autos along the right
of way. LOTS of old cars and in this climate many still look good. We went
through a small town a few minutes ago and found 10-15 neat cars. Interstate I-
25 is near by but most of these old cars can only be seen from the tracks…..one
reason they are still there!
Sitting along the tracks in a backyard was a very new looking 1978 Ford
Granada two door. In great shape…..probably lost a transmission
or engine and they rolled in back here…..if it was close to my home I’d try and
Really slow going now. Some of the steepest grades I have ever seen on a
mainline railroad. As we climb I find that we are climbing up to
Ratan NM. What we just went through was Raton Pass….kinda famous in rail
history…..WOW! This stop is a short ‘fresh air’ stop, can’t call them smoke stops
any longer, so I went down and got some local air. About 70 degrees and zero
humidity….wow…does it feel good. I love my WV but I could see living here too.
The town has a great old Mission style station still in use….and a few other out
buildings all in the classic Mission architecture the Santa Fe railroad used. The
route we are taking from Chicago to LA is pretty much the same as it was
during the 1940’s, the height of passenger rail service in the USA. Santa Fe
used to advertise ’Santa Fe All the Way’ with a now politically incorrect Indian….
ops native American…boy. The Santa Fe also invented these two level
passenger cars we ride today. I think I’ll sit back and ‘rest’ before lunch….I see
they have a huge hamburger on the menu today….might need my rest before I
Well the Burger lived up to Amtraks description. Big and as good as any I have
had of late. It came with chips and not fries…..then I thought how bad it would
be to have a deep frier on a moving train! Haagen Dazs peanut butter and
chocolate ice cream for desert and a great meal again. (I think not getting a
check at the end helps mentally anyways!) A lady at our table said she had
taken a trip on Amtrak last summer for 5 weeks, getting off and on at spots all
over the country…..sounded like fun!
One of the interstates is running down below us….I am not missing driving this.
It would be great to stop at some of the places but the trade off is not worth it.
We stopped at Las Vegas….not that one….the one in New Mexico. The train
station there still has the Harvey house standing next to the station. Harvey
was the company that owned a number of restaurants that were linked to stops
along passenger rail lines. Back in the day the whole train got off and ate at a
Harvey house, then got back on and the train started underway. Not a very
efficient way to feed a train. Harvey houses last for a while after the railroads
started using the dinning car as only First class was permitted to eat on train.
There are a few movies that show how the ‘coach class’ folks would run off the
train, grab food and get back on the train….not to far from the truth! There is
even a movie about this system called ‘The Harvey Girls’ with that girl from the
Oz movie. (too full to think)
Starting to rain on us. We are in a very rugged area. Only going about 20 mph.
the soil is a dark mineral red here. On the interstate was a big blue tanker
truck. On the sides of the tanker was ‘Rentable Rain’ and a phone number. I’ve
paid taxes on rain in NC but I hope I never have to rent it.
We just passed the LA to Chicago version of our train. They were pulled over in
a pocket waiting on us. This is some seriously rough country. We just went
through a canyon that had streams and falls….looked like someone at Disney
had built it. This would be a great area to get off the train and rent a Jeep for a
One thing about riding the train is you get a real sense of the geography of this
country. The Interstates are nice and level and a lot more straight than these
100 plus year old rail lines. Seems almost every time we go through a narrow
canyon or through a high pass we come into a town. The highways are so
generic. No hint of what it was like to travel before these Eisenhower Super
highways were built.
If you don’t like the weather in the desert just wait…it will change. Rain a few
miles back….now a blazing bright sun.
15:35 Because of New Mexico’s new state passenger rail system the ’Rail
Runner’ we have started running faster. New Mexico has installed
welded rail and concrete tires allowing their trains to run faster and ours
because we use the same tracks.
The entire system Amtrak uses should be done this way….but Amtrak owns
little of the tracks they run on so that may never happen. Rail Runner shows
you what can be done. It’s still so new that I am not sure if it has been deemed
successful yet. If it works as well as it’s tracks
and stations it should be great.
We pull into Albuquerque New Mexico station. The part of town I can see is very
modern and clean. I got out and walked up to the locomotives. The entire train
is getting serviced here so we have about a 45 minute stop. The station even
has a small vendor area set up so locals can sell craft and regional items. Lots
of jewelry in silver and Turquoise. Albuquerque seems to be a pretty ’
progressive’, for lack of a better term, city. Not the same town I remember the
last ime I was here. Flying by in a 1969 Ford Econline van with my folks Summer
of ‘69! It’s nice and cool, about 70, with a wind. It feels great to me but some
folks are complaining it’s too cold! A train trip is part adventure….get over it.
After we left ABQ we hit a double and triple mainline section of track. We
started meeting trains every few minutes. I had never seen so
many trains in a short amount of time! Then another set of track came up from
the right hand side….these were tracks of the Union Pacific railroad. The UP
tracks were full of trains too. Some trains were running while others were in
sidings waiting. In the matter of 20 minutes I must ha ve seen 18 trains.
Somebody is moving something!
Dinner was the same as last night….why change what works for you?
We are flying low now. I had read online that some areas of NM and AZ have a
pretty high speed limit and I think we are using it now. Welded rail, concrete
ties and upgraded right of way make it possible to go fast! The online info was
from a rider that had a pocket GPS and he said they hit 90 mph a few times. I
am not sure how fast we are going but it’s faster than I have ever gone on a
train….and the vehicles on the nearby highway, I-40 some say, are getting
passed with ease. We continue to pass trains going the other direction. About
every 3-4 minutes….which means the BNSF RR is only running a mile or two
between trains! Not to many years ago that was not done….but they are moving
a ton of something! WOW…another train going East! That was not even two
minutes between the two. That’s less than a mile between freight trains. I
guess with all the technology the railroads have today, GPS,
sensors and track cameras, they can run them pretty dense.
I will arrive in Fullerton CA around 06:30 if we stay on time. So this is the last
night on the train until the retun trip. I am excited about being in So Cal for the
first time since 1997 and seeing the Ks.…but not in a hurry to get off the train.
Wonder if I can find a job riding trains? Pretty soon I will have Rene change my
room over and go to bed….I am a real party animal. They say there are card
games all night in the Obs car….but it’s just not for me….rocking in my little
cocoon is more my speed. See ya in California!
4/27/2011 Wednesday Still on the Chief
04:45 I have been waking about every hour….dreaming I oversleep, miss my
Fullerton stop and then my cell phone will only play games when I try to call
someone. I give and get dressed. My stop is at 06:35 anyway and it does take
me a few minute to get myself together. Plus I need to get all my stuff ready to
go. Rene, the car steward sees me up and reminds me the dinning car opens at
05:00 and I remind I get off at Fullerton, last stop before LA Union station. He
tells me we are about 45 minutes late so I might as well eat!
At breakfast I sit with a couple that I had breakfast with Tuesday. As soon as I
sit down the wife points to the lady sitting across from her and blurts ’She’s
from West Virginia too’. I ask here from where and she says Shenandoah…not
real sure where that is but does not really matter. I ask her why she is going to
LA and she says for the Turner Classic Film festival. I like films…but that is
dedication! She adds that is the second year for her too. I eat a small meal as
they have been feeding us like a cruise ship! I finish quickly and head back to
Rene has returned it to a living room again so I sit and watch the sun rise over I-
At Riverside Ca we stop at the station and find we are not the only passenger
train. So Cal Metrolink is in the station too. People commute from Riverside to
LA to work! Sixty miles each way. Transportation in So Cal has changed
drastically in the 14 years since my last visit. We arrive at Fullerton about 40
minutes late. I am the only one getting off. So Rene carries my bags downstairs
to the boarding area of the car.
While we wait I found out he has been doing this 36 years! Almost from the start
of Amtrak. We stop at Fullerton and I get off….it’s about 68 degrees, dry and the
busiest place I’ve seen in a while! Two Metrolink trains, an Amtrak Surfliner and
two freight trains have been waiting on us. As soon a my Southwest Chief
clears the station the others roll in. I continue to see many trains while I wait
for Terry to pick me up (I did not call him until I was standing on the station
platform)This is a busy and very different California than the one I knew.
Hundreds of commuters are taking the train and not the car. Still plenty of cars
of the freeways…but what would it be like without these Metrolink trains?
Terry’s here to pick me up….I’ll see ya later!
12:00 We don’t waste time. Off to Hobby City to a model shop. Can’t find
anything I need but it’s a big shop with tons of stuff. We then go back to Whittier
and our old neighborhood. This is where Terry and I first met. We both moved
into the area at the same time and went to the then new kindergarten class at
Mulberry school. We both liked trains and cars and we hit it off. Friends now for
about 50 years. Next off to La Palma to where we moved in 1967. Looks about
the same….but a few folks come out a give us the evil eye….wanted to stop and
tell them my dad built that house so watch it….but just moved on. Drove by
Knott’s Berry farm….one of my favorite places to go when we lived here. It was
free to get in back in the day…..not so any longer! Hope to return later for a
visit. Lunch at the ‘In and Out’, a GREAT hamburger joint that could be from the
50’s with big regular burgers.
That’s about all I can handle today so we head to home and some B-Ball on TV.
Games start at 17:00 (5:00) so it’a a bit odd! Done for the day…off to bed….
18:00 First full day in California. Again we don’t waste time. We head toward
downtown LA. We stop at a few small neighborhoods of older homes….really
neat stuff….many from the old Hollywood era. We then head to Staples arena
area. This part of town is like a scene from the movie ‘Blade Runner’ set in LA
2017. Huge screens cover building sides, music and commercials flash all over.
A huge Coca-Cola sign is right out of BR! Next stop was lunch….and as neither
of us change what works…..we again, like 97, head for Pinks! Pinks is a hot dog
stand that has been on the same spot since 1939 and has served almost every
Hollywood star that has lived since then. Fantastic food. Another Chili dog (I
pattern) We watch for some famous stars but see none so we just pick some
folks and say the were famous. Then over to the Peterson auto museum. This is
a great place. We went in 97 but it is always changing. A little thin this year on
famous cars. Dr. Fates car from the film ‘The Great Race’ was there and as I
love movie cars that was cool.
We are just not party animals. I’m tired, trip catching up with me maybe….so off
to Buena Park and home. Freeways are parking lots so we take surface streets.
Got to see parts of LA no other tourist better go….but Terry knows the ins and
outs. Home and I lay down for a while…getting old is not fun….back in the day
we would go until late night….but 18:00 and we are in for the night! Later……
10:30 We are slowly getting ready to do something but not 100% sure what.
After we eliminate various options we check Knott’s Berry Farm online for times
and cost. They are only open until 18:00 oday but tickets are off season of $35
so we head off to Beach and La Palma streets. Terry drops me off at the front
gate. He’ll park while I get tickets. That price on the website is if you PAY
online!! ARGH….if I don’t go I’ll wish I had…so we pay full price. Knott’s….if you
are reading this ( I am sure they will) state that info on your site…..oh…but they
make more money by NOT telling you! We go in and Knott’s is very different
than even 14 years ago. Much has been removed of the old Knott’s that made it
a special place to me. The mission trail, church on the pond, little town, Model T’
s, Seals…..etc, etc. In their place was lots of thrill rides. We stick to main street
in Ghost Town. Much of it is the same. Good to see. The Smithy in the
Blacksmith shop looks like he may have been here a while so we ask him what
old stuff is around. He’s been there a while….but the ten years he has will not
go back far enough to remember the stuff we did as kids. We make it to the
Calico Mine ride. Opened in 1960 it was the favorite thing to do for me when I
Back in the 1960’s Knott’s had no admission fee….no fence around the property
for that matter. My folks would load us up and go to the park for a Sunday
evening. Free to park, get in and wonder. The Calico Mine was Fifty cents….it
was the big ticket item. My parents would give us the money to buy our tickets
and they often waited in the square. I look back now and remember the ride
being much longer and scarier than today. It is in need of some repair….but the
fact it has survived in this day of roller coasters I should be happy with that.
We walk some more….finding places that things were! We take our time….often
sitting and watching folks. We then decide to ride the train. Knotts again has
something few parks still do…..real vintage steam locos and cars. We
ride behind #41 Rio Grande Southern consolidation built in 1881. The train is
made up of 3 coaches, a cattle car modified for people an open gondola and
bobber caboose. We sit in the gondola. We get underway and are quickly ’
robbed’ by masked gun men. But these are modern ’bad guys’….joking and
talking and not shooting guns, yelling hasley and scaring every kid to death like
they did when we were kids! The fact they have robbers at all is amazing…..but
they are just too PC for me.
Soon the trains is running down a canyon…..but not a scenic man made one like
years gone….but one with ugly chain link fence about 3 feet
from both sides of the train. But we clear a turn and do get to see the engine
house and RGS Goose sitting trackside. The Goose is used on lower
attendance days and is a 1920’s era school bus with train wheels.
After our train ride we go over to the stage coach ride. They say these are real
Wells coaches. Getting in is tough…..these things were small inside. I nor Terry
had ever riden in the Stage so we felt the need….and the fact the Amtrak route I
had taken to get out there was over much of the Santa Fe trail where these
stages ran. About half a mile ride and I was done. Can’t imagine days in one of
these things! We poke around some more but ride nothing else. We thought
about the log ride…but just never got to it. Overall a good day, the cost was
way too high…but who knows…the train, stage and Calico mine might be
replaced by another coaster soon…….The Knott’s park closed at 18:00 and we
head home…..another late night for us!!! But with a bad knee and 3 legs
between us we worked pretty hard!
Note to Cedar Point…current Knott’s owners. You are making money.
Respect what Knott’s is…..older than Disney and a true
groundbreaker….and invest in the park….even the Calico mine ride….it
should be a national landmark. Fix it up, clean it up. You did disapoint
me by it’s condition. Off the soap box!
We decide to take a day off. It may seem we have been lazy but for us two we
have put in some miles for the amount of battle scars we wear. We spend the
day on the back porch, read, look through old photos, have lunch…..and sit….a
LOT. Sorry but that was it….not much to tell today.
There is a car and model show in Chatsworth we are going to go to. It’s a pretty
good drive here…and we are not sure what will be there….but up for the
adventure. We arrive and it is already a busy place. We have to park about half
a mile from the site. Hope for the best! The show, both, are free as is the
parking so how bad could it be? The model show is in a gym about half filled
with vendors and models. I find a few cheap odd ball kits, Terry a nice McLaren
M8A MPC kit. The car show covers about four big baseball fields and there are
vendors here too. A lot of decent cars but Terry and I found maybe 5 that hit it
with us. How many years can you look at the same Camaro, Mustang and Vette.
NO AMC’s or Hudsons and only 2 Studies. As we head for the car we stop at a
group of picnic tables to rest before the trek to the car! As I still there the guy
at the next able looks familiar. I think he’s from Spotlight hobbies BB. I lean
over and ask him if his name is Chris. Surprised he says yes. I introduce myself
and we talk for a while. 3000 miles and we have a chance meeting! We are
done pretty early at the show so we decide to head over to LAX and eat at the
In and Out for lunch. Terry says the planes fly over at tree top level. After we
order we sit outside and watch the planes. Pretty neat stuff…planes and
airlines I have never heard of…Cathy Pacific. We finish up eating and go stand
directly under the flight path. A 747 comes over…big plane….glad I don’t fly. We’
ve had enough and head toward ’The Park’ and home. We get home and Terry’
s dad says he’ll go pick up Taco Bell…..we all agree.
I was really hungry or Taco Bell is better here. Some TV, watch them over
analyze O’Samha’s death and off to bed….another late night! (NOT)
‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno day’ or better titled ‘A visit to planet
Hollyweird’! I know Jay’s show is in Burbank but Hollywerid sounds better than
Burbankwerid! This is a trip we have planned for a while. You have to apply for
tickets and jump through many a hoop. But we are here and ready to see a
show. A pretty quick trip to Burbank, freeways running better than average. We
get to the studio and enter the holding cage. This is the first stop on your trip to
getting into the show. After not too long they start telling you some basic rules
about attending the show. I’ve not had this many rules since Mulberry
elementary school…..and the first time we hear ’turn off all cell phones‘….but
we will hear that hundreds more times before the show. You are then broke
into smaller groups to head toward processing. This ordeal is more like what I
expect the aliens to do if they come rather than what happens at a talk/comedy
show. We get our turn to walk the 200 yards to ‘audience processing’. We are
told by a guy in a NBC page uniform we are not walking close enough to the
fence….we must walk close to the fence! Checkpoint One….present papers and
government ID. (this is sounding like a WWII or Alien invasion movie!)
Checkpoint Two…empty pockets of all items and place in TSA like bucket. This
is where I discover my one inch Swiss Army knife is a ‘dangerous weapon’
per NBC rules and it is taken. The NBC ‘cop’ tells me I can claim it after the
show…..I say ’good…I’ve had it for 30 years’, he then did the only act of true
honesty I saw from NBC employee….he leaned over and told me it would not be
there when I returned….I was tempted to take it and leave but it looked like
there was gun towers and if I ran……..Through the airport style metal detectors.
I told them efore entering I’d not pass….I don’t and then have to go through a
hand wand inspection which I also fail….should have kept my knife!
They mumble something and wave me on.
On to checkpoint Three. Present official paperwork and government ID again.
This time the paperwork is taken and you are issued a NBC number. We get
#116 and 117 out of 400 seats. We later find out a low number means nothing.
On to the outdoor seating….someone is yelling that we must sit in the order of
our NBC numbers….or else! While sitting we get a live commercial from a young
NBC page lady. She tells us more basic rules, same as the cage rules…and tells
us to use ours phones to check Tonight show online content…can we have
phones on or off? I am confused! They start audience loading….but now we see
the numbers have nothing to do with the order you go in. We get a little worried
we may not make it and with about 3 hours invested, so far, and paid parking
we are not happy. But we do get the call and enter the studio and Checkpoint
Four. Here our NBC num bers are taken and we are told for the umpteenth time
to turn off phones…the same phones the page girl just told us to turn on??
We climb some stairs and enter at the top of the studio. It looks smaller to me
than on TV. Again you are told to walk, stop, wait and sit by a page. A bit over
done but they have their way. We are seated a few rows up from the band on
far stage right. Pretty good seats really. A few more rules, phones off again, a
comedian does some OK warm up and Jay comes out in jeans and causal shirt.
He gives some info and a few jokes and asks if there are any questions. The
only questions are ‘can we take a picture with you?’ But now cameras are
allowed so I wonder how? The staff has a 1960’s vintage Polaroid they snap
pictures with and hand them to the audience member. No real interesting
questions…just more pics. One thing I notice right off….LOTS of NBC cops on
staff. Maybe because of the O’sama thing….maybe SOP. None of them talk or
crack even a smile.
Show starts, Jays stand up is a lot longer than what is shown on TV….they must
edit out the bombs. Police blotter in place of headlines but still good…but again
a number are edited out of the show shown that night. Paul Walker comes out,
ladies go wild, is OK but a bit dry. Donnie and Marie Osmond and a bit funnier
and after the show ends we found out friendlier as Paul jets out and Donnie and
Marie speak to the crowd and say thanks and joke some and hang around for a
few minutes. At the end of the show we have to sit down while they do some
sound recording of things they did not like and promos for the show. We are
instructed on how to exit. You don’t just get up and walk out but have to be told
when to stand, turn and walk out as if we all have a IQ below 10. Outside we
find the bucket that held all illegal items…..empty but for a book of matches
with one match left. And just as the NBC cop had told me….my knife was gone.
I asked about and only got some rude mumble again from another NBC cop.
Seems to be SOP.
Now if it appears like a visit to the Tonight show is a bust…..no. Butyou have to
be prepared to be treated like retarded cattle with no opinions or preferences.
The band was great…best thing on the show. Wayne Linsey was having a good
time. He played keyboard and was having a better time than anyone on the
show. The band should get more air but that’s not what it’s about. You guys
rock and made it worth the visit! It was fun seeing how the show is made….glad
I went but will hold out for Conan next time….or even Ellen just down the
street…..that audience was leaving at the same time we were and they all had
gifts….plus we later heard you are not cattle at Ellen.
We head toward the freeway after passing Travel town and the zoo. Eat at Ruby’
s at the old Uniroyal plant just off the freeway. Great food again. Back to the
house and done for the day.
We start off not having a plan and just looking at stuff. We end up watching
some old races Terry had DVR’ed and the movie ‘Lively Set’ which I had brought
with me. We had wanted to go out to the desert where they filmed the movie
but time is just going to run out. We decide to go and see ‘Fast Five’ the ‘Fast
and the Furious’ squeal. If you go please leave your brain at home. They say it
takes place after #2 or something like that but has 2011 Dodge Chargers in it. If
you think about it logically you will get a brain cramp. For fun count how many
times the same car window gets shot out or broken! After the movie some
Mickey D’s and home. This is late for us….it’s 23:00 when we hit the driveway.
Car show day. We load up the Hudson for a trip to Pomona Fairplex for a car
show. This show is held in the parking lot of the NHRA museum and it is also
open today. The Hudson rides like a dream on the freeway. I am in the back
seat….I could ride to West Virginia back here. Big roomy seat and a rear
quarter window vent make even the warm day a comfortable ride. We left early
so we could go by Pegasus Hobby, they make a lot of model kits and
accessories I use. The hobby shop is huge and lots of stock…but their help is a
The guy in the model section tries to tell us that Polar Lights kits, all of them,
are re-issues of other manufactures. Also that PL funny car kits
are just old Revell tools. He has it all wrong and I feel like correcting but just
nod and walk on. This guy telling me and Terry about models is
like someone else telling Mr K about Hudsons! We get to the Fairplex and even
though we are still early spots are filling up…..see….everyone
wants a spot on the back row….the row with big trees and thus shade! We
park next to a hot rodded Helms Bakery truck. These truck used to
come down your street each day with baked goods. The driver would stop or
you could flag him down. He had all the normal bakery stuff but
what always got us to the street was the six foot long drawers that pulled from
the back of the truck that held fresh doughnuts! John might remember it as the
nut-nut truck! All I remember is that doughnuts were 13 cents and we often
paid in pennies.
The NHRA museum was very well done if not a bit small. Even in the cool of the
museum I was getting tired from the now very hot day. I
headed for the car and our chairs under the big tree and beside the cooler! I
looked at a number of cars on the way back and when we got
to the car Terry and Cameron went to look some more….I took the chair and
shade. The show changes all day. The retired guys show up first
but some leave early….and as they go others fill their slots. And as the day goes
on the younger hot rodders show up. The Helms truck left
about 16:00 and a 1958 Ford F-100 showed up with a rock-a-billy couple. He had
the rolled up jeans and white T shirt while she had a
knee length dress with lots of tattoos and cute little purse. We packed it in
about 17:00 and hit the freeway in the Hudson. At home we called in Pizza Hut
as we were all tired out. Some TV and another day done. Later……
Terry’s sister Cindy is flying in today. She’s coming in to visit a friend. It’s great
timing as we have not seen each other in years. We hang around the house
until noon and head for Long Beach airport. It doesn’t take long to get there and
Terry and I get out while Mr K parks in the cell phone lot…..every airport out
here has them….waiting lots until you get the call and then you get 3 minutes in
the loading zone. Seems to work pretty well. Terry and I wait at the luggage
area. I wonder if I could even recognize Cindy if I had to. When she walks out
the door I see I could find her in a crowd. She says she would know it’s me but
that is more being nice than truth I think! She looks the same….just a bit older….
I look like someones grandpa…..cause I am! Leaving the airport Terry spots a
SAAB convertible in front of us. He wonders out loud how it’s still running. Cindy
says ‘It’s the same model Seinfeld had on his show’! That was the first of many
things that happened all week that made it seem we had all grown up together
in Whittier rather than us moving 3000 miles away while we were in our teens.
Terry an I run to the grocery store as we are going to fix dinner for us all
tonight. We buy some steaks (maybe I should have gotten
sponsorship from the beef council before I left) salad fixins and veggies. We go
home and throw the steaks on the grill and we all eat on the
back porch….on the coolest night this week! We sit around and talk, some TV
and DONE! Later…..
We’re going to Disneyland!!! We…almost any way. I’d like to visit the park but
parking and tickets will be about $170 so we opt for Downtown Disney instead.
We wonder through the shops, walk over to the Disneyland entrance and look
over the fence. I find shirts for my granddaughter and wife and toys for my
grandson. Walk over to the big Disney lodge and see how the rich folks live…..
We run over to another hobby shop…well stocked in Euro and Japanese kits.
We take in some areas we used to live and head home. B-Ball and dinner.
Terry’s birthday today. He said he had no big plans so we decided to head to
downtown Los Angeles and do a few things on our list. We had
planned to do this Thursday but found out the train from Buena Park to Union
Station other than morning and afternoon rush. We thought they ran all day but
fund otherwise. But as I had figured that Terry’s birthday would be busy I totally
forgot that 5/7 was national train day and LA Union Station was packed! There
was no parking and plenty of rude rent-a-cop traffic directors so we went
across the street to Olvera St a historic Mexican village area. They were having
a belated ‘Cinco de Mayo’ day celebration. It started to look like a day O bust.
As we headed to the older (historic) part of LA we encountered more blocked
streets. Some other celebration going on. After many turns and loops we find
the Bradbury building….but no parking and we are forced to turn left…..but our
luck had changed as we turn left into a parking spot very close to the Bradbury.
We walk across the street and there is a security guard standing in front of the
door. I fear we have hit another disappointment. But as we walk up to the door
she says ’go right in gentleman’ we don’t see any gentlemen so we go in their
place. The Bradbury is empty but for us. It’s like walking into a movie. The
Bradbury has been in a number of movies, Blade Runner with Harrison Ford the
most well known. The 1893 structure is beautiful. Restored in the early 1990’s
it looks like 1893 Los Angeles. But the building looks tiny to what you see on
the big screen. The atrium is only 16 to 18 feet wide…..but it is five stories tall
and the roof is all glass. As I look up I can almost see a advertising blimp for off
world colonies!! Terry and I are both in awe of this building. We stay and talk
photos for 20 minutes before some tourist come in…..illusion ruined. On the last
picture I take the camera batteries die. I need batteries….we still have a few
places to go. Near our parked car is a Pharmacia…..they should have batteries.
I walk in and notice thusands of figurines. Many I can recognize…..
Jesus on and off a cross, Mary, what I think are Popes and assorted bare
crosses. But there is a whole section of figures, some six inches and others two
foot tall, of very scary skeletons wrapped in robes. Terry says the are for the ’
Day of the Dead’ observance. There are also thousands of candles for sale and
just as many lit. There are shelves filled natural herbs and cures. I am not in
West Virginia for sure……and not even Buena Park! I see not batteries so I ask
a lady behind the counter who never acted like she saw me come in. She says
yes and has me follow her. The batteries are on a rack near the ceiling and it
takes a long grabber thingy for her to get them. $3 and I am back in business. I’
d taken pictures in the Pharmacia but they might have thought I was crazy.
Back in the car and our last few stops. A few turns and we are at Angles Flight,
a incline railroad up to Bunker Hill. Fifty cents for a round trip but we are
pushed for time. (we were trying to do this in 3 hours….a feat never done so I
am told!) To the car and a drive by of the downtown tunnel under Bunker Hill….it
has a name but I can’t recall…..been in a number of movies too. We are done
and we have an hour to get from downton LA to Buena Park….or we both will be
in trouble! A side trip through East LA to get us on the freeway. One
thing that keeps coming up in my mind is am I unable to grasp the size, scope,
complexity, people and issues of the Los Angles basin. We
heard there are 50,000 homeless children in LA county, and more adults. We
saw hundreds today…..maybe thousands of homeless men
and women. The complexity of their transportation system alone is mind
boggling. The other issues even more so. I am not sure how they keep it going.
We make it home in plenty of time but do hit our first traffic jam since I came to
California. We get cleaned up and dressed so Mr K can take
us out to eat for Terry’s birthday. The Black Angus steak house is Terry’s
choice. A friend of Terry’s will be coming too. The five of us load into the Prius,
and not really crowded. We are seated in a large booth. I order a big Philly
staek sandwich while the others order steak…but I’ll
be eating steak on the train so I want a Philly. Food is good as is service. It’s
funny how we do not see each other very often, last time I saw Cindy was 14
years ago, but pick back up as if we last saw each other last week. We all talk
and joke with each other and have a good time. Back home we have some B-
day cake, sit for a while and turn in…A pretty good last full day in
California…hard to think it’s almost over.
LAST DAY IN CALIFORNIA….today I will repack as I know how now. For multi
day train travel you need to split your stuff into two sets of luggage. One Amtrak
stows and one you keep in your room. You want a small one for the room….and
the good thing is the stowed luggage is downstairs and accessible. I finish
packing, do some computer work and a final sweep for stuff. Terry has been
gone most the day helping a friend with her mother.
Time to go to the Fullerton Amtrak station. And we go in style too! Mr K pulls out
the Hudson for our trip. It’s very fitting…..a vintage car for a trip on a method of
transportation some may call ’vintage’. We arrive at the station a little early, it’s
a little cool…..maybe even cold. Terry and his Dad hang around for a while but
as cold and windy as it is I tell them to go on home. We say our goodbyes and I
tell Mr K how much this trip has meant to me. They head home and I head up
platform where the sleeper cars will stop. The train is in the station about a
minute early. Lots more folks getting on here than I thought. One twenty-
something girl is only going to Needles….that’s a shorter trip than I take to
Charleston on the train to see the kids. I get on and find my roomette quickly
this time as I am now a veteran! I am excited to be back on the train….but just
as I am happy….I realize that being back on the train means my trip is over and
I am leaving California. Not that I don’t want to go home but rather the trip Terry
and I planned and plotted for for six months is in it’s final stage. Now I am really
confused….sitting here happy and sad at the same time. I sit b ack and
just chill for a while.
Big surprise! They are holding a late dinner and I already have my reservation.
Good thing as I have not eaten much today. Under way for a few minutes and it’
s my dinner time. I sit with two guys maybe 10-15 years older than I, both
traveling alone but married. All of us retired white collar guys and all love the
train. I look at the menu only to make sure my steak is on there….it is and I
order it. The steak is great like it has been every time. Tonight’s steak is even
better as my chef has put a great caramelized coating on both sides. Back to
my room and as it’s dark out I have it turned into my bedroom. Elliott calls on
his way home from work….he had a busy Mother’s day at the restaurant and
made some good money. I turn off the lights and fall asleep quickly.
5/09/2011 Monday on the Chief again
I’ll skip most of the detail for the trip home. My roomette is on the same side of
the train as it was on the trip out….good and bad. I can check out things I saw
but will not see much new! Same routine of write some, meals, watching the
fantastic scenery go buy. I still love the train…the only way to go. The only
bump is our cars PA system is out and they do not think it will be fixed any time
soon. Our car steward can repeat announcements but fails to do so 99% of the
time. Rene spoiled me bad.
Another small bump. The air conditioning on our car is not working 100%. Good
thing it’s not hot outside. A little research on the net shows our Sleeper 32112
was wrecked and returned to service about a year ago. Seems it has a few
bugs still. NOT a trip killer but an annoyance for sure. Amtrak needs some
funding for repairs and maybe some new Superliner cars. With fuel prices going
like they are I can see more folks choosing it. Steward makes my room into a
bedroom and I am ready for my last night in a roomette. Later…….
5/10/2011 Tuesday on the Chief
We are getting to see some territory in daylight that we passed through in the
night on the trip out. So I get some new scenery and I get out at Kansas City
and take some pictures. Again good food, friendly folks, relaxing ride in my
Rumors are running about the Mississippi being to high for us to cross….it is
high but we cross without a problem. A number of Amtrak trains have been
cancelled due to the awful flooding so we are lucky.
We roll into Chicago Union Station four minutes early…..and a good thing too! I
find that I have no phone charger and my phone is about dead. Using the
knowledge gained on my trip West I check my luggage at the Metropolitan
lounge. I hit the streets in search of a charger….should be easy in a city this
size….right??? Union Station is about one clock from Canal St named for the
canal/river running there. I ask a few locals where I might find a phone store or
electronics store. I get some friendly help but discover many Chicagoans know
their downtown about as well as I do! Locals keep telling me there is a place ’
one block over’. I keep getting this advise until I am on the other side of Sears
Tower (they call it something else but I forgot) I find a phone store but clerk
tells me no one has a charger for my ANCIENT Moto Razor. But he does find a
universal charger that will work….and only $40! But I have to have it. I head
back to Union Station and get turned around some…not lost but I am really tired
and my store bought leg is slowing me. A very nice female Chicago cop helps
me with the shortest route back to the staion. I get to the Canal St entrance to
Union and still have a few hours before I board the Cardinal. I sit for a while on a
plaza over looking the canal. Chicago is a busy place late afternoon with
thousands of folks using commuter rail to get home. The city looks great from
my seat but time to head for the lounge and await my train.
We are late loading the Cardinal and again they rush us. I am already missing
my roomette. I thought about asking at the Amtrak desk to see if there were
any roomettes open….I regret not doing so now.
The coach car is pretty packed. Good for rail travel and Amtrak…not so good for
me after a few days on a train already. We get no further than Dyer IN before a
female passenger, that was causing an issue, stops the train. She had 3 large
bags and wanted to keep them all in her seat. The Amtrak crew did a very good
job trying to please her and get her settled. The more they tried the louder and
more violent she became. Soon she was yelling and threatening the passengers
and Amtrak crew. At the Dyer stop two local police officers boarded the train
and asked her to get off and talk to them. They too did a very good job keeping
things civil. The cops and female passenger got off the train….but when the
lady saw the police car she went bananas and the police had to hold on to her
and take her away.
This may seem over the top some but in this day and age, with threats against
the US rail system this lady of foreign descent had to be dealt with as a threat.
All involved acted in a textbook manner. And I will admit I was a little worried
when she started clutching her bags and acting violently. I later saw the
Conductor in the snack car and told him I appreciated his actions. He said it
was all in his job description and said there was no discount for crazy folks on
This event seemed to set the tone for the trip. Two other passengers were
threatened with removal from the train after they too were acting out of the
norm and disrupting the peace. Both stayed on the train but were more
subdued. Kudos to the Amtrak crew again.
I am going to try and sleep some….but this seat is no roomette…not bad but I
miss that room!
5/11/2011 Last day of my adventure!
When I wake up I call the Amtrak phone number to see where we are and if we
are on time. I find we are running late and are expected to run late for the
whole trip. After a while I find out from the Conductor we are runnig under a
order of 40 mph max speed due to flash flood watch along our route. We will not
make up any time today. I sit back and try to relax but the wild passengers, bad
weather and being gone for longer than I have in many years has me ready to
get off. We run slowly but uneventfully through Huntington, Charleston and into
the New river gorge.
We get into Ronceverte WV and grind to a halt. Track work ahead has made us
later than the four hours we are already. The conductor finds out the work is on
the other side of the WSS tunnel. He asks the dispatcher to allow us into the
station at least. We get the go ahead at 10 mph. I LOVE my trains and will travel
again as soon as I can….but I want off…NOW! To add to the confusion because
of the ’track work’ and the fact the Cardinal will have to sit at WSS they have
announced that WSS will be the ’fresh air’ (smokers) stop and not Clifton Forge.
The smokers are now in a near panic to get off the train and are standing
behind me panting! One woman smoker has a child with her who is barking like
a dog LOUDLY! This is becoming like a bad movie….Planes, Trains and
Automobiles comes to mind!
We finally pull into White Sulfur Springs WV station. I do get off first and my wife,
there for over four hours, is waiting. The smokers are in Heaven and if I can
get away from their smoke I will be too. Still a 40 minute drive to my house but
my trip slash adventure is pretty much over. Six months planning, almost three
weeks gone and it’s down to the 40 minute ride home in the car.
Now I don’t want to sound like one of ‘those’ people. But this trip was more than
the miles traveled and places visited. After my health issues in 2003 I had cut
back on many things. I was even accused of being agoraphobic and withdrawn.
( I may have been at times) But this trip helped show me I can still do things
that I did before. Terry helped this process a lot. I do not think I realized how
much having a peer to help you get back to ‘normal’ after something ‘derails’
your life for a while. I am even more confident about day to day things. Priorities
have changed some too. Things are not as important as friends and family are. I
was never one that filled my life with ‘stuff’ but this trip made things even less
Amtrak does a pretty good job for the resources it has. They do a lot of things
right, have a number of really good people that evidently love their jobs. There
is plenty of room for improvement. Some small, some very big and will take a
major shift in the way the public travels before they can even be considered.
Amtrak needs more exclusive rails, some updated and some new equipment.
With the up swing in rail travel the past year I don’t see an easy way for the
cars in service to get fixed and/or upgraded without impact to service. The
Feds need to send some cash to Beech Grove for sure.
Again this log (I hate the term blog) was done mostly for myself, family and
friends. If anyone reads it all….THANKS! If no one does…at least I will not forget
most of my adventure any time soon. Later…….I want to go again next year!