Catching the train

I woke up at 7:00am again.  Argh, too early!

I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep, so instead I checked in with work.  Darren got ready to go to a school gathering.  I kitted up one of the bikes and rode to a nearby coffee shop, and purchased a big pile of chocolate and an iced mocha.

Back at the house I discovered that Kevin had prepared a frying pan full of breakfast items for me, including an omelet and almost a dozen pieces of bacon.  I transferred it to a bowl and chomped it greedily.

A fine breakfast thanks to Kevin.

Kevin came home.  We talked about politics, which was refreshing for us both, since it was hard for us to find people who weren’t either too sick of the recent elections or too afraid of the possible unrest to engage with it.

I talked about where I lived, directly across from a homeless camp, next to a park with kids and homeless people hanging around in it, and how I didn’t feel fear from them.  To me, the fear seemed to arise from people who weren’t close enough to see the homeless as people.

“There seems to be much more fear here, in Simi Valley, in these suburbs,” I said.  “There’s a whole collection of people here who think they have a lot to lose and that angry Oaklanders want to come take it from them.  Like, go crawling in their windows, and take their television or something!  So they buy guns.  And when protests come, they carry them openly just to be intimidating, or they hide indoors.  And there’s another collection of people, who are afraid of the anger on both sides — between the protestors and that first group.  They sympathize with the protests but they stay indoors anyway because they don’t want to be caught in a crossfire.  The fear is palpable here, on both sides.  I can almost feel it just walking around.  Back where I live, we see the homeless with this really uneasy combination of sympathy and annoyance, but way less fear.  They’re a menace to property, but they’re also victims and evidence of a failed system.  And they’re pathetically vulnerable.  And preyed on by drug pushers.  And the protestors…  We see those totally differently.  Totally.  We’re on another planet back there.”

Boy do I have opinions!  Kevin was graciously accepting of my rant.  We chatted a bit more, and then it was time to pack things up.  I wanted to leave at 2:30 so we had a couple of hours just to hang out at the station.  Something always goes sideways; best to make time for it.

Kevin and Nick helped to load the van.  We had to take the seats off the bikes and turn the handlebars, then stack everything on the panniers to minimize damage to the frames.  It looked really shady but it worked.

We just got on the freeway when we heard an increasing “thumpa tumpa” sound from the side of the van, then a popping noise.  The left rear tire began to lose air quickly.  Kevin got to the side of the freeway and hopped out for an inspection.  It was flat alright.

Not wanting to work on the freeway, we limped the car along to an exit – thankfully only a half mile ahead – and parked in a tiny shopping plaza by the off ramp.  From there we did a two-pronged attack:  Kevin called AAA and arranged for them to come by and look at the tire, and at the same time Nick and I figured out how to get to the spare tire from underneath the car and get instructions on swapping it out.  We used a couple of YouTube videos as a guide.  When we located the spare we discovered it was one of those little donut wheels, so it could get us to the station as long as we went slow.

Unloading gear temporarily while we put the spare tire on the car.

Nick using youtube to figure out where the tools and spare tire are hidden.

The AAA person called back and said they would appear in half an hour.  Meanwhile we loosened the bolts, jacked up the frame, and swapped the wheels.  In 20 minutes we were done, so we loaded all the gear and bikes back into the car and canceled the AAA driver, then carried on to Union Station.  We still had lots of time!  Hooray!

Last goodbyes before the trip!

Kevin drove around behind a building and we piled the gear on an empty patch of sidewalk.  He hugged us and made sure I had my bag of chocolate.  Need those essentials!  As soon as he drove away, Nick and I got out tools and re-assembled the bikes, then anchored all the bags to them.  Even if we needed to undo our work to get the bikes on the train, it was still worth putting them together so we could use them as wheeled transport for all this baggage in the station.  It turned out to be the right move because the first train attendant we talked to said it we could probably just roll the bikes right into a train car, without even removing the bags.  But first we needed luggage tags, so we were shown to a line at a corner of the station.

The line took over half an hour to service two groups, and when we got to the front of it, the clerk told us that the other guy had been too optimistic.  We might not be able to fit the bikes onboard at all.  Nevertheless she gave us two luggage tags, and said, “If you bring those bikes right to the baggage car, there’s a chance they can move stuff around and find room.  But you better hurry, because the train is on time and will probably leave in five minutes.”

We grabbed the bikes and ran with them, threading through a fast-moving crowd, about half a mile down a long tunnel and up a long ramp.  The baggage car was ahead of us, and the door was open.  An attendant gave us permission and we wrestled the bikes into a corner of the car, between mounds of luggage.  Then there was just enough time to extract one bag each from the loaded bikes before we were told to flee all the way down to the other end of the train and dive into it, to get to our room in the sleeper car.

We made it to the room, shut the door, and less than a minute later the train was moving.  That’s when I discovered that I had chosen the wrong bag from my bike, and instead of laundry and snacks, I had a camera and a computer.  Oh well; time to write!

A few minutes later we got a knock on the door, and an official took our dinner orders.  Nick and I set up and relaxed, playing music and poking at the internet, then devoured the meals when they arrived.  We were both instantly tired, so we set up the beds.  It was cramped but way better than trying to doze in a regular train seat, wearing a mask and breathing shallow, with one arm wrapped protectively around a pile of luggage.

Made it safely to the train, with only minutes to spare.
Pretty good meals on this vehicle.
You do not want to see a light lit next to the words TOILET FAILURE.

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