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April 21st-30th, 2001

April 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th; Amtrak Jacksonville to Oxnard, cycling to Simi Valley

Amtrak signAmtrak train in JacksonvilleAn Amtrak ride to change coasts.  Cycled through downtown Jacksonville and then a few miles further to the Amtrak station.  Here I partially disassembled the bike and put most of my other gear in a large duffel purchased and carried along from Maclenney, Florida.

Travel on Amtrak is always an interesting experience.  This trip followed much of the route I had cycled.  It was fun to spend three days slowly unwinding the trip, seeing some of the same sights from the train instead of the road.  In particular, initial stretches from Maclenney through rest of the Florida and also Texas portions from Del Rio to El Paso were the most close on the trip.  I was intrigued to see how quickly the landscape/plants/trees changed from Del Rio to Sanderson.

Amtrak dining carA coach seat on Amtrak is cheaper than flying.  However, sleeper accommodations can add significantly to the price.  For example, one night of sleeper cost as much as a coach seat for the entire trip.  I compromised with a sleeper on first and third nights and coach on the second night.  Plan was a sleeper to New Orleans, coach to Tucson and sleeper to Los Angeles.  By the time we were to Tucson, we were 3.5 hours behind schedule, so an 8:30pm sleeper choice loomed as a midnight...fortunately, they found one early for me.

It is always intriguing to me to see who travels on the train and why.  Particularly when with a sleeper accommodation, that is more expensive and takes much longer than flying.  Frequent reasons include: fear of flying/airlines or taking a slower adventure trip to partially see the country.  Retired folks and ones with small children, tour groups and ones riding to smaller cities seem to be among guests I saw.  I met some interesting folks over meals in the dining car, or riding in the lounge car.  They included:

A couple who were avid "birders".  On their way to Big Bend National Park and hoping to see some rare species there.
A woman traveling with her kids.  She writes "Christian Romance" novels.  As she explained to me, there was sometimes a tension with having sometimes sultry themes vs the Christian themes..."I write about the same situations, but vary how you get out of them".
A tour group, flew to New Orleans, took a cruise and now riding back on the train
Two women dressed as clowns.  They made balloon animals and painted faces on the train.  Apparently, Amtrak is a sponsor of a clown convention they just attended and provided free transportation to attendees willing to entertain on their trains.
A person who worked in libraries (media centers), but prior to computers.  Had a bit of a survivalist approach "we have enough to get ourselves by" and didn't think much of newer computer technology.

Jackson Square, New OrleansOxnard StationThe train stopped for three hours in New Orleans.  Found a map and discovered that we weren't too far from the French Quarter, so made a quick walk to Jackson Square and back via Bourbon Street.  A Jazz festival in town, though it was still early.

Our Amtrak schedule was padded a bit, so despite being three and a half hours late at Pomona (scheduled 4:18am, actually closer to 8am), we were only 40 minutes late at Los Angeles (scheduled 8:05).  The LA station was about 30 miles from Pomona.

I had tickets and had checked my baggage through to Oxnard on the Coast Starlight train.  Since my destination was Simi Valley, I figured it would be easier to cycle from there than downtown LA.  Made the connection without much trouble and was on my way.

Oxnard was a quick trip and there by 11:30am.  As they unloaded baggage, breathed a sigh of relief to see the bicycle box coming in good condition.  However, my large duffel bag was missing.  "Maybe it is still on the train, we'll call Santa Barbara and have them send it back on the bus".

I got lunch and waited for word from Santa Barbara.  An hour later, found out that it wasn't on the train.  "Where are you going, we can bring you there".  I explained that getting myself + bike box wouldn't help much and I was going to be in station until it showed up.  Fortunately, there was a 1:00pm train from LA, and it had my bag.  Yeah!  Quickly assembled everything and was back on the road.

Cycled through agricultural areas outside Oxnard and Camarillo.  Strawberries, kale and other plants.  Sometimes plastic on the fields to keep moisture and suppress weeds.  Outside Camarillo, started going through a valley and then in Moorpark a bit more hilly.  Bought a map that brought me in through Simi Valley to All Pro Bicycles.  I dropped off the bike for a checkup/overhaul and went to Doug and Naomi's place in Simi Valley.
5 miles Florida, 29 miles California, 3341 miles cumulative.

April 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th; relaxing and visiting in the Los Angeles area

MaggieRelaxed in the LA area for a few days prior to the Australia trip.  Stayed with Doug and Naomi for two days (thanks!) before my parents arrived with their camper from Colorado.  My two older brothers also came through Los Angeles, so we had a nice small family reunion in the area.  We celebrated my father's birthday, my younger brother's birthday and also mine.  A year older and a year wiser?

All Pro Bikes in Simi ValleyGretha and John, my parents in front of the camperBrought my bicycle to All Pro Bicycles for an overhaul and to have worn parts replaced.  Replaced the chain, cassette, chain rings, brake pads, water bottle brackets, rear tire and handle bar tape.  A major job but also wanted to get all ready for the outback.

Went for a short hike with Naomi and their three dogs: Maggie (above left), Morse and Monsal.  Nice to climb up the Simi Hills and look over both Simi Valley and the San Fernandino Valley.
Getty MuseumLa Brea tar pitPage Museum at La Brea Tar pitsRonald Reagan library
We visited several interesting museums in the LA area.  The Getty Museum above left contains a collection of art started by J Paul Getty and now continued by the Getty Foundation.  Interesting and informative exhibits, impressive architecture and beautiful gardens made this a great place to visit.  The La Brea tar pits have a neat museum showing a small set of the 1 million+ bones retrieved from tar pits in the area.  The Reagan Library in Simi Valley was mostly what you'd expect, but also had a temporary exhibit of the era of Queen Victoria.

Washing the windows before takeoffWe camped along the coast at Leo Carrillo state beach, so came back and forth through Malibu into Los Angeles including stops through LAX.  Not much bicycling.  I did sort through my gear and figure out what to send home.  I had accumulated six books and a good collection of US maps.  Not too much of my original packing list was sent home as most was either used or necessary emergency equipment.

On April 30th a hiking and travel day.  Did a hike through Malibu Creek State Park to a location previously used as a set for M*A*S*H*.  Now two rusted vehicles remain, though I'll be watching background scenes carefully on the show.  Saw the lost pool and hiked over a steep shortcut before packing everything up for the airport.

Had plenty of time which was good as new pedals wouldn't come off with my travel wrench.  Fortunately, my father had an extra 15mm wrench.  Otherwise, all boxed up.  Cost an extra $75 since I couldn't quite fit it all into one box.

Flight left at 10:30pm and arrived in Sydney fifteen hours later.  Seven hours of timePedal troubles change meant local time of 6:30am.  In between, saw four movies, had dinner/breakfast/snack and tried to sleep.  Hooray, Australia bound!

2 miles cycling, 3343 miles cumulative.
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Unless otherwise specified, this page Copyright 2001-2002, Mike Vermeulen