Friday, February 1, 2008

From the Road...

Here's the post I wrote while on the way to fabulous Visalia, California, as promised! I made it hope alive, and as you can imagine, the first thing I did was reconnect (hey-o!) with my wireless internet.

Right now I’m sitting in the Emeryville Amtrak Station, waiting for a train to Hanford. I’m going to stay with my doting grandma for a few days, watching Project Runway and Lost and being tucked in every night (I hope!). It feels kind of weird to be blogging at the train station, or on the train for that matter, but this excursion has been bug nuts so far, and I have to share it with you.

So I had to get here through public transportation, which is actually really nice in San Francisco. There’s a bus stop right up the hill from our apartment, so I got on the bus and rode it into the city so I could get on BART (public transit for the bay area). I get off the bus at the 16th and Mission BART station, and it’s kind of sketchy. I used to live in the Mission though (Ha! We already have an ‘old’ neighborhood!) so I was totally ready to cut a bitch if need be.

At the BART station, I was only mildly accosted by one bum while I bought my ticket, and I went down to the depths of the tunnels to catch the train. BART trains are kind of cool, in the sense that they were probably cool in 1970, but now the experience is kind of like the Carousel of Progress at Disney World – dated. The other annoying thing (besides the fact that I had to sit backwards the whole trip) was that there were no maps of the route. Especially considering that we were underground, wouldn’t it have been convenient to know where we were going? Like on the El how there are very clear maps above the doors that tell you what stops are coming up. And the driver (conductor?) would announce the next stop, but it sounded like this: “THE NEXT STOP IS garbledygoopwhispersblehhh…” So there I was on the People Mover, having no idea where I was going or what was going to happen next.

Finally we got to my stop, which I was sure I missed, or perhaps it never existed, and I was in Oakland! Just so you know, Oakland is PAST Emeryville. At least that’s how it looks on the map. I have no idea actually, so you can Google Maps that one yourself. Anyway, I went down (I guess across the Bay BART is above ground!) to the bus stop, and it’s like, way sketchy. This is like the Oakland that rap songs are about. And my bus stop was under the freeway. I was brought up in cities and I’m comfortable in most situations and stuff, but while I was standing at the bus stop under the freeway in Oakland, I was a little nerviosa. I could hear my grandma in my head saying, “Oh shit.” (Hi Jozia!) Naturally, I called my mommy.

Finally the bus came and I hopped on, hopeful that it wouldn’t drop me in the middle of some industrial factory cum housing project or whatever they have in gangsta-rap-worthy Oakland. Turns out, Oakland is not only home to totally sketch public transportation, but also enormous strip malls! We’re talking like one big box store after another, but they’re all connected, with a parking lot that stretches in front of the whole complex, for (and I’m not exaggerating here) over three blocks. I wish I had taken a picture. Actually, I’d have to have taken a video or something to capture the breadth of that beast, and I don’t know how to put videos on the interweb. Believe me though, it was shocking.

Then the bus crossed into Emeryville, which to me appears to be one part shipping yard, one part suburban DIY Mecca. Suddenly there was a huge Ikea, and Borders, and a freaking Banana Republic! Weeeird. I asked the bus driver how to get to the Amtrak station and he said, “Go up there and there’s a ramp.”
“A what?!”
“Go to that brown building and you’ll see the ramp.”
“Whatever.” I thought, and I got off the bus. Again, nervous and cloaked in the misty rain of the Bay Area, I called my mommy. Turns out by “ramp” the bus driver meant overpass. The overpass was crossing train tracks, so I figured I was at least close. The only thing was, there was no train station. I kept searching, but it just looked like these were tracks for commuter trains and I was really lost this time. There was a little building by the tracks with the Amtrak logo on it, and I figured I could at least go in and ask where the real train station was. Turns out I was in it!

Seriously guys, this is the smallest train station I have ever seen in my life. And it’s apparently totally legit! You can get trains from here that go all the way to LA! I have been in Sephora stores bigger than this place. I took pictures, just because it was so hard for me to believe. I’m sitting right now all the way on one side of the station. This is a picture looking to the other side. It’s probably about 20 yards away.And when the train comes, it’s literally right out the door. I think this is as close as a train can get to the station without barreling right into it. You don’t even go down one step to get to the platform. We are the platform.

Sidenote: A woman has been walking around the station (all 30 feet of it) talking on her phone for about 40 minutes. She just said, “I’m not coming home with a lot of cash, but I do have a lot of vitamins!” Ha!

Sidenote Part Deux: Now we’re on the train and the same woman is sitting next to me, still on the phone. She’s so funny to me. And named Trish. Anyway, she just said, “Ungh, I had two massages yesterday.” I thought, “Dude, if you just got two massages why are you acting so stressed out?” Then I realized she was giving the massages. Ha again!Okay, this is about four hours later on the train. This woman has been talking on the phone for about 3.8 of those hours, and she is a loud talker. I now know that she’s planning a trip to Disney Land, has a friend who doesn’t like to fly because “it makes her ears hurt,” and has some serious personal issues. She just said, “It’s okay if the tears come, no matter the container.” Like Gladware?!

Oh, the life of a traveler...

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