Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

Long & Winding [rail]Road

Restless night. Went to bed @ 10, to sleep @ 11 (?) Up several times. 7 am alarm got zapped immediately, and I was out of bed in 10 minutes. Did all my morning stuff, finished packing, decided to bring a pair of jeans cutoffs after all and finished packing again.

Out the door by 8:10, at the RR station by 8:30. Parked, got my tickets, got the parking permit, back to the car to put the permit on the dash and find a better spot than next to the dumpster. Got my stuff out of the car and into the station, which was much less of an eye candy parade than on weekdays. It seems they have added two more tracks, and shifted Caltrain to them.

They now have someone to hustle Amtrak passengers to the right platform and the right place on the platform in plenty of time. Train was about 5 minutes early, but hustler got us out there 20 minutes early, promising it would be there in 10.

Coast Starlight: There was a lot of slow going, for no apparent reason, and the fastest piece was pulling through santa barbara at the end of my trip. We were early to all the stops, as a testament to how very padded the schedule is.

There were two annoyances on the trip. Last one first: A boy of about 10 was playing his gameboy with the sound up just enough to be at the edge of hearing for me, two rows ahead and across the aisle. His parents finally shoved earbuds into his head, maybe half an hour later. This was at Paso Robles, where a dozen people got on without tickets because the ticket office is closed weekends there, and they had not gone online to reserve one which could be printed at the machines. The conductor passed right by the kid twice, and stood about 5 feet away, but didn't say a word. He was too busy chatting up the ticket buyers.

The other annoyance started as soon as  got seated in San Jose. The guy one row ahead, across the aisle was on his phone for half an hour, trying to get someone in LA to help him figure out the sales catalog. The LA guy finally tells him he has to go, it's his daughter's graduation. And I'm thinking, "you're on a train, it's Saturday, put the work away already".

But no, he figures he will attack this on his own. He fires up his Sony Vaio industrial strength laptop, uses his cell phone as a wi-fi hub, and tries to make a VPN connection. It keeps dropping on him. He's on a train, we're going through places where there is no data signal, but what does he do? He calls his tech support person. He tells the person he is sure it is a hardware problem, must be the vibration of the train has scratched the hard drive. He has apparently not noticed the 8 other people in our car who have their laptops running just fine. I don't know what his support person told him to do, but what he did was run either a surface scan or other last resort operation on his hard drive. The kind that takes several hours. He expected it to run for a few minutes. The fact that it was running at all should have told him there was  no hard drive issue. Anyhow, he sat there for about an hour watching the useless progress bar in the dialog box, then set the machine aside and read a magazine, then went back to reading his catalog. The good news is it got him off the phone, and kept him off. And probably kept him from doing any real damage. .

He finally went to the snack bar, which gave me a chance to see him from the front. 50-ish hippie wannabe, long brown hair in a pony tail, work shirt and pants, and very worn hard-toed work boots. It finished as we were approaching Santa Barbara. I'm glad I was not going to be there for the trip to LA.

Just as an aside, I worked for Sony laptop QA a few years back, and those Viaos  had to withstand a drop of 6". No way would a little train rattling affect them.

Oh, one more annoyance, but it's a given on Amtrak. They never wash the windows. One would think that on their premier sightseeing train they would wash the windows at every stop.

As always, the scenery is always interesting, often beautiful. I'll post pix when I get home.

Walked from the station to the Day's Inn. The plan was to plug in my phone (it was down to 50%) and get online and write this, then go to dinner at one of the harbor restaurants, and find the boat I'll be whale watching on tomorrow afternoon. It was a slightly longer walk than I thought, and when I got there the power was out. Strange but true the electronic key worked. But nothing to plug into, no wi-fi. And it was chilly out there. Fog had been the order of the day, and it was much cooler here than San Jose.

So I put on my windbreaker, popped my kindle into a collapsible pack, slung my camera over my shoulder and headed for the harbor.

The lights were out at the intersection.

None of the harbor restaurants were open, they closed when the power went out.

I got some interesting shots of a sea urchin fisherman unloading his catch with the help of a forklift and a long rope because there was no power to the winch on the dock.

So, plan B. I walked about a mile and a half to the Santa Barbabra Fish House. I don't know why I didn't stop at the first place I saw. This was the 4th (skilled the pizza place and the Mexican one). What attracted me was the sign outside which said most of the fish were caught locally. Big fat lie.

When I walked in it was about 7:30 and it was still light outside. I was able to read the menu no problem. I was seated immediately, but it took 5 minutes for a waiter to show up. I ordered a sparkling water and a cup of clam chowder. After I had finished the watery, bland chowder in the tiny cup, he took my order. It took me a long time to decide because nothing on the menu was local. Atlantic salmon, snow crab, Chilean sea bass, Maine lobster, Mahi Mahi, and on and on. The only item which stood a chance of being local other was petrale sole, so I ordered it.

It arrived 20 minutes later. Meanwhile, the sun had gone down and there was not enough light to read by. I sat there, ignored, couldn't catch any waitperson's eye. There was a bread plate, but no bread. When a minion finally slipped my oerder  onto my table and ran away, the sole  tasted soapy. The waiter asked me if it was excellent, and I told him it was ok. He asked what they could to to make it taste excellent, but I had no idea. He ignored me for about 15 minutes, I finally flagged him down for my check. Paid cash, over-tipped. Will be posting a nastygram on Yelp.

Walked back, looking for possible sweets. Checked out the coffee shop  - free wi-fi, open 24 hours, but they had run out of cakes & such. I'll probably park there after the cruise tomorrow.

As I got closer to the harbor, I saw all the lights were on. The motel was lit up too, wi-fi is working but I needed to get the login code from the office.

So I'm happy enough.

Plans for tomorrow:
Free breakfast in the hotel office, but it's a tiny place so probably will need supplementing outside.
Hit the local camera store and see if they have a better x-300mm zoom than the one I'm using. It doesn't seem to focus past 200mm.
Buy a sweatshirt or jacket to take on the cruise. It's going to be very cold, if today is any indication
Play tourist
whale watching cruise at 4pm
Tags: food, trains, travel

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