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A Trip on Amtrak's Coast Starlight
This weekend, I went on a short two-day trip from Los Angeles Union Station up to San Luis Obispo. My friend Randy Olden had mentioned a couple weeks ago that he only lives two blocks from the train station, so it would be convenient for me to come on the train, and I had always wanted to ride the train a long distance like that. Also, he's moving soon, so I figured I should hurry up and go. So I went up there Friday morning, and came back last night, Saturday night.
I had been on Amtrak only once before: on a trip from San Diego to Fullerton. That was about two hours. This trip was five and a half hours.
It was a great trip. I left Union Station on Friday, right on time at 10:00am. We stopped in Glendale, Simi Valley, Oxnard, Santa Barbara, and then San Luis Obispo. I got there around 3:30pm.
It was a beautiful view, and the train was mostly a smooth ride. For many miles, we were right next to the ocean.
Someone else took these pictures in 1998, (from this page on trainweb.com), but I saw the same thing on my trip.
Randy and I spent Friday afternoon hanging out, watching a movie ("Sum of All Fears"), and watching a basketball game. Then we met some of his friends downtown that evening. Saturday, he took me on a tour of Cal Poly, which is the main reason that whole town exists. It seems as if most of the people we saw downtown were either between the ages of 18 and 24 or over 60. Then we went out to Los Osos, where there's a campground by the ocean. It's really nice there, too.
The trip back was pleasant. I left around 3:30pm, and Arrived back in L.A. before 9:00pm. I think I ended up parking where I wasn't supposed to. I parked under the west end of Union Station, which is supposed to be 24 hours maximum. When I left, I handed the attendant my ticket, who took it, looked confused, then charged me the maximum rate for one day: $6. If you park in the official long-term lot, it's $10/day.
Suggested Weekend Trip
I recommend this as a nice two-day vacation from L.A. It costs $65 round-trip if you plan ahead enough (two weeks, I think). Triple-A members get a discount. The nice thing about San Luis Obispo is that you can walk everywhere. It's a small town, and the train station is just blocks from the downtown area, so you could arrive by train, walk to a hotel, and visit downtown without ever needing a car.
If you only have the weekend, go up on Saturday, and come back Sunday night. You will have some time Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning to explore the town. And if you go during the summer, it will just be getting dark as you arrive back at Union Station in L.A., so you have a good view for your whole trip. From Union Station, you can easily take Metro trains to get home, or you can park downtown. See my links page for information on public transportation in L.A. There are several hotels near the train stations. Garden Street Inn (about $150), and Travelodge ($89) are just a few blocks. To search for hotels, do a "near address" search at Infospace, and use the address of the station (1011 Railroad Ave, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401) to look for a hotel nearby.
Riding coach class is fine for this length of trip. The seats are comfortable and have a lot of leg room. If you were to go overnight, it would be nice to have space in the sleeping car, but that can be expensive. Apparently, the Coast Starlight line is one of the most luxurious rides on Amtrak, according to All Aboard! The Coast Starlight by Karl Zimmermann on trains.com. With Amtrak's budget problems, you may not have a whole lot of time to go on a trip like this.
To make reservations, go to the Amtrak site: www.amtrak.com (Note: there's no C in Amtrak).
Note: There's currently a sale going on. If you book before June 9, 2002, you save 20%. See: http://www.amtrak.com/savings/onlinediscount.html
Created and maintained by Matthew Weathers. Last updated Apr 20, 2006.