leaving Oxnard now about 50 miles west of Los Angeles and on the California Coast.
As the waiter takes our order our train is on a bluff just above the beach.
There's no road between us and the ocean. Generally I'm driving this stretch of
Hwy 101 at 70 mph. Now I can kick back and really take in the beauty.
Santa Cruz Island stands out like it's a postcard. The ocean is brilliant blue.
It must be reflecting the absolutely clear deep blue sky. There's not a cloud
around. People on the beach are waving to us. The waiter brings lunch. I have
fettucine and my wife a club sandwich. The food is surprisingly good. Maybe it's
just the view of the blue water, golden sand, and blue sky that makes it taste
so good. The beaches aren't crowded.
Only a few surfers are in the water
which is unseasonably warm. Around 70 degrees the surf report said. Santa Barbara
is coming up now. It's been about 30 minutes since we left Oxnard. I feel like
we're pulling into a beautiful Mexican town. Many of the houses and buildings
have red tile roofs. Unlike most of the Southern California coast, Santa Barbara
has lots of trees giving it a real tropical feel.
We're not at the station
5 minutes and we're pulling out. This is the part of the trip I've looked foward
to the most. About 20 or 30 miles north of Santa Barbara, Hwy 101 veers off to
go inland. The train tracks continue to follow the coast . You can only see this
part of the California coast by train or by taking narrow winding county roads.
As we head away from the highway we pass Gaviota State Park.
right at the edge of the beach. The campground has nice trees for shade. Visitors
can easily walk out onto the beach. If you'd shown me a picture of this view I'd
thought it was of a deserted Mexican beach on the Pacific coast. I knew the park
was here. However, from the road you can't see how neat it is. I can now see several
of the other Channel Islands. There's Santa Rosa and the smaller one to the north
is San Miguel.
On the right side of the train are rolling grasslands.
In the low areas farmers are growing alfalfa. Cattle roam the hills. This is super.
Up on the hill there's a farmhouse. A woman is outside waving a big American flag
at us. She must do this for each Amtrak that passes by. On the beach to the left
there's no one. There's not a track in the sand.
The train is going slowly
through this area. According to the schedule it's going to take us several hours
to get past this part of the coast. I'd brought a book to read but I can't look
at it. My nose is pushed to the glass while I watch the pelicans flying in formation
out over the waves. One of the conducters tells me she hasn't seen it this clear
and beautiful for weeks. Lately it's been foggy or overcast. Today is our lucky
If you want to see the Southern California coast the way it looked
80 years ago you got to take this train trip. Round trip from Los Angeles was