Barbara and I are on the train from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon.
Our journey began on Saturday the 2nd, July, Adelaide, we flew to Sydney, had a two hour stopover, then boarded our giant Qantas A380 for the trip to L.A. The A380 is a fantastic aeroplane in spite of all the recent publicity, it is amazingly quiet and handles turbulence with ease. You can feel the plane riding through “rough air” but it feels incredibly sturdy, I suppose something that big takes a lot to shake it around. We arrived in L.A. an hour after we took off from Adelaide, thanks to the time difference.
After an afternoon nap we had a dinner date with Tom And Margie Curwen. We met Tom and Margie when we did the “Overland Walk” in Tasmania, January, 2010. Tom is a writer with the LA Times and volunteered to do the walk and write an article about the journey. It was great to catch up with them and we spent about 3 hours at a local restaurant re-living our Tasmanian adventure. After a fantastic dinner we were treated to a trip up into the foothills of LA to the Observatory in Griffith Park to look at the city lights of LA. We had fantastic views of the city lights, fireworks from a football stadium and of course the famous “Hollywood” sign. It was fantastic to catch up with Tom And Margie, and we think we have convinced them to visit us “down-under” in Adelaide sometime in the future.
Yesterday, Sunday, 3rd we spent the day being tourists on a “hop on-hop off” double decker, roofless bus, seeing the sights and getting sunburnt. The running commentary onboard the bus constantly promises the chance of seeing a “CELEBRITY” at most of the trendy and upmarket shopping venues, of which there are plenty, well, we didn’t see ANY “celebs” and they didn’t get to see “Us” either, their loss! We went as far out as Santa Monica where the beach was absolutely crowded full of people enjoying their long weekend.
Los Angeles is a very beautiful city with many fantastic “Art Decco” buildings that have either been very well maintained or re-furbished to their former glory. There are huge amounts of “Street-art” with whole buildings, even neighbour hoods decorated and very colourful.
Today we rose early to get to Union Station, another fantastic grand “Art Decco” building, to catch the train to Portland, we suspect the Taxi driver took us the long and expensive way, what seemed like a fairly short trip on the map turned into a $48 cab fare, more expensive than from the Airport to our Hotel on the previous day, $38, I guess the cabbie wanted extra for working on July 4th.
We are now on the “Coast Starlight” that runs between Seattle and Los Angeles. We began in LA and head north through Santa Barbara, San Jose, Oakland, Richmond, Sacramento and lots of other little stops before reaching Portland. The first part of this train journey takes you along the Californian coast, overnight we head inland, then tomorrow we revisit the coastline of Oregon before our arrive at our destination at about 3.40pm, July 5th our wedding anniversary. We are at the moment weaving our way through a mountain range, having already been through huge areas of Market Gardens and grape vines, very similar to being at home. The other thing that adds an Australian feel to California is the huge number of “Gum trees” that have been imported from Australia to help turn the natural desert of LA into the oasis that it is.
The countryside is very dry and is reminiscent of South Australia in summer, this has caused problems in many areas of the U.S. with some areas being too dry to risk having fireworks displays to celebrate the holiday.
The train continued on our trip north passing through San Miguel, King City and Soledad and into the Salinas Valley. We followed The Salinas River for the next 100 miles as we passed through what is known as the “Country’s Salad Bowl” This is amazingly fertile land with market gardening on both sides of the train stretching off way into the distance to the foothills and mountains. The hills looked very much like the Adelaide Hills but were on both sides of this enormous valley. The valley stretches for over 70 miles and in some parts is up to 36 miles wide, this is big enough to be the Salad Bowl of the “Universe”.
Through this most fertile of land with such a large array of produce being produced in what is pristine and natural; soil, plants, fertilizer, sunshine, heat and water the presence of the World’s reliance on oil is never too far away.
The market gardens continued and we reached the town of Castroville, this is the “Artichoke Capitol of the World” Each year a person is named as the Artichoke Queen, the inaugural winner in 1948 was a young aspiring actress called Norma Jean Baker, aka, Marilyn Monroe. I’m not sure whether subsequent Artichoke Queens have gone onto the same fame and fortune as Norma Jean.
The Capitols of the world continued as we passed through Gilroy, “The Garlic Capitol of the World”. This town produces Garlic Wine (didn’t try that) Garlic Jam and, wait for it, you guessed it, “Garlic Ice cream” The area also produces a considerable mushroom crop.
We then “found our way” to San Jose which in 1849 became the first State Capitol of the Republic of California. We pushed on through more small towns and made our way to Oakland, the home of Tower of Power, fantastic band formed in 1968 and still going strong. By the time we made Emeryville it was time to have a sleep.