Memories of Amtrak: Part 2

Phoenix to Oakland 1997
I don’t know how my dad talked my mom into this one.

The plan was to take the Amtrak train from Phoenix to San Francisco for a family vacation and spend a week in the Bay Area before coming home. That’s what we did, but the execution was anything but smooth.

Like our last train trip, this one required a  transfer to get to our destination. The Sunset Limited would take us from Phoenix to Los Angeles, and the Coast Starlight would take us from Los Angeles to Oakland.

I was only 12 years old, but I remember there was a problem with the train. It was late and we stayed at the station in Los Angeles for something like 18 hours. I remember my parents arguing a lot and getting mad at each other. It was my mom’s first – and last – Amtrak trip.

Union Station in Los Angeles (photograph taken in 2014)

The train slowed down to a crawl as we entered Los Angeles – we couldn’t have been going more than 5 or 10 mph. The train tracks leading to Los Angeles Union Station follow the LA River, and I remember seeing the miles of concrete-lined canals covered in graffiti as the train snaked its way through the dense urban landscape.

We eventually made it to San Francisco and checked in to the Redisson (not Radisson) hotel. We saw Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, and the aquarium. We took a bus tour over the Golden Gate Bridge and up to the Muir Woods to see the giant redwood and sequoia trees.

Me (age 11) riding the ferry to Alcatraz in 1997

We toured Alcatraz, rode the cable cars, and saw Lombard Street. My parents took me to the Japanese Garden, which I remember being very boring as a kid.

I remember walking along the dock at the marina in Sausalito, reading the funny names of the ships tied up there. We also went to some kind of Cable Car Museum as I recall. I remember eating breakfast at a scary McDonalds full of hobos who were hungrily eying our food as we dined amongst the No Loitering signs.

My memory of the journey home is pretty fuzzy. Nothing about it stands out in my mind. However, our next trip would prove to have some very memorable moments.

About the author

Trevor Freeman

Trevor Freeman is a writer, photographer, and maker who loves learning new things. His favorite food is pizza. He received a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management from Grand Canyon University. He lives and works in Phoenix.

You can follow Trevor on Twitter @TrevorFreemanAZ, on Instagram at @arizona.dreamin, and on YouTube: TheRealTrevorland.

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