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'18 Travels through America

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Monday 12 - Saturday 17 March Days 20 - 25 ~ LA story - continued
Updated in Brentwood, Essex, UK ~ Friday 6 April

 

 

​Next up was a visit to the Getty Center, bus fare 35 cents each going there, and 75 cents each for a senior for the return at peak time. The two interconnecting buses take about 1 hour 20 minutes. When we get to see an aerial view of the freeway below the Center we know we got there in about half the time a car would and no stress.

 

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The art in this small gallery was of very high quality, and no crowds, but the setting, the buildings and the views are the equal for being exceptional.

 

After spending a summer painting alongside Monet, Renoir and Sisley the artist Camille Pissarro produced this painting in 1870. What took us aback was the nearby small town to our French home looks just like this scene, but that's today 148 years after this was painted!

 

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Next day's visits are DuPar's at the Farmers Market for breakfast, the Los Angeles La Brea Tar Pits, return to the Farmers Market to buy pies and last to the Griffiths Observatory, a pretty eclectic mix. We also get to meet yet another of Milton's nieces, Marcie.

 

One of the Farmers Market vendors (this is for you Jim Marett)

 

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The Tar Pits are natural asphalt bubbling up out of the ground, often they were covered in dust and leaves which gave wild animals no sense of danger, but once their feet were in the goo they sank faster than they could attempt to get out. Complete sets of animal bones dating back 40,000 years have been excavated showing that many exotic prehistoric animals roamed this part of California. Our favourites are the giant Sloth and Camels.

 

 

Original Camel skeleton

 

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This message or sign is high up on the wall of a large building close to the Tar Pits. It catches the eye

 

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Soon our time in LA is up, others have put in so much effort to make our visit special, it was. As are Milton and Norma.

Edited by v v

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Looks lovely, even if it is the "wrong time of the day"!

 

I'm glad it was the suitcase that went down the stairs and not you! :)

 

Think it must have looked like a classic comedy sketch, man stands at top of staircase holding out arm clutching only a handle...

 

 

That sunset picture makes it worth the trip. I think it's really cool to watch the sunset over the coast by rail.

 

The west coast does appear to do sunsets well, still, most things look better to us when viewed from a train window

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Sunday 18 March Day 26 - Los Angeles to San Diego

Updated in Brentwood, Essex, UK ~ Saturday 7 April

 

 

Easy bus then Metro into Union Station in downtown LA, relaxed feel to the city today as though on Sunday's it takes a little pause from it's usual frenetic but congested pace. We like LAX Union Station a lot as it has many nice features that fit and feel very much a part of SoCal.

 

The waiting area feels relaxed, civilized and comfortable, not many stations have this quality of seating in a public area.

 

 

People on the move through the public waiting area

 

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If you have a ticket you can sit here to wait for your train, and yes there are as comfortable as they look

 

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Somewhere down this tunnel under the tracks you'll find your train

 

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When it's time your track (platform) number is posted on the info screens, we are taking the southern section of the Pacific Surfliner #580 from LA (LAX) to San Diego (SAN), another section of the Amtrak rail network that rides for long distances right alongside the Pacific Ocean.

To Europeans we are always surprised at the sheer physical size of the train set at first sight (photo 1) and how imposing they look at the platform although in a large station such as LAX (photo 2). Even the relatively 'local' Metro trains sets (photo 3) are huge, very impressive time after time of seeing them.

 

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After about 90 minutes of urban sprawl, commercial and industrial property the track meets the coast, mile after mile after mile of car parking for beach goers. Not as scenic as the coast north of LA but very much more accessible. Closer to San Diego clusters of beach side developments start to appear, mostly condos (apartments) and marinas.

 

Then the San Diego suburbs come into view, quickly followed by the center. First stop a small SAN station and only a few minutes later the southern terminus of the Pacific Surfliner, Santa Fe station. Even within the station we feel the influence of Mexico on the surroundings and architecture, but this doesn't carry on to the same extent once outside where they are in a building frenzy.

 

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Again an easy to locate bus to within 100 yards of our hotel in the center of the Gaslamp Quarter (downtown), it's a good spot for us as we can walk everywhere.

 

Later this evening Milton arrives by car, he decided to join us for a couple of days although in a different hotel about 4 miles away on the harbour, we'll meet again tomorrow.

Edited by v v

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Monday & Tuesday 19-20 March ~ Days 27 & 28 - San Diego
Updated in Brentwood, Essex, UK ~ Sunday 8 April

 

 

Up promptly to catch local bus to edge of harbour, then a 25 minute walk to Milton's hotel along the waterfront, very pleasant. Meet up and decide to visit the old peninsular lighthouse, correctly called the Point Loma Lighthouse in what is now a National Monument area/park. From the point there are super views back to San Diego and the mountains beyond as per this photo showing what is an air support craft (although does look a lot like an aircraft carrier) sailing back into port.

 

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Back down into town to take a harbour cruise, we chose the cruise south to take in the Naval Dockyards which the US Pacific Fleet calls home.

 

Here are a number of ships either newly built and being fitted out or ships in for overhaul. Whatever, the shape of warships today looks pretty futuristic to us.

 

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And here's what a real aircraft carrier looks like, the USS Midway now used as a maritime museum

 

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Late afternoon into evening we walk San Diego downtown. First the waterfront where this larger than life statue is depicting the famous Times Square photo titled 'Unconditional Surrender' Not sure how correct this is now, the title that is, but it is a magnet for tourists.

 

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... and Japanese? tourists have fun re-creating the poses

 

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Deeper into the Gaslamp Quarter and come across this Aston Martin road car, it's almost as mesmerising as the Porsche in the Seattle museum. Wondered if Milton fancied buying one, got a "Hmmm" in response.

 

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Next day just wandered around San Diego without too much purpose, except to post a tube with prints back to the UK and find a hardware shop. Both events turned into sagas in a nice way and we get a lot out meeting local people.

 

Early afternoon and Milton is gone on his drive back to LA, we continue walking into other areas of downtown, there are a LOT of eateries, bars and music joints in this town. There are still pockets of old time San Diego but they are disappearing fast, a great deal of new build being undertaken right in the center of town. It looks a bit like Beijing and Shanghai must have looked as the old is torn down to make way for the new. Maybe they have to take care not to lose their heritage in the pursuit of increasing the amount of new real estate?

 

Found our selves by the new Marriott marina, that's the marina in front of the hotel but which is part of the hotel. On the harbour cruise the previous day it was explained it's possible to get 'room service' to you boat in this marina, but the daily charge for a boat was appropriately high.

 

The new Marriott is quite a stunning building, a great piece of architecture, but along the road maybe 100 yards away is a block of public toilets in a city street, not sure if this 'segregation' is for me though.

 

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Walk up to the village near the waterfront center, about 50 individual buildings mainly in New England? style to house various shops, cafes and restaurants for visitors. It's nicely done with ample shade and shrubbery, all the eateries are more or less full as it's early evening, a pleasant place to stroll for a short while. Next year they will all be gone, yep, another hotel according the harbour tour.

 

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We eat quickly and back to the hotel, a major re-pack of our bags is due and tomorrow we have to be out at about 5:30am to catch our Greyhound to Tucson, here we go again.

Edited by v v

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Up promptly to catch local bus to edge of harbour, then a 25 minute walk to Milton's hotel along the waterfront, very pleasant. Meet up and decide to visit the old peninsular lighthouse, correctly called the Point Loma Lighthouse in what is now a National Monument area/park. From the point there are super views back to San Diego and the mountains beyond as per this photo showing what is an air support craft (although does look a lot like an aircraft carrier) sailing back into port.

That is the USS ESSEX, she's more properly called an Amphibious Assault ship. She operates as an aircraft carrier for Marine units, essentially, launching and recovering helicopters and other aircraft capable of vertical takeoff (Osprey, Harrier, and VTOL variant if the Joint Strike Fighter). She also has an open well deck from which she can launch small craft to ferry Marines ashore.

 

Here are a number of ships either newly built and being fitted out or ships in for overhaul. Whatever, the shape of warships today looks pretty futuristic to us.

The first of those two pictures is a ship that's very near and dear to my heart. That's LCS 8, the USS MONGOMERY. I've been working on the LCS program for three years now, and MGY was the first ship that I took to sea trials out of her builder's yard in Mobile, AL back in 2016. It's something very awesome to take a ship to sea for the very first time and exercise all of her systems. After leaving the builder's yard in 2016, she spent 2017 doing initial Combat Systems testing (the area in which I work), and then an extensive period in the shipyard to correct all the deficiencies that we found, and install a number of updates that had been developed but were unable to be installed during her construction in Mobile. that yard period is just wrapping up, and shortly we will be turning her over to the fleet for operational employment. The LCS program is somewhat controversial here in the US, as she was designed from the beginning to be an inexpensive ship, without the requirement to be a high-end multimission ship bristling with firepower.

 

The second picture is of LPD 26, the USS JOHN P MURTHA. She is a SAN ANTIONIO class Amphibious Transport Dock ship, with a similar mission (but significantly smaller flight deck) to the ESSEX. Incidentally, JPM was underway for her initial sea trials out of her builder's yard in Pascagoula, MS at the same time we were taking MGY through trials. We communicated often during the underway, and were able to jointly test many of our communications and data link systems by talking to one another. Very cool that those are the two ships that you captured and decided to post here! :)

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Excellent report about my old homeport Jaime, and also Ryan's info is spot on as he was a Naval Officer and knows his stuff!😎

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Up promptly to catch local bus to edge of harbour, then a 25 minute walk to Milton's hotel along the waterfront, very pleasant. Meet up and decide to visit the old peninsular lighthouse, correctly called the Point Loma Lighthouse in what is now a National Monument area/park. From the point there are super views back to San Diego and the mountains beyond as per this photo showing what is an air support craft (although does look a lot like an aircraft carrier) sailing back into port.

That is the USS ESSEX, she's more properly called an Amphibious Assault ship. She operates as an aircraft carrier for Marine units, essentially, launching and recovering helicopters and other aircraft capable of vertical takeoff (Osprey, Harrier, and VTOL variant if the Joint Strike Fighter). She also has an open well deck from which she can launch small craft to ferry Marines ashore.

 

Here are a number of ships either newly built and being fitted out or ships in for overhaul. Whatever, the shape of warships today looks pretty futuristic to us.

The first of those two pictures is a ship that's very near and dear to my heart. That's LCS 8, the USS MONGOMERY. I've been working on the LCS program for three years now, and MGY was the first ship that I took to sea trials out of her builder's yard in Mobile, AL back in 2016. It's something very awesome to take a ship to sea for the very first time and exercise all of her systems. After leaving the builder's yard in 2016, she spent 2017 doing initial Combat Systems testing (the area in which I work), and then an extensive period in the shipyard to correct all the deficiencies that we found, and install a number of updates that had been developed but were unable to be installed during her construction in Mobile. that yard period is just wrapping up, and shortly we will be turning her over to the fleet for operational employment. The LCS program is somewhat controversial here in the US, as she was designed from the beginning to be an inexpensive ship, without the requirement to be a high-end multimission ship bristling with firepower.

 

The second picture is of LPD 26, the USS JOHN P MURTHA. She is a SAN ANTIONIO class Amphibious Transport Dock ship, with a similar mission (but significantly smaller flight deck) to the ESSEX. Incidentally, JPM was underway for her initial sea trials out of her builder's yard in Pascagoula, MS at the same time we were taking MGY through trials. We communicated often during the underway, and were able to jointly test many of our communications and data link systems by talking to one another. Very cool that those are the two ships that you captured and decided to post here! :)

 

 

What a co-incidence and very pleased to have mentioned them. Have to write that by you giving all that personal information it makes the report so much better, thanks.

 

 

Excellent report about my old homeport Jaime, and also Ryan's info is spot on as he was a Naval Officer and knows his stuff!

 

Thought you would find something to like in that Bob, bet you'd hardly recognise the place if you went back now.

Edited by v v

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Wednesday 21 March Day 29 ~ San Diego, CA to Tucson, AZ

Updated in the Allier, France ~ Tuesday 10 April

 

 

It's our next Greyhound day, as before short walk to bus stop and bus on time. Drops us about 50 yards from the Greyhound bus station. First for us that the waiting area is outside under a shade cover, with a fence around the seating area. As the temperature is so pleasant it's quite nice to sit outdoors to wait for the bus.

 

Again the bus is pretty full, over a number of years haven't ever seen Greyhounds running this full every time wherever in the country we've been. A large majority of passengers are Hispanic, that's also new to us. Most are fairly quiet but still friendly. First major stop is Calexico, a real border town like Del Rio or a small version of El Paso. Most store fronts are in 2 languages, Spanish and then English. It all looks like a bit like a film set to us, different atmosphere here.

 

Shortly after we have to stop at a toll booth? on the Interstate, as we leave the driver tells us we should have our ID ready as the border patrol are coming on board to check us out. The driver adds that non-US citizens should make themselves known to the border officers, there's a hush in the bus. The passengers are about 80% of Mexican? origin, the rest are Anglo US citizens and us.

 

First a lady then a man come aboard, both are uniformed with body armour. There are only about 8 non-US citizen and the officers decide it's us who are interesting. Rosie has our passports which she hands over, then the man starts barking questions at her. I am sitting across the isle quite relaxed, but his voice is a bit on the sharp side so listen, it goes something like this. "When did you arrive in the US?" Rosie, "about 4 weeks ago". He, his voice rises at least a couple of notches " 4 weeks ago!!? " R "yes 4 weeks". He's a little agitated "how much longer are you staying?" R "another 2 weeks". He, at least 2 more notches " 2 weeks!!!!? R "yes", Rosie is still very calm. I have a small smile on my face but he's starting to get a little upset and we can't work out why. He "where did you land!?" R "San Francisco". He "San Francisco!!!?" only 3 notches this time, where's this going or what's he on. It's starting to look like pure theatre but some of the Mexicans sitting behind where he's standing have very wide eyes, one looks at me and I wink trying to assure him it's nothing.

 

At this point we are both hoping he doesn't ask us our full itinerary, could he cope with that? He "Where are you going today!!?" R "Tucson". Where will you depart the US from!!? R "Miami". He "Miami !!!!?" R "yes". By now he's softened Rosie up and comes in with the killer question in a lower but more powerful voice "Why are you travelling by bus!!?". At this point Rosie looks incredulous and can't find the answer, I have to intervene as he wants an answer " Because we like riding buses?" He looks at both of us, politely says thank you, hands back our passports and leaves the bus, no-one else is questioned.

 

They're gone, the bus relaxes and Rosie and I again have the same thoughts. As the officer was so interested in us maybe we took the pressure off one or two others on board. Also at the border crossing between the Ukraine and Russia last year (these countries are technically at war) was a lot smoother. Still, it gives us another travel experience and is the reason we travel.

 

We love the views as we travel across Arizona, endless vistas of nothing, large sand dunes, big cactus, mountains in the distance, cowboy country, well at least in movies anyway. The air-con on the bus is too cool again, don't have to ask others as they have their coats on! Ask the driver if it's possible to have a touch more heat, and that's what we get. Slightly less than freezer temperature now. Why do they do that? When we got into Phoenix the bus station was almost as cold, went outside to sit and wait to be more comfortable.

 

A big feature along the roadside either side of Yuma is the number of RV parks, there are 10's and 10's and 10's of them, must be the winter climate attracting the snowbirds. Funny though that there are so many near to Yuma, another of life's mysteries.

 

We have to transfer buses at Phoenix, Rosie asks at the desk for info on timing and which gate we board from. A sullen woman gave Rosie the information which differed from the departure board. Rosie who is one of the world's polite people asked the clerk if she can confirm what she had said in case Rosie had misunderstood. "I have given you the information and not in the habit of repeating myself" It's a shame Rosie didn't tell me about this until that evening. Ah well, Greyhound have a staff problem to sort out at the moment as so many are not happy.

 

The Phoenix to Tucson bus is even more full than the one earlier, we are seated at the back which is generally unofficially reserved for younger people. Well we learned stuff sitting there 'til we arrived in Tucson, also heard some cutting edge Rap music. Maybe we should ride at the rear more often.

 

Arrive at the Greyhound bus station in Tucson which is a little way out of the center. Get a bus into downtown, we're early which is great as we're meeting Don and Patti. These are long term friends who now live in Tucson. We all met when we lived in Burgundy, France on antique Dutch barges. We hadn't seen them for about 12? years and have to say their zest for life isn't diminished either. As we walked into the Hotel Congress there they were, what a great way to end the day.

Edited by v v

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Interesting bus ride Jaime. Ive had a few similar in various countries including the US.

 

I like the Hotel Congress in Tucson and have recommended it to several people visiting Tucson or just passing through on the Sunset Ltd.

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What you describe as an "interesting" encounter with the border patrol would quite terrify me! I am sure I would have ahard time saying anything sensible when questioned in that manner.

 

Hubby and I stayed at the Hotel Congress before walking across town the next morning and taking the bus to Phoenix (actually, to Mesa, where we had a solar installer convention). We enjoyed the ambience and even the music, which reverberated through the building until closing time.

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Hotel Congress has a lot of character and a good atmosphere from the short time we were there, maybe it could be considered for a future 'Gathering' meet as AU'ers give it good reviews?

 

Our friends who have lived in a number of places in the world and others we met on the Sunset/Texas Eagle for breakfast the next morning had all chosen Tucson as the place they want to live and never move away from, it's obviously got something good going for it.

 

Jennifer, bet there are many others on this forum who have had far worse than we experienced on this journey, I know we have. If you have nothing to hide there's no problem and you can relax unless you get very unlucky in a rogue country.

 

Just to lighten the subject a little... a couple of years ago leaving NYC a border official at the airport was in training, he was told to give me a search, a fairly intimate one in public too. He stuck both hands inside my trousers almost up to the elbows which gained my attention. His superior told him he had not followed the correct procedure and he had to do it again, now that was interesting, not.

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(snip)

 

Just to lighten the subject a little... a couple of years ago leaving NYC a border official at the airport was in training, he was told to give me a search, a fairly intimate one in public too. He stuck both hands inside my trousers almost up to the elbows which gained my attention. His superior told him he had not followed the correct procedure and he had to do it again, now that was interesting, not.

Hah! Reminds me of one of my fave jokes: A man walks into a fabric shop and asks “Where can I get felt around here?”

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Thursday 22 March Day 30 ~ Tucson, AZ to Austin, TX
Updated in the Allier, France ~ Friday 13 April

 

 

Bus stop near to hotel, regular buses to the bus station opposite the train station. We just miss one but another in 10 minutes or so, no problem. On top of which we checked just before leaving the hotel that our Texas Eagle through to Austin was running 33 minutes late, we'll be at the station way before it arrives.

Arrive at bus station at 7:55am, not hurried as it's a 3 minute walk to the Amtrak station and our train doesn't leave until 9:15am. We have a sleeper so no rush to get the 'right' seat in coach. Stop and admire our surroundings and walk through the station, there's a train at the platform but can't be ours as it's 33 minutes late. No obvious order to the people lining up, no coach line and sleeper line just a melee of people waiting at 2 gates near the platform. After 5 minutes find an Amtrak employee and ask if there is a line for sleeper passengers, "No, just board when called". Which train is that at the platform? "The Sunset/Texas Eagle eastbound" . That's our train, what's going on it's around 8:10am. What time does it leave? "At 8:15am but it's running a little late".

 

It sinks in, have we made an enormous mistake and got away with it, if on time it would be pulling out now and we were so casual thinking it couldn't be ours. I look after all the tickets and thought I'd checked that morning but maybe I'm too confident and didn't. Pull the ticket out, it's got 9:15am clear as clear, surely changing time zones is taken into account when the ticket is issued? Is the change to Daylight Saving time affecting it. Look at the ticket again and there it is, 9:15am Thursday 22 March. If it had been on time we could possibly have been running own the platform trying to get on, I'm in a cold sweat as still don't understand, could this happen elsewhere?

 

Not to worry, we are on the train in our sleeper car, the Sleeping Car Attendant (SCA) has reserved 2 breakfast places for us. He was this thoughtful throughout the next 24 hours and one of the best we have met.

 

We're seated with another couple but they are not a couple, just seated together. They both are not native to Tucson but incomers. Arrived for different reasons and have not intention of ever leaving. She has lived in Tucson for 15 years, he for 8. They explained why they were there, why they wouldn't leave and they found out they lived either side of the same hill. She has a BBQ every Christmas and lots of people are invited, he now has his invite for next Christmas. Yet again the wonder of the Amtrak diner always connecting people.

 

The second diner attendant was Paul, we met him last year when riding the Sunset Limited version of this train. No less abrupt than last year but after 2 1/2 days of him last year we just laughed at his abruptness as he has a soft inner.

 

 

A couple of photos for folk who have never ridden an Amtrak long distance (LD) train before.

First is the TE sleeper car, it's the last one at the rear of the train with the 'train fan' window where you can watch the track disappearing behind you. To the left is the upper level toilet, opposite is a small stand with coffee, fruit juice (if you're lucky), bottled water sometimes, and ice sometimes. First door on the left is the SCA sleeping/office compartment, all the others are roomette sleeper compartments.

 

Second is the rear of the dining car, picture windows, comfy booths to sit at a table to eat and drink while the world goes past, not a better way and place to travel, anywhere.

 

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We love the Arizona and New Mexico scenery, Rosie goes to the sightseeing lounge (SSL) and I back to our roomette to put my feet up and stare out the window. Here a few photos as a taste but not our best.

 

View from the Rail fan window at the rear, it's a big sky

 

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These almost looked like salt pans?

 

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Rock formations of all sorts

 

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At one point the track curved first one way and then back again, this happen several times in quick succession

 

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A very American view from the window

 

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This photo is to show the spots that dry on the outside of the window when it is washed and rinsed off. The out of 5 attempts to focus the camera it will focus 4 times on a spot rather the subject in the distance

 

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In the SSL Rosie sits with John and Mary, Americans (he was born in N Ireland though), they live in Chile for 9 months of the year and San Francisco for the remaining 3. When we're are called for lunch I'm off to find Rosie, she introduces us and we decide to lunch together.

 

Rosie said that I would want to hear their story and how right she was. Within 30 minutes John and I were talking as though we had known each other all our lives, an extraordinary event for both of us I think. Just to say they were full of life, have lots of questions and a few answers. They both had very good jobs in their working lives and now have adventures in north and south America. We four spent the rest of the day together until late evening. We're headed to Argentina and Chile when Brexit is settled, I'm sure we'll meet up with them again.

 

During the day the train runs close to the US/Mexican border, a very current area of the world. There are others here with better photos than we have but these are right up to date taken about 3 weeks ago.

 

A bit like the Great Wall of China, the border fence snaking across the hills

 

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That's Mexico just over there. The river/canal can just be seen to the left center of the photo beyond the fence

 

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The fence just sort of ends, now what?

 

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This high level road is being built between the fence and the river, anyone know why?

 

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Tomorrow morning our section of the train arrives in Austin, TX. If we're lucky Bob Dylan is there to meet us, can't wait.

Edited by v v

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Gosh, you were lucky not to miss that train, did you ever find out what the issue was with the time being changed?

 

Nice photos, I think the American desert sky with certain cloud formations seem to produce patterns unique to USA.

 

Can't wait to hear about Austin!

 

Ed.

Edited by caravanman

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Nice pics of the Border Jaime!

 

The elevated road is to avoid the flooding that (rarely)occurs in that area, and the gap in "the wall" is to make it easier for the domestic workers,construction hands and yard crews that live in Juarez and work in El Paso to go back and forth easily.

 

Note: there is an expanded travel advisory in effect by the State Department warning Americans not to travel to most parts of Mexico!😣

Edited by Bob Dylan

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Gosh, you were lucky not to miss that train, did you ever find out what the issue was with the time being changed?

 

Nice photos, I think the American desert sky with certain cloud formations seem to produce patterns unique to USA.

 

Can't wait to hear about Austin!

 

Ed.

 

I think it must have to do with the fact that Arizona doesn't "spring forward" like the rest of the country. I just wish that Amtrak could handle making out the ticket for the actual date of travel, rather than for the date the ticket was issued. But isn't it normal to receive a call, text or email updating changes like that?

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Nice pics of the Border Jaime!

 

The elevated road is to avoid the flooding that (rarely)occurs in that area, and the gap in "the wall" is to make it easier for the domestic workers,construction hands and yard crews that live in Juarez and work in El Paso to go back and forth easily.

 

Note: there is an expanded travel advisory in effect by the State Department warning Americans not to travel to most parts of Mexico!

 

While looking at it I couldn't understand why it's placed right on the border, they are not short of space around there.

 

On the 4th from last photo there is also a gap in the fence on the far left, that is a gate that was open at the time. In the 3rd from last it was in a different place and the fence just ended.

 

Also heard from Mexicans that much of Mexico is not a good place to be at the moment.

 

 

 

Gosh, you were lucky not to miss that train, did you ever find out what the issue was with the time being changed?

 

Nice photos, I think the American desert sky with certain cloud formations seem to produce patterns unique to USA.

 

Can't wait to hear about Austin!

 

Ed.

 

I think it must have to do with the fact that Arizona doesn't "spring forward" like the rest of the country. I just wish that Amtrak could handle making out the ticket for the actual date of travel, rather than for the date the ticket was issued. But isn't it normal to receive a call, text or email updating changes like that?

 

 

We received emails of travel updates for 4 of our Amtrak journeys, but checked again yesterday there was nothing for this one. The fact it was exactly an hour out sounds like a time zone or change of daylight saving but still not the time printed on the e-Ticket. Still it's gone now but I would look at this again to try to work out why

 

 

 

Gosh, you were lucky not to miss that train, did you ever find out what the issue was with the time being changed?

 

Nice photos, I think the American desert sky with certain cloud formations seem to produce patterns unique to USA.

 

Can't wait to hear about Austin!

 

Ed.

 

 

Coming soon Ed, so much to do now we're back.

Edited by v v

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Friday 23 March Day 31 ~ Austin, TX
Updated in the Allier, France ~ Saturday 14 April

 

We neither of us slept well, just one of those things. We sat and watched the Texas stars through the window, pretty good compensation for a lack of sleep. Change of crew when the Texas Eagle section of the train separated from the Sunset Limited section, the new crew are from Chicago and have an attitude, their problem and not ours.

 

Good breakfast and ready to arrive in Austin, will he or wont he be there?

 

Well this is not Bob Dylan, although he is also revered in Texas

 

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It's this chap

 

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Jim (Bob) was of course on the platform to meet us, we were the most likely culprits of those arriving. Friendly hello and an offer to take Rosie's bags, a gentleman too. Round to our hotel to drop our bags only as it's too early to check in, then a tour of the various areas of the city, old and new.

 

Jim says one thing that really hits home and in large part ties in with the other cities we have visited on this trip. Austin over the years has had a reputation for being a good place to be for music and eating out, lots of music venues of many types and a relaxed attitude. But much of the original city is in the process of being torn down and new build of houses and condos going up at a furious rate... what the incomers came here for is quickly disappearing.

Along with San Diego this is the most building we have yet seen, it's just everywhere. They are pulling blue collar neighbourhoods down and rebuilding with high-end homes (same happening in the UK), pushing blue collar families away from where they belong.

 

We asked to visit the Capitol, Jim did an internship there and knows it well. While there we can get some brunch, we've lost sight of what time of day it is. The Capitol required more space to operate in and rather than putting up another building next door they undermined the entire Capitol and created 2 new huge floors under whatever was the basement. Strange thing is the new floors look like they have always been there, amazing.

 

 

A few photos of the the Texas Capitol

 

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A very elegant building

 

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Smiler can't keep away from political lecterns, trying to keep Jim Hudson and I quiet

 

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To be continued...

Edited by v v

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Friday 23 March Day 31 ~ Austin, TX ~ continued - part II
Updated in the Allier, France ~ Sunday 15 April

 

 

No brunch at the Capitol but we do have a hot drink, Jim has plans for us to visit a BBQ food trailer for lunch which he thinks is the best in Austin. We both really enjoyed the food, Jim was right yet again. Rosie had a pork waffle tower! and I tried about 6 different things. Rosie enjoyed her meal and drank the beer (she rarely drinks alcohol). The very best for me was the rib, the second a 'broth' that the young chef had invented. It's a bit like Gumbo but a bit thicker, really tasty. The owner said they were known for their ribs, I'd drive 50 miles out of my way for them.

If you're in Austin and want to visit this place Jim will surely point it out for you...

 

 

Here's the trailer and the Friday Free Beer which is each and every Friday.

 

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After we have all eaten we head back to our hotel, it's near enough to check-in time for us to be able to shower, change our clothes and take a break. Jim has things to do which doesn't change just because we are in town.

 

Early evening and we are off to eat again, this is becoming a food fest. This time a great outdoor BBQ joint. Fabulous place to eat, lots of atmosphere, friendly staff and friendly customers too. A really memorable and happy way to enjoy a meal, we were there for a surprisingly long time. Again if you want to try this place it's called Shady Grove which is/was? the name of an RV camp ground that used to be there in what is now the edge of downtown, hope they don't lose this place to developers too.

 

Shady Grove

 

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Jim has one more trick up his sleeve, we're getting the best of Old Austin in a one day whirl-wind tour, Jim thanks for being such a great host. We're off to a small Honky Tonk or Beer House, called Donn's Depot. It started with a railway car plus a building built on, has been there about 30 or 40 years and Donn still plays in the band (suppose he would as it's his band). What is interesting is it's only half full when we arrive about 8:30pm, the clientele are there to meet friends and mostly dance to the live music. Many are older than us but as the night goes on the average age of the clientele gets younger, some older ones go and more younger arrive. Before we leave there are teens dancing with and alongside 80 year olds, how good is that. I have a very large extended family and know what a large family gathering is like, and this was exactly like a good family party.

 

We had a fabulous night, and still talk about it Jim, but maybe not as fabulous as it was for Shelley. Shelley is 83 years old, comes to Donn's to dance 6 nights a week and on the 7th goes somewhere else for a change of scenery. The lady sitting in front of us told us he's the best dancer in the joint, we had asked how did he get to dance with so many different women, she said he can take his pick.

He's not a tall man, possibly only 5 foot tall, certainly shorter than Rosie. Every woman he danced with was a fair bit taller than Shelley, when he stared straight ahead his view was obstructed. What makes him stand out is his T-shirt, across the back it shouts ' CHICK MAGNET ', can't argue with that!

 

 

Shelley on the right of the picture dancing with one of his Harem. Photo quality is poor as wouldn't use flash

 

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The place starting to fill up

 

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A great day and night in Austin, but now we're exhausted both having not slept much last night. Jim you're a wonder and a privilege to call you our friend.

 

We leave tomorrow (Saturday evening) on a long Greyhound ride to Memphis, it is for both of us one of the main highlights of this journey. But we still have all day and much of the evening tomorrow, Jim will come around lunch time.

Edited by v v

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Saturday 24 March Day 32 ~ Austin, TX - whole day cancelled

Updated in the Allier, France ~ Monday 16 April

 

 

In the early hours Rosie is vomiting, she has a migraine. She has two triggers for this to happen, lack of sleep or drinking alcohol, yesterday both of these things happened. It's turning out to be a very bad one as she can't keep pills or water down, just has to lay in the dark and suffer. Obviously we are not getting on a bus tonight, best re-book the room as she can't get up to move rooms.

Ouch! it's Saturday night and it's Austin's busy night, lots of money for the extra night but who cares, I wasn't going to allow Rosie to move.

 

Get in touch with Jim and cancel the Saturday, we'll talk later to see what the situation is. As the day wears on there is no improvement, this is not good. Spend most of the day on a slow computer checking out what alternative arrangements can be made to our Greyhound ride, hotel in Memphis and Amtrak City of New Orleans train bookings, pretty difficult to guess the next day or so as never seen Rosie as bad as this before or how long will it last.

 

Jim is very concerned and wants to take Rosie to an emergency clinic, but Rosie wants to wait as she knows the pattern and how almost nothing works at all, it just has to pass.

 

By evening Rosie has managed some powerful pills and can sleep, Jim picks me up and he and I go just down the road a little to eat. One of the best Vietnamese meals I've had, would have enjoyed it better with Rosie there though. Less than an hour later we're back at the hotel, Jim takes his mum out for a meal on Sunday lunchtimes (what a good boy he is) and I have to make a few decisions and fresh bookings, so we agree on 3pm Sunday afternoon to see how Rosie is.

 

By late evening there is a plan. Cancelled the whole visit to Memphis, no refund on the Greyhound ticket, partial refund on the hotel and a full refund on the Amtrak ticket, that's a start. Book a 3rd night at the hotel, even if Rosie is better by morning I know she will be quite delicate and weak. Now we're leaving on Monday morning.

Book a rental car one-way to New Orleans, hefty one-way fee but it has to be done. Renting a car will allow us to take it easy and Rosie to not to have to change transport, she can ride and sleep in comfort. We rent a full size car as it's only 6 US $ dearer than a compact for 2 days, crazy.

I plan a route to stay off of the interstate and instead ride the local roads. The 550 miles is a journey that we would usually drive in one day as regular as clockwork, but keeping away from the faster roads and driving through our favourite US state of Louisiana isn't something to hurry. Decide to stay in Kinder, LA, small southern US town that's for sure. When seen on a google map the only thing that stands out is the 'Kinder Rice Drier', and neither of us knowing what a rice drier is and why Kinder has one has made it our top attraction of this road trip!

Have to mention we stopped at Kinder almost exactly a year ago and just loved the small town feel of the place and friendly people, so some good is coming from these bad couple of days.

 

At the end of the evening Rosie is an amount better, but still no food and only a little water. I have cancelled 4 days of travel and booked what we need to get to New Orleans to catch up with our schedule, can't do any more.

Edited by v v

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I know it's all in the past now, and Rosie survived -- but I hope it got better for her FAST after this.

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Thanks Jennifer, this is how it worked out.

 

Sunday 25 March Day 33 ~ Austin, TX

Updated in the Allier, France ~ Monday 16 April

 

 

Rosie awake and feeling better, hasn't eaten for 36 hours and feels like breakfast, all good. Rosie is still weak but never says a word about being ill, how do women do that? She relaxes while I put finishing touches to a GPS route from here to NO, we'll cross lake Pontchartrain on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, the 24 mile bridge across what looks like an inland sea.

 

At 3pm sharp Jim appears, lots of concern for Rosie but she is definitely feeling better. Rosie is a born traveller and wont hear of not going off to explore Austin further, we just have to look out for her this afternoon and make sure she doesn't push herself too much.

We drive to the highest point in Austin, a short walk uphill from the parking has Rosie as the least breathless of us 3! Think this is a dammed river which looks a bit like a Texas Fjord, it is a long lake now. The great and the good (or should that be just plain wealthy?) live on the slopes of the lake, and very nice it is too. Later Jim drives through the housing on the far side of the lake, good to see it's not gated.

 

 

From Austin's highest point, the lake and a beautiful place to live

 

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There were quite a few power boats racing up and down the lake, some water skiing and boards too. This little scene caught my eye as it was one of the faster boats

 

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In this close-up you can clearly see that while travelling at speed he's drinking a beer, what a cool dude

 

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After driving through the neighbourhood shown in the photo above we arrive at a park (sorry Jim we've both forgotten the name). We're met by this magnificent Peacock, full size and confident too.

 

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Further into the park is this woodland garden, Rosie and I were completely captivated by the beautiful plants, each one perfect.

 

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We came across this at a junction, made us laugh but maybe only Ed will get it.

 

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Time for an evening meal and an early night. Rosie was looking tired but still had an appetite so we decided on Denys across the freeway from the hotel. It was all you would expect from a Denys, but the staff were scarce for a large restaurant.

The manager? was looking very tired, harassed and said short of staff, she had decided to stay way beyond her shift. She was just starting her 14th hour straight!

Our server was obviously new as he wasn't sure of himself, but he tried hard and had a smile, can't ask for more. When we were at the till asked if he was new? "no not new, I'm one of the chef's", he had volunteered to help out the waiting staff. Why would Denys in a city with so many students find it hard to get staff?

 

Last stop for the day was to get supplies for our road journey the next morning, we were going to visit one of Jim's beloved H-E-B supermarkets so we're all excited. Have to write it was a nice store except for the bird poo.

 

Early night, Rosie gets some rest and I re-pack the bags, we're all set for collecting the car tomorrow from a very local (thanks again Jim) Enterprise depot.

Edited by v v

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I'm so glad Rosie is feeling better! :) Both of you have been going and going practically nonstop, plus the humidity/temperature/foliage/different elevations were probably changing the whole time, so that may have contributed a bit as well as the alcohol and limited rest.

 

I could say it was the excitement of you both finally getting to meet Jim in person, but I don't want him to feel any worse about it than he already does! :P

Edited by Mystic River Dragon

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