Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Trip Aboard the California Surfliner

I have traveled on trains in literally dozens of countries.  It is the main mode of transportation for getting around Japan, and I use it whenever possible when country-hopping around Europe.  The funny thing is I rarely use trains in the U.S.  I have been on a few into NYC, and have been on the subway or train systems in Boston, Chicago, DC, etc., but it is a rare event.

So when a buddy suggested we hop the train from Orange Country, CA to Del Mar for a day at the track I thought both the ride and the races would prove a nice little adventure.  The "California Surfliner" heads up and down the Southern California coast and for car trips of less than an our there actually isn't much of a time savings in taking the train, BUT there were three other great benefits: a great view, not having to worry about traffic, AND we could sit in the bar-car and drink at our leisure.

Compared to other countries the train stations in SoCal are low-key and low-volume.  The majority of the people on the train - and all of them in the bar car - were heading to the track.  The evening trains do have more commuters who live/work in different locations up and down the coast.  Unlike Japan, there is no seat-side service for refreshments and everyone has to make their way down to the second car bar area if they want anything from a beer to a water.  There are a few seats in the bar car, but you have to get them early and hold them down.

The main selling point of the Surfliner is the view, which is entirely coastal once the train hits San Juan Capistrano.  At some points you feel you are on the beach with all the vacationers.

The beach goers are good natured, giving the train a wave, with a few moons here and there.   Not all of the scenery is beachy, ranging from a nuclear power plants to camper areas.  Eventually you make it down to the track, which requires a little free bus-hopper from Solana Beach train station.  It's a nice track.

And then you can watch the fillies....

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