Saturday, February 18, 2012

Riding the rails is an adventure!

For an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it.
Jean-Paul Sartre

One of my traveling hobbies is visiting and photographing Carnegie Libraries across the country.  Naturally I haven’t gotten around to many of the 89 still remaining in my own state of California so before sister Micki took me to the Oxnard AMTRAK station we stopped at the nearby Carnegie Library (now the Carnegie Art Museum.) This elegant structure was built in 1906-07 with funds granted by Andrew Carnegie. The section to the left of the Doric columns is an addition which blends seamlessly with the original building.


Across the street we checked out the Oxnard Veteran’s Memorial.  Each of the pyramids is dedicated to a different war.


Our reflections in the World War II pyramid.


This trip from Oxnard to Salinas was an adventure that started off with the train being about 40 minutes late and ended with arriving in Salinas  1-1/2 hours late.

The train was crowded so my assigned aisle seat would have felt cramped but since I had already decided to ride in the Observation Car I went straight there after having my ticket taken by the conductor.

I love to people watch, at the mall, at restaurants, Costco is great and just anywhere there are people, and the train has proven to be a perfect place to observe all sorts of unique and interesting characters.

As I sat down in the Observation Car I noticed two men who reminded me of a Hispanic version of George & Lennie in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.   They were speaking Spanish so I couldn’t understand their conversation but the younger “Lennie” seemed to be looking to the “older” George for guidance.   I imagined Lennie saying to George: “I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why."

of mice and men book cover

When I finally able to nab a seat on the ocean side of the observation car a down and out  kind of  guy sat in a seat near to me and struck up a conversation.  “What is a lady like you doing traveling alone?”  Was he trying to pick me up?    I just don’t know?!  After I had quashed any such notion we had an interesting conversation.  His story is that he is going to be rich when he publishes his Sci-Fi novel.  So far he has the first 2-3 chapters in his head all ready to put pencil to paper!  He also shared that he would like to have a wife but only wants an Oriental because she would be submissive and take care of him!  I rolled my eyes at him at this statement!  (I later saw him try to strike up a conversation with an Oriental girl - she shut him down very quickly)

While we were talking a  man who earlier had been intently watching the ocean stopped to tell the down and out guy about his embarrassing attempt to buy beer during the stop in San Luis Obispo. He walked across the street to what appeared to be a restaurant, walked in and asked if they sold beer.   The answer, given with a real chuckle, was  “No, we don’t, this is an AA meeting.”  Turned out that it was an antique store used for their AA meetings!  When down and out guy  left the older man told me that down & out was his seatmate and had tried unsuccessfully to sell him his watch. He did sell it to another passenger for $30 and then bought beer.

Another trip I talked to  Travisteen Helms who I learned is a composer of blues, jazz and country songs.

I also heard another 30-ish passenger say that he was on his way to see his Mother whom he hadn’t seen since he was 12 years old, some 20 years ago. Must be quite a story there.

Riding the train is an experience! During the four months of train trips back and forth from Oxnard to Salinas I observed some real characters. On one trip someone died of a heart attack. Another time, after several announcements that drunk and disorderly conduct was not be tolerated, the train made an unscheduled stop to turn a drunk and disorderly person over to law enforcement!

A Pacific coast sunset taken from the train.


It is SO good to be home; we are hopeful that this is the last trip for this reason!  Gary had leftover pizza from Casa Sorrento – yummy!

Life is either a great adventure or nothing. Helen Keller


  1. Your last trip? Well I enjoy going with you all over the US. And loved that quote. Sandie

  2. Sounds like you could write a book about the peole on the train! That one guy .. whew! Sounds like a piece of work.