A perfect day for train travel was in store for our trip to San Luis Obispo! I was joining my friend Mike and his friend Les, who was traveling to Seattle in a Deluxe Bedroom. Mike and Les began their journey in Fullerton and I was joining them for the ride to San Luis Obispo where Mike and I would catch the southbound Coast Starlight to return home. This is the second time I have ridden the train with Mike and Les. Last April they met me in Los Angeles, after I arrived on the Southwest Chief from Chicago, and rode with me on the final leg of my trip on the Coast Starlight to Santa Barbara.
I waited towards the west end of the platform where the sleeping cars would come to a stop. Mike and Les were there to greet me and Les introduced me to the car attendant, Anna. Since #14 was running late, we were concerned about missing our southbound train #11. Mike asked me if we should risk riding all the way to San Luis Obispo or not. Since I hadn’t even gotten on board, I said we should go for it and there is about 15 minutes of schedule padding built in between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. The worst thing that could happen would be that we’d miss our connection and be forced to take a Greyhound bus back.
Mike and I were ticketed for Coach, but since the Deluxe bedroom holds three people, we would be Les’s guests. Therefore, we were deemed sleeping car passengers with all the rights and privileges! Wow, this is the shortest distance that I’ve ridden in a sleeper, not to mention a Deluxe room! We were in the 1432 car, room #C which faced the ocean. Once onboard, we put our things away in the room in anticipation to going to lunch. Les had put in his name on the waiting list for lunch and the second we began to roll out of Santa Barbara, the dining car steward called our party to the dining car. As we made our way through the rear sleeping car, I heard a distinctly familiar voice. It was “Radio Man” Donald, my car attendant from my return trip from Redding last month! He was real busy so I didn’t get the chance to say hi to him. I would do that at San Luis Obispo.
For lunch, I had the 14/11 burger with potato chips and iced tea to drink. Mike had a sandwich selection and Les opted for the garden salad. For desert Mike and I had the apple pie a la mode. This time there was whipped cream on top of it! Les was content with only the salad but would probably indulge in desert after dinner. I envied the fact that he would be on this train for another day-and-a-half before arriving Seattle. It was a perfect lunch with perfect scenery and perfect company.
Following lunch, we headed down to the Pacific Parlor Car where we would spend the rest of the trip visiting and taking in the beautiful scenery. Mike brought his video camera and taped the head end of our train going around curves. This Pacific Parlor Car was an extra dining car, rather than the ex-Santa Fe bi-level lounge normally used. The Pacific Parlor Cars are undergoing extensive renovations and an extra Dining Car substitutes for the Pacific Parlor Car on one of the Coast Starlight trains. On my trip to Portland last March, an extra dining car had been used as well. The ride is much better in the Superliner dining car and there is more seating space and tables which make the wine tasting portion more enjoyable. On the other hand, I like the better views the ex-Santa Fe lounge provides with the wrap-around windows.
Just a few minutes before arriving in San Luis Obispo, we went back to the room so Mike and I could gather up our railfan gear and head down to the lower level to de-train. #14 pulled into San Luis Obispo at exactly 3:00PM, only 5 minutes late! The schedule padding allowed it to make up 20 minutes. Mike and I thanked Les and said our good-byes. Of course we all took photos of each other in the room with our cameras before vacating! The train departed San Luis Obispo at exactly 3:12PM, 17 minutes late.
Thanks to our scanners, we were able to determine that #11 had fallen behind schedule and the “meet” between Coast Starlight trains would take place on the Cuesta Grade rather than San Luis Obispo. That was great news for Mike and me. More photos were taken and video shot of #14 departing and we would have at least a half hour to explore the depot before #11 arrived. Just before #14 left, I said “hi” to Donald. His face lit up and said “HI boss, good to see ya!” He didn’t remember my name but just by the tone in his voice, he remembered me being in his sleeping car last month.
Train #11 arrived in San Luis Obispo at 3:40. We had to board the last Coach car because this was one of the coaches that would be taken to San Diego. This was a nice car to ride in because it was the last car on the train; photos out the back window! This rear window was actually pretty clean compared to the others I’ve seen. I rode in the rear car on the Empire Builder and Southwest Chief in which both of those windows were so filthy that photos were unacceptable. I took them anyway and they are in my Chicago trip photo page.
The dining car chief came through the train taking dinner reservations. I was still full from lunch but this was a special trip and I really wanted to take full advantage. We got the dinner reservations for 5:00PM which would, hopefully, be enough time for me to eat before arriving in Santa Barbara. Mike was going all the way to Fullerton so there was no hurry on his part. Our salads arrived and food order was taken almost immediately after we were seated. The man and woman we sat with were traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The woman had a heavy French accent and didn’t speak English very well and she had some communication problems with our server. He was very amusing and even told us to “tell your friends to ride Amtrak and eat in the dining car so we will have jobs next year!”
For dinner I had the Paso Robles Chicken which included potatoes and steamed vegetables along with a Pepsi to drink. I skipped the desert since there was no more pie a la mode. Only cheesecake, chocolate cake and some other selection I didn’t care for remained. The meal was superb as usual. Mike had the Hood River Salmon, delicious! That was my selection on my trip home from Redding in August but I barely had time to eat it due to an early arrival into Santa Barbara.
Following dinner, we headed to the Sightseer Lounge for the remainder of my trip to Santa Barbara. The scenery along the south coast was spectacular, especially with the nice weather we had both ways. With all the trips I’ve taken along this route, I never get tired of the scenery!
We arrived in Santa Barbara at approximately 6:30, only 15 minutes down. Mike and I said goodbye and as the train pulled out, I took photos of him waiving to me out the back window. He was shooting video of me taking photos of him! Later on in the week, Mike suggested that I should have taken the first Metrolink out of Oxnard so I could have ridden #14 all the way from Los Angeles and remain on #11 until Oxnard where I would pick up my car. Outstanding idea for the next trip.