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Day Two: The Coast Starlight

You'll never know how far Los Angeles and San Francisco are from each other until you try to travel between them on a train. In the distance's defense, the change in elevation between San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles caused the train to cover the same ground that it takes twenty minutes in a car, in two hours.

Ashley made us breakfast in the morning and drove us to LA's Union Station, downtown. We caught our train, and I inadvertently distracted the ticket teller from looking at my ID at all. WHAT IF I HAD BEEN A TERRORIST!?

Anyway, the ride up the coast is very boring and ugly, going from LA up through the San Fernando and Simi Valleys, and then, all of a sudden, just past Oxnard, a gorgeous vista opens up to you, and you're peppering the coast for the next three or four hours, culminating in a sixty or seventy mile stretch with no visible roads in any direction, and no other signs of civilization besides the train and track.

Then, at San Luis Obispo, the pretty countryside starts to dwindle, and by just past Paso Robles, it ceases altogether. That begins the high-speed segment of the trip, racing up the "fertile-because-it's-flat" valley, 200 miles to Salinas. From Paso Robles to Oakland, the trip was something of an ordeal for me; not only of boredom, but also of the pain in my tailbone, as the train bumpily trundled north.

We pulled into the station in Oakland just over 12 hours after we boarded the train in LA, and agreed not to walk the twelve blocks to the BART station, but instead to just take a cab. We stepped out of the cab in the middle of Oakland's surprisingly scenic downtown, and stepped down into the station. The next train to the city came shortly thereafter, and soon we were standing in front of the Embarcadero, waiting for Erp's friend Alicia to pick us up.

Alicia, it turns out, is awesome. She has a fantastic new condo/penthouse in SoMa, and just couldn't wait to show us around, and show us all the improvements she had made and planned. Soon, she uncorked a bottle of some Cabernet Sauvignon, and we soon found out that we wouldn't be excused until it was empty. As we worked on the bottle, she showed us some great pictures of her six-month vacation across Southeast Asia, and a smattering of other pictures from other parts of the planet.

On top of this, she is a perl programmer, which made me melt. Her company is actually hiring talented perl people, so I asked for her card to give to my brother. She dropped us off in front of our hostel, and before both of my feet had touched the ground from getting out of her car, some guy was already hitting us up for change, claiming to be from New Orleans.

Erp and I declined, said thank-you and goodnight to Alicia, checked in at the hostel, and made ourselves comfortable for a true, eight-hour sleep, which we have only now just completed. Note the time difference. Today, we'll hit San Francisco.

11:57 PM, Aug 29, 2006

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