I was supposed to be getting a lift up to San Francisco from someone on Couchsurfing but I never heard from them, so I took the train instead. I’m glad I did – though the drive would have been great, the train goes places the road doesn’t. They call it the Coast Starlight, and it runs all the way from LA to Seattle. My leg of the journey took 11 hours, but the time flew by. I’ve always loved train travel, but none I have taken has felt quite as sophisticated as this. This was LA to San Francisco in style.
The route took us right along the coast between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, and I was lucky enough to catch a guided tour along this section, narrated by volunteers from Trails and Rails. This is program co-sponsored by Amtrak and the National Park Service educating rail passengers about the natural heritage of the area. I learnt all about the local fauna and history of the area.
We followed Highway 101 for much of the way – the route I would have taken by car – but then the routes diverged and we entered Vandenburg Air Force Base – where the road is not allowed. How come the train is allowed? Because it was here first! It costs a lot of money to relocate a train route, and evidently the US military wasn’t willing to foot the bill. Trains are stopped during missile tests, but there were none scheduled for this day. The base is home to multiple NASA launch sites, and also SpaceX, Elon Musk’s commercial space programme.
After San Luis Obispo, the tour guides departed and we descended into the mountains. Later that evening, dinner was served in the dining car and I was sat with fellow solo travellers, each with a unique story to tell. It was a good day considering I spent the entire time travelling.