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Travlin' by Amtrak On the California Beach Train- 1997


We're 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.

It's nestled 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 day.

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 $51.


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