We pull into the railyard between Emeryville, California, and Oakland and stoicism is taken to new levels. I quickly check how much it would be to rent a car from SFO to LAX. A hundred bucks. Plus gas. But that’s not what I’m here to do. I’m here to ride this damn train.
Last night I slept fitfully. When I woke up in Sacramento it took me a good five seconds to realize I was on a train, then a good half hour to figure out we were in Sacramento. Sacramento. Who wants to go to Sacramento?
This morning I had breakfast with a girl from Bakersfield, the town my dad’s from, who goes to school at Chico State. We pounded coffee. We talked about history and Brazil and the relative merits of 3D design. I waxed philosophical about how whatever you do in your spare time is what you should do for a living, and immediately questioned my words as I said them. Then I heard Sakhovy telling Katrin that there was going to be a “problem.” Apparently there’s something wrong with the lounge car, my favorite car, and we have to stop at the yard to fix it. Estimated repair time one to two hours. Hence me checking rental cars.
The woman behind is essentially screaming into her phone. I’m contemplating taking a shower. I feel disgusting. There’s something about sleeping fitfully that makes you feel gross the next day. People are milling around outside my car and now I kind of regret drinking coffee because going back to sleep right now wouldn’t be half bad. It wouldn’t be full good, but it would be at least half good. It’s a beautiful sunny day in California. Hopefully we can make up some time on the way.
Update: I’m still on this damn train. We’re nearing San Luis Obispo, aka SLO, aka home of Cal Poly. Another update is that the friend I was going to stay with on night one can no longer host me. This is actually kind of a blessing in disguise because I love staying in hotels and since tomorrow I’m celebrating 14 months of sobriety I’m treating myself to a hotel on the nicer end. I’m staying at Hotel Indigo, which is by the Staples Center and apparently four stars. On Booking the rooms cost $200 plus tax. Through Hotwire I was able to get a deal for just under $150, after tax. My elation knows no bounds. The best part? It has a pool.
It’s 5:12pm and dinner service will happen just after San Luis Obispo. I’m not going to make the same mistake I did last night and go all out on dinner, ravaging my digestive system. I will keep it simple with some chicken, potatoes, and veggies. Maybe a side salad. The rolling hills of the Central coast are golden from the heat and the dryness. Cattle dot the landscape, black dots on an otherwise sea of gold. Sakhovy said as of now we should get in between 10pm and 1030pm, but quickly rushed to say, “As of now.” Anything can happen on Amtrak. I booked the hotel room not without some trepidation thinking how terrible it would be if we got delayed again and I didn’t even get to stay there. But must remain positive. A deer prances towards a wooden area, evidently spooked by the train. A vulture glides overhead and we pass three tan colored cows who are staring directly ahead as if frozen in time.
As we pull into Santa Barbara, a midnight arrival time to LA looking probable, my main reflection on the trip is this: I’m not desperate to get off this train. I could easily (well, maybe not easily) do another night. Every other long haul transportation, including flying business class on an airplane, I’ve been pretty ready to get off whenever we arrive. And granted I am ready to get off this damn train. Thirty eight hours is a long time. But I’ve got my little room here. I’ve got my bed. I’ve got my entertainment. I’ve got my food.
What am I saying. Get me out of here.
At approximately 11:26pm we finally trundled into Union Station, Los Angeles. I had been on the train just under 38 hours. I rode a scooter to my hotel, checked into my room, and inspected it. I stood in front of the glass window looking out at LA. Then I took a bit of a walking tour of the hotel, where I ran into a girl who was there supposedly for some kind of insurance function. She was wasted. I asked if I could help her, or what she was trying to do. She was swaying. Eventually I ran into her downstairs in the lobby and she still seemed confused about my presence, as if I were part of the party when I assured her I was just a random hotel guest. When I asked her where she was from she said, “Kinda here, and kinda another country.” “What other country,” I said. She gave me three guesses. I said Russia, Colombia, and Sweden. All wrong. I fired off a few more. Ukraine. Germany. Mexico. She seemed offended by all of them. Was she Hungarian? Canadian?
After I said Argentina she disappeared into the night.