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Wednesday, May 26, 1999

At 5:55 AM I'm sitting in the Tucson Airport waiting for my plane. I've been up since 3:00 AM since the shuttle came by at 4:00 AM to pick me up. Much too early. I am so tired. I had milk and a banana at home and a free muffin at the airport but I still have that hollow feeling that I get when I haven't had enough sleep. I was too excited, as always when I'm going to travel, to get much sleep.

The first part is from Tucson, AZ to Los Angeles, CA by air. I get one of the front seats on Southwest that face each other. This cuts down on the claustrophobia that I get on planes. It's never very bad, just enough to make me nervous. I'm sitting backwards, though, which is a bit unsettling and these very front seats can't go back so I sit up very straight which keeps me awake.

A little boy is on the lap of his mother, across from me. He is still nursing but old enough to be amazed at seeing the ground drop away from us. The sky is clear and soon the desert is nearly featureless as we get so high that what little vegetation there is seems to nearly disappear. It's interesting to see the drainage lines that the rains have made across the desert floor.

I can see the interstate now. Its just a thin ribbon and the cars seem to be barely moving. The neat green and brown squares of farmland stand out against the sprawl of the desert. Soon we cross the mountains by the Colorado River, as brown as the land around them, and then more desert and farms till we reach the Sierra Nevada. These are networked with trails and dirt roads till it looks like a spiderweb fell on them.

On top of the Sierra Nevada the green appears. It continues down the other side as we pass out of the rain shadow. Soon we can't even see the land as clouds cover everything. At LAX we pull up sharply and the pilot says they had us following another plane too closely. It's a bit scary since we can't see anything because of the clouds.

We land safely and get outside to the cool air. This is great after the 90s we've been having in Tucson. I take the shuttle to the city bus center and catch the #42 bus to Union Station. The bus only takes an hour but the metro takes one and a half hours as you have to transfer twice. It's a long but interesting ride as we cross all types of neighborhoods.

The bus goes into Union Station at the nicely set up transit center and I run to get a ticket for the San Diegan. I just get on board before they leave. This is the first time I remember being on a train. My mother told me I had been on a train when I was a child, but I don't remember it. It's clean but doesn't look new. They come around and vacuum once during the two hour trip and pick up trash.

There is only one person on each side so it's not too full. The only empty seats were on the right side, facing north so I thought I wouldn't be on the ocean side but the train headed north and curved around so I was on the west side. That worked out well. The train seems to move very slowly but keeps up with cars on the interstate.

At Fullerton the front coach empties out a school field trip. I had wondered why there was a closed sign on the door into it. The station is just an outside stop, like a fancy bus stop. Anaheim is the same, at the back of Angel Stadium. Santa Ana is the next stop. I had stopped at the other side a couple of times while on the Greyhound. Irving has a stop by a mall with what looks like a bus stop right next to it.

A group of women get off at San Juan Capistrano talking about walking around and where they are going to eat. Quite a few of the people that get off and on seem to be on daytrips. What a nice way to go for a trip. I think I prefer buses, though, as you can see where we are going. I also felt this in the airplane. The train also has a swaying that might drive me crazy after a whole day. It's fun to just come down the coast, though.

The ocean finally appears and we are running right next to it. The surfers are out as is the sun. There are beach houses and kids playing in the sand. We pass a couple of power plants on the way down, as well. Solano station is under construction and soon we pass Torrey Pines and fields of yellow clover. We pass through lush valleys that you can't see from the highway. Occasionally you see houses on the hills but we are running below. Most people that live in San Diego probably never see these. They are full of flowers and trees.

The end of the line is at the Santa Fe Station in San Diego. It's a nice Spanish colonial building and I catch the trolley to the gaslight area across the street in a very steel contemporary building, shared with the Museum of Contemporary Art. Nice contrast!

I just have to go a couple of stops and then I walk up the brick sidewalks of the Gaslight District. Very cute. I'm not sure how much is authentic but quite a few of the buildings are very old. I check into the hostel and then take the trolley back to Old Town and walk around for a couple of hours. This is a California State Park with a mixture of history, crafts, and tourist trap.

The history is interesting, though they did have quite a few Arizona references on their old west exhibits, but you see one rusty stagecoach, you've a pretty good idea of what they looked like. They have the usual first schoolhouse in the area, first hotel and first jail. It's very nice but pretty standard stuff. I enjoyed walking around and it's great that it has the Old Town Transit station next to it, so it's handy.

Back at the hostel I'm ready to relax for a while and then go to bed. I get pulled out by the activity in the street. Before it even gets dark people are arriving to eat and party. I walk around in it for a bit enjoying the people. The architecture and the gaslights make for a very fun atmosphere.

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Walked - several miles

Rachel Aschmann 1999.
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