My wife Lana and I decided a couple of days ago to take a trip to San Francisco on Amtrak's Capitol Corridor. We have taken this trip twice before and have found it extremely enjoyable and relaxing to get to San Francisco without the hassle of traffic, driving and finding a place to park. I have heard horror stories of garages in San Francisco charging $50 to park for TWO HOURS!
We arrived in Roseville an hour early so that we could eat breakfast at the Pacific Street Café, which is just a short walk from the Roseville Depot. After breakfast, which consisted of biscuits, gravy, bacon, sausage, eggs and lots of coffee, we walked on over to the depot to wait for train #729 which was due to arrive at 8:03 AM from Auburn. While eating breakfast we heard two Union Pacific employees talking at an adjacent table about conditions working in Roseville Yard. Since this restaurant is so close by to the yard, many UP employees frequent the Pacific St. Café with some locomotive crews taking their food "to go."
It was so good to be on board a train again after nearly 3 months! The last trip I took was back on May 26, 2001 to Monterey. Though we had already ate breakfast, both of us wanted something to munch on, so I went to the snack car just one car ahead of us and bought potato chips and Pepsi (only two more years left on Pepsi's stronghold on Amtrak!). Sorry all you Pepsi-lovers, I drink Coke and I hope they sign a contract with Amtrak (Pepsi signed a six-year deal to keep Pepsi on all Amtrak trains and lock out Coca Cola Co. in 1997). I could be wrong on the year. Maybe the contract expires in 2002 since I heard about this from an Amtrak employee in 1996.
There was quite a crowd that boarded in Roseville, and most were destined for Emeryville and Oakland. Trains have been delayed between Roseville and Sacramento due to extensive tie replacement on both mains. I have heard the foreman of the tie gang talking trains through there for a couple of weeks now. Also there are brand new bundles of 15 ties placed along both sides of the main tracks between Roseville and Sacramento. Unfortunately, some were stolen a few weeks ago so the UP police are out in force until this project is done. Trains are being slowed to 25 MPH for most of the way between Roseville and Haggin. Thanks to schedule padding for our train, we arrived into Sacramento 1 minute late!
On the adjacent track, #11, the two-hour late southbound Coast Starlight was being serviced and receiving passengers. Since our train was ready to go before #11, we were given the signal to depart. We were close to on time and the DS wanted to see if we could make up time along the way. The saying that "a late train only gets later" holds true here. #11 had a typical consist and two P42 locomotiv4es on the front, # 20 and #112 back-to-back.
The rest of the trip was uneventful but there was quite a bit of train congestion occurred near Martinez. Our train departed the depot westbound while eastbound Capitol #724 was waiting to come into the depot. Meanwhile, #11 was nipping at our heels by now with the stop we made at Suisun-Fairfield (#11 does not stop there so it had time to catch up to us). #11 was held out of Martinez until #724 cleared. Moments later, we passed eastbound #6, the California Zephyr bound for Chicago. It went by very quickly but I saw two P42 locomotives, one in Phase III and the other in Phase V paint scheme, 3 sleepers, dining car, lounge, 3 coaches, 5 Ambox cars and the baggage car on the end. When I picked up our tickets in Roseville and saw #6 go through the previous day, the baggage car was on the end. Usually the baggage car is placed between the trailing locomotive and the transition sleeper so an attendant can service the baggage car between stops.
We boarded our throughway bus to Fisherman's Wharf in Emeryville and the driver did not turn on any kind of air conditioning the entire trip! It was HOT and stuffy on that bus and filled to capacity. The stop before ours, the Ferry Building, the driver lets off passengers and then opens up the two vents in the roof (they look like escape hatches). A little late but we appreciated it.
While looking around trying to decide what to do in the four hours we had before we had to be back to meet the return bus, we noticed that there was a new aquarium called Aquarium of the Bay. I've never seen this before in the previous visits so it must have been brand new. The admission was $12 each but for $19, we bought the combo package which it included an aquarium tour AND a 1-hour Bay cruise to the Golden Gate Bridge and back! What a deal! We walked through the aquarium and what a treat that was! After taking an elevator down UNDER the bay, we walked through a tunnel in which all sides of the walls were clear aquarium walls….a tunnel under the bay with fish swimming all around us! I highly recommend doing this if you are near Pier 39 next time. You could walk or stand on a moving conveyer floor and read the captions of what fish are to be seen in the San Francisco Bay. Naturally, all the fish in the aquarium were indigenous to the area. There were schools of Anchovies, stingrays and my favorite, the Leopard Shark!
Up the elevator we went to the surface and in the next room there were shallow tanks in which we could TOUCH the fish we saw! At each tank were different kinds of fish and an employee of the aquarium to answer questions and tell us where we could touch the fish so not to scare them. The stingrays were very soft and slimy and the Leopard Sharks had very soft scales. Make sure you pet the sharks from front to back since that is the direction their scales run. I decided to pet it the opposite direction and the shark swam away quickly like he was aggravated! They are docile and do not bite humans. Other sea life we touched included muscles, sea urchins and many starfish. The water was extremely cold, I would say 34 degrees. I wonder if that was the current temperature of the San Francisco Bay or if the aquarium water was made cooler? Their website can be found at: http://aquariumofthebay.com.
After we were done in the aquarium, we decided to get some lunch at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory. Lana had the fish and chips and I had coconut shrimp and chips. Delicious! Following lunch, we walked over to where the Sea Lions sun themselves on docks provided for them. EVERY dock was completely full and others in the water tried to push the weaker sea lions off. Naturally, fights ensued and the place was extremely noisy with their barking and growling.
It was time for our Bay tour, so we stood in a long line to board our tour boat. I am certainly glad we brought our jackets along! A 30-knot headwind made for a very chilly ride as we made our way towards the mouth of the San Francisco Bay. Many sailboats were out and there must have been a race going on at the same time. When I was a boy, I remember racing with my father on his sailboat and getting deathly seasick! Unfortunately, we were unable to see much of the Golden Gate Bridge due to think, low-lying fog that frequents the bay. We stopped directly under the bridge before turning around and heading back into the harbor. That bridge is very HIGH and is popular with jumpers wishing to end it all. At 250 feet, the water is like cement when you hit it. I found out that the center of the bridge could sway back and fourth up to 27 feet each way when it's windy! It can withstand winds up to 100 mph as well.
On the way back, the wind was not as strong since we were traveling with the wind and currents. A slow pass-by of Alcatraz Island was an incredible sight. So much history on that little 25-acre island they call "The Rock." Next time, I'd love to go on a tour of the prison. It's no wonder there haven't been any confirmed prisoner escapes from it with the sea temperatures and strong currents. The only person to escape that I know of was Clint Eastwood!
Before we headed back to catch our bus, we had to have some of San Francisco's famous Clam Chowder and sourdough bread. At a nearby café, we had one of those sourdough chowderbowels, a round loaf of sourdough bread hollowed out with the top cut out, filled with clam chowder! Very tasty. Finally we had some ice cream while we waited for our late bus to take us to Emeryville at 3:00 PM.
The ride back to Roseville was pleasant and the time went by quickly. We met a couple of Capitol Corridor and one San Joaquin train during the trip. We met a near on time #5, the westbound California Zephyr between Richmond and Martinez. It went by very quickly so I didn't get any engine or car numbers. It had two P42 locomotives back-to-back in Phase V paint, baggage, Superliners and 5 Ambox cars on the rear.
The only thing we had to eat on the way back were regular and BBQ Lay's Chips, Pepsis and Oreo cookies, a healthy part of any train traveler's diet.
Final arrival time into Roseville was approximately 6:30 PM, 15 min. late. Both of us had to go to the bathroom and wanted to before detraining. As we were going by Roseville Yard, we went downstairs with our belongings and used the bathroom…first Lana and then me…but by the time I got in there, we were going by the Roseville diesel shops which were VERY near the Roseville platform. All I will say is that the train came to a stop midway through my bathroom use and I had to hurry out of there before I got trapped on the train to Rocklin! Lana was calling to me to hurry! I'll never use the bathroom on the train again without thinking of his incident. It was a great day all around.