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Train, Bus, Airplane… First Amtrak/Southwest Trips

Wed Nov 07, 2001 8:49 am

A couple weeks ago I took a trip down to see a friend in Los Angeles that lasted just over 24 hours. It would have been longer, were it not for several factors:

- I was supposed to head down to LA with my fraternity brothers in an RV on their way down to Mexico. I couldn’t leave that Friday because things came up.

- I booked a train ride down for Saturday morning, but my sleepy ass missed it!

Anyhow, I got there and back in one piece, and had a little variety in transport on the way. If you’ll notice, I took these modes of transportation in the order they were invented. First a locomotive, then an automobile, then an aero craft. Big grin

Saturday, October 20 17:45PM Amtrak #718 OKJ-BFD

My friend dropped me off at the Jack London Square train station in Oakland, CA. It was only a short 15 minute trip from school, although as I would find out on the train while passing it, the Emeryville station was actually a lot closer to Berkeley.

I dropped the handlebar of my wheelie and took it to the second level of the train. There, I nestled into a window seat of the Amtrak California Metro Liner. The interior was pretty clean and reminded me of AA’s “new” interiors. Seat pitch wasn’t as great as I expected a train’s to be, but at least there was a large tray table and footrest. After a brief welcome, the conductor/train attendant/agent informed us of the amenities onboard the train. It was pretty no-frills, and the dining car was basically a pay-cafeteria.

Our route would backtrack northwards along the east bay, and eventually end up California’s central valley on the way down to Bakersfield. Our train attendant was a comedian. At each stop along the way, he would make some crack about the city and about smokers. For instance, he announced our arrival into “scintillating, sizzling Stockton” and “Fabulous Fresno,” also adding that every city along the way was “ranked second best in the nation.” It was hilarious because those valley cities are the most boring places! He would remind us at every station that if we wanted to “extinguish our inner nicotine child,” we would have the opportunity to get out for a few minutes.

At around 10:00, while we were traveling at “blistering speed” down the central California corridor, I spoke to ILUV767 on the phone. I told him how bored I was on this train. (This proves: I am definitely an airplane person). I went to the dining car, purchased some Italian ice, and studied for a little while in there. There was a Cal-State Hayward student there, and she was studying too. No, we did not matriculate together! Big grin

Finally, at 12:00AM the next morning, we pulled into Bakersfield, “ranked second best city in the nation”. I had to transfer onto a bus the rest of the way to Los Angeles. Why? Because Amtrak is ghetto like that. It’s too cheap to run a train down there that late at night, so it farms out service to buses, much like how the majors use regionals.  Smile

Sunday, October 21 00:15AM Amtrak Bus #5718 BFD-LAX

The bus was quiet and dark as we pulled out onto the highway that snakes through the grapevine on the way to central LA. It was pretty empty in there, except this one creepy old fellow sat across the aisle from me. For some reason, all creepy people wear pins of some sort. This instantiation wore an “I (heart=luv) NY” button lapel. Early on, he looked at me with creepy eyes and said, “Hiiii.” I immediately assessed this man as molestifiable (!!!) and said a quick “hi” before turning to look out the window for the rest of the trip. Thank goodness Hass was not molested, jeebus was with him!

While not the most glamorous form of transportation, this bus provided for some quality sleep time. Seat pitch was miserable, and even though there was a footrest, it felt like something worse than a charter carrier. However, the ride of this bus was the quietest ride I’ve ever experienced in a motor vehicle, and the passing wind soothed me to sleep.

Before I knew it, I was awake and we arrived at the LAX train station. My friend pulled up in his car to pick me up, and we spent the next less than 24 hrs at his place in UCLA.

Sunday, October 21 20:30 Southwest Airlines #1591 LAX-OAK

Wishing my friend Happy Birthday again, I closed the car door and walked across the pedestrian bridge from the parking lot into Terminal 1 of LAX. When I checked in at the ticket counter, I told the Southwest ticket agent this was my first time on Southwest, and that I had been used to flying United Shuttle from Los Angeles to San Francisco before. I mentioned that United Shuttle was dead, to which she replied, “That’s ok. We were always better anyway.” That’s the Southwest spirit, and attitude I like! Big grin

I then proceeded to my gate, first going through security. You’ll not my particularly strange experience with the security agent referenced in my post “Excessive Pat-Down by a Frisky Security Frisker”: http://www.airliners.net/discussions/general_aviation/read.main/623556/6/

I was there at 19:00, a full hour and a half before my departure. When I checked in at the gate to receive my boarding order stub, I was selected for a random security check. No problem, I would be one of the first to board.

So I waited for my airplane, a scheduled 737-700 to come in. I was very excited because this would be my first Southwest AND 737NG flight. I talked to ILUV767 on my little, crappy Ericsson cellular telephone as I spotted from the gate window. Of note, I saw 1 ANZ 767-300ER and 2 ANZ 747-400s, as well as Virgin’s beautiful “Lady Penelope”. ILUV767, like the bastard he is, told me fate would have it that I would not get to fly a 737NG, and that he predicted an equipment substitution.

Lo and behold, a 737-300 pulls up to the gate. This is not very “Southwest-like,” I thought, bitter at both the aircraft’s tardiness, and lack of my 737NG! Oh well. I’m over it. (Vengeance will be mine!!!) I don’t know how fate had it that my 737NG showed up, but all I have to say is, “Crack kills.” Blah! (I’m still steaming).

I recognized two of the people disembarking the airplane. They were Derek, and his girlfriend. Both friends from high school who now go to UCLA. We caught up a little bit, and then we let each other go on our merry ways. It led me to deduce that our plane was coming from SJC, even though it would be heading to OAK.

After my randomized security check, I headed down the jet way in anticipation of my first experience of “LUV”. The old interior was garish, but exactly what I expected of Southwest. I plopped myself in seat 4A, in the “premium” section ahead of the red mid-cabin bulkhead. Surprisingly, my slim line seat provided for a lot of room. Southwest, I think, was the pioneer of the slim line seat, which was very comfortable considering Southwest gives a “more generous than usual” standard 32” seat pitch.

Our most outspoken flight attendant was a sassy and spunky little blonde from Texas. Although probably in her late 20s, she looked, acted, and talked like she was 15. Even though the front section was less than half-filled, she kept on “ordering” the remaining passengers who were trickling in to move towards the rear. “Scoot!” she would demand in a feisty tone. She slammed the forward overhead bins closed before they were even half-full, making the case for people to move back now seem legitimate. My fellow forward-section passengers and I chuckled at hear antics. She kept on saying how she wanted to “git back home” and “hurry it on up people”.

One equally feisty yuppie was the last to walk on, and he opened one of the forward overhead bins. Before he knew it, our feisty F/A was there to slam the bin door back shut. Playing, he opened it again. Before it was even fully opened, her eyes swelled, she slammed the door again, and she said, “No! Uh uh, you’ll have to move back.” Unyielding, he eventually faked her out and stuck his carry on in another overhead bin, and plopped himself in the bulkhead aisle seat 1C. She smirked and said, “You just want to give me a hard tahm (time, pronounced with southern drawl), dontcha?” He grinned and nodded. We all had a good laugh.

The brilliance of WN’s LAX operations is that their gates are right next to the departure runways, leading to VERY prompt departures. We were off, and the rest of the flight was an uneventful, low cruise (our chatty pilot said we were at 25000) up the central valley to Oakland. I had some Peanuts (not the usual major airline fare) and some OJ before we arrived at Oakland “Ghetto”politan International Airport, where friends were waiting to pick my tired ass up. All in all, some fun travels!

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