A couple of weekends ago, my partner Vanessa and me decided to head down to Disneyland to check out the new Star Wars land. Instead of going the same old way (flying), I thought it might be fun to do something a little different. Our trip OKJ-SLO-CPN-LAX-ANA was booked! Amtrak happened to have a 2-for-1 deal when we were booking, but oddly enough if I included a transbay bus in the itinerary the booking engine wouldn't apply to discount. This is a common problem now that Amtrak is doing so many buy one, get one deals, so I've tried a few ways around it. For this trip I went ahead and booked OKJ-SLO on the Coast Starlight and then we did an hourly car through AAA's Gig. We picked up the car a couple of blocks from our apartment in San Francisco and then street parked it across the street from Amtrak's Jack London Station for about $13. Since this was a Saturday I wasn't able to use my preferred transit connections (ferry, BART, Caltrain connections don't line up with train 11 on the weekend), so this was a fine compromise. Right on time at 8:30am, train 11 ran down the street in Jack London Square, horn blaring. On the nose today was P42 157 complete with "Heartland Flyer Big Game Train" decals. The chill, yet efficient, conductor scanned our ticket and directed us toward our coach car. The coach attendant gave us a seat tag before boarding and told us to pick any available seat upstairs. Once upstairs, I was pleased to see that the coach was very clean. No crumbs, all of the empty seats looking like the train had just pulled into Seattle, I'm always happy when a coach attendant keeps things clean. Only about 30-40% of the seats were occupied and it was very quiet in the car. Coach can be such a mixed bag depending on the day, and this was pretty much the best case scenario. It made me happy that I didn't pay more for business or a roomette for the 6 hour ride to San Luis Obispo. Since we were already scanned in by the conductor and had our seats picked by, we decided to make it down to the diner for breakfast. On the way I noticed that interestingly enough it looked like there were more people in the business class car than our coach, maybe 50% full. Once in the diner the friendly dining car staff immediately greeted us and told us we could have a table to ourselves. Perfect since I am not always a morning person! I can't say enough good things about the crew in the dining car. They were friendly and professional, no lectures on the PA. Good eye contact. Efficient. I had to pinch myself. It wasn't like the diner was empty either, there were people seated at 3 other tables at the same time as us. We both ordered scrambled eggs with potatoes and chicken sausage. The eggs were cooked perfectly, sausage a little dry but all-in-all tasty. We had finished our breakfast by 9am and it was hard not to notice that we were still sitting at Jack London, 10 minutes past our scheduled departure. Unfortunately the conductor made no announcements about the delay. Back in our coach we settled in and Vanessa started doing a little last minute work on her laptop. At 9:15, after no movement or announcements, I found the coach attendant on the platform. He said there was a mechanical problem with one of the engines and that mechanical expected us to be moving shortly. Uhoh. Since the Starlight doesn't stop in Carpinteria CPN where we were staying for the night, I had only booked the Starlight to SLO where we would have 65 minutes to catch the last southbound Surfliner. If this delay went on too long we would have to follow our contingency plan, cancelling our Surfliner ticket and booking 11 all the way to Santa Barbara, where we'd take the public bus (MTD) or Lyft (booooo) to Carpinteria. I was really hopeful to avoid that. At 9:25 the horn blared and we were on our way, 35 minutes behind. Rolling down to San Jose, it was a really foggy morning in the south bay. Quite the contrast to the beautiful morning we had in SF and Oakland, and a good example of our microclimates in the bay. As we pulled into San Jose, it was still silent in our coach. Since it looked like we'd probably make our connection, and the fact that cell service can be spotty south of San Jose, I decided that I'd try to upgrade to business on our planned Surfliner SLO-CPN using upgrade coupons (including one coupon graciously gifted to me by a fellow AUer). I went to the Sightseer Lounge to make the call. It wasn't more than a 5 minute call and the phone agent had me upgraded and my phone received the confirmation email. Things were going well today! As we continued south, there were a couple of unexplained stops south of San Jose. Weather was sunny and pleasant. There seemed to be some track work along Elkhorn Slough, so we went by much slower than usual. This was fine by us since we could do some good wildlife spotting. We saw a couple otters and a few harbor seals! No pictures of that, unfortunately. However I did grab a picture somewhere between Salinas and King City - nice and green this time of year. As we continued south, we weren't making up any time, staying pretty much exactly 30 minutes late at all stations up to Paso Robles. Then, as we descended into SLO, Amtrak's magic method of padding saved the day. We arrived maybe 5 minutes late into the station. This gave us almost exactly an hour to walk a few blocks to downtown and back before our Surfliner departed. In downtown SLO there is Libertine Brewing, a really interesting brewery that does wild (open top) fermentation. This, combined with a lot of sour beers, made for a great stop. The beer was masterful and it's one of my new favorite breweries in California. A nice, big open space was perfect on this 78 degree San Luis Obispo day. The walk took us 12 minutes each way, so we didn't have much time to enjoy the beer before heading back to the station. It's a bit of a uphill for the last block of the walk. We arrived with 10 minutes to departure, and our train waiting, more than enough time. This is obviously one of the major perks of train travel, especially at these small, local stations! On the Surfliner, our business class attendant was very friendly. He let us know we could either sit in the Surfliner business car or the neighboring Superliner business car. We opted for the Superliner. Right on time we departed south and shortly thereafter the attendant brought our snack box and complimentary drink to our seats.