Did my morning stuff a little early, set the computer to not turn itself on at 6:30 every morning, disabled the clock radio alarms. Finished packing and was out the door at about 8:45. Amtrak was reporting the train on time, something of a miracle. Got my tickets & parking pass, and waited. The train was not due to leave till 10:05, and it was only 9:05. After half an hour or so a huge dump of high school students with packs and bedrolls came into the lobby from one of the other trains, and it was clear they would be getting on mine. I hate when that happens.
Train arrived at 9:40, way early. They are doing some construction, and half the loading area is blocked off, so they unloaded and loaded the sleeper cars, then moved the train forward to load the coach cars. Lucky me, the high schoolers got their own car (there were two groups) and I got a decent seat by myself in the last car. Well, sort of decent. It was on the left by the window, which is the shady side, but it was one of those seats where the window was split - I could look out directly to my left, but the normal view ahead and to the left was a panel with a curtain. Horrible for seeing what was coming up, and not so good for photography.
Luckily there was plenty of room in the observation car. Unluckily they still have the stupid skylights and high-glare windows. I should write a nastygram.
I was hoping the jazz band would be playing at the station at San Louis Obispo, especially since we got there early, but there was no music. I went into the station and saw Justin, the trumpet player, who is a major train buff, helping at the Train Day refreshment stand. There was a big crowd, so I went outside and walked back to where my car was, and took some photos. As I was bending down to snap one of a grasshopper, Justin said hi. We chatted for a bit, it turns out they stopped playing at 2:30, because the rest of the band had other commitments.
The good news is the students got off at SLO. This meant as soon as the train was underway, I was able to move up a car, and get a window seat where there was no blocking panel. I sat in the right, because the ocean would be coming up on that side. But there was no one on the left, so a couple of times I scooted over there for a shot.
The trip was something of a miracle. We were early to every station on the route. Half an hour early to Santa Barbara. This has never happened to me before on Amtrak. One of the factors seems to have been that they added a heavy duty Northern Cascades RR engine, so there were three pulling the train. But it also means Union Pacific was not playing its usual games.
No complaints from me - it meant it was still daylight all the way down here, so I was able to take some photos I haven't been able to get before.
Punched the hotel's name into the google map on the iPhone, and it pointed me at a spot which turned out to be a block past the motel. Pulled up the email, looked at the address, and walked back to where it was cleverly hidden.
Nice place, clean, new-ish furniture, tiny bathroom, closet-sized shower. Free wi-fi works with no login needed.
Unpacked, and headed to town for dinner. Instead of walking along the beach street, I took the residential street which the motel is across from. I had not gone more than 5 houses when I saw two little kids playing in the front yard, the boy was about 5 and he was asking his sister, about 7, "what is that? what do you want?" Except he was saying it in Thai. I asked the girl in Thai if they were speaking Thai, and she was totally amazed. I told her I used to work in Bangkok, said goodbye and left them to their playing.
Got to State Street, found this place called Enterprise Fish which had caught my eye - too late - last time. Looked at the menu, it was a bit steep but maybe worth a try. Except I wasn't really hungry yet. So I walked up the street a bit, and of course the first restaurant after that was Thai. Called "Zen Yai" which means "Big Zen". It was tiny and dark and packed. And I didn't come to SB for Thai food. There was some special dress code event at the Savoy, it reminded me of the last model shoot I'd gone on. An enterprising blond woman was running around in charge, making rules up as she went. The line was seriously blocking traffic. I was amused. It is so much fun to watch someone with Vast Ideas but half-vast skills.
Eventually found my way back to Enterprise, the wait, they said, was 30-45 minutes. No problem, it's a nice evening, there's a place to sit outside, and there's a lobster in my shirt pocket.
I started poking around FB on the iPhone, and also had the Kindle out. In about 7 minutes the lobster went off.
They gave me a table in the "reserved" section near the bar. Too dim to read, but the whole place is dark. My waitress is tall and Scandinavian and has a gorgeous smile. There's a little too much of her for my taste, but only because of how tall she is. Let's call hers a competitive skier's figure. She looked a little puzzled when I started by telling her my cardiologist said I was not in imminent danger of a heart attack, but she got it when I asked the market price of the lobster. It was not quite double what it was worth. I had the shrimp & scallop fettuccine instead.
Service was superb, especially for a packed place like that. The food was good, they went easy on the salt. The place is horribly noisy, and to add to the pain they have the cheapest, tinniest speakers over-modulating Bad Music in the bar area. I had to plug in the iPhone and play Jimmy Buffet tunes to block it. When I got the bill I was pleased to see the tip suggestions were computed pre-tax, as God intended. So I rounded up.
The walk back was pleasant, no wind to speak of, quiet neighborhood.
Plans for tomorrow:
Be a tourist