Amtrak Coast Starlight
Travelogue and Photos by Steve Grande
Oakland, California to Los Angeles, California
November 3, 1996
This is the third leg of my three leg journey, October 26 to November 3, 1996, going from Fullerton, California to Chicago, Illinois on the Southwest Chief, Chicago, Illinois to Oakland, California on the California Zephyr, Oakland, California to Los Angeles, California on the Coast Starlight, and then the short commute from Los Angeles to Fullerton, California on the San Deigans.
Click here for photos & more info about the Coast Starlight.
I arrived into Oakland, California on the California Zephyr just about on time. That almost threw off my plans. Historically, Amtrak seldom arrives on time, especially at the end of a three day journey! This time, however, the train arrived just about on time. It would have been 100% on time, but a drawbridge right at the end of the journey was open to let an oil tanker through.
I did arrive into the Jack London Square Amtrak Station in Oakland earlier than a friend that I was meeting was expecting. That gave me a chance to just walk a few blocks down the street and check into my hotel, the Jack London Inn.
I don't remember if I have talked much about the Jack London Inn before, but let me mention it now. There are three hotels that serve Jack London Square. If you have a LOT of money to spend, stay at the Waterfront Hotel. It is the nicest place to stay in Jack London Square and is the only place right in the square! For a little extra money, you can get a room overlooking the water and even one with a balcony overlooking the water! The next best place to stay is the Thunderbird Hotel. That might sound like a skid row motel, but it isn't. It is part of the Best Western chain and is actually a pretty good place to stay. The Thunderbird Hotel is about two blocks from Jack London Square and about five blocks from the Amtrak station. I learned about it because it was where Amtrak placed me when I booked a trip through their Great American Travel Plans. The place that I usually stay is at the Jack London Inn. It costs only a little more money than the Best Western Thunderbird Hotel and is directly across from Jack London Square and two blocks from the Amtrak train station. The reason I really like staying there is that all of the Amtrak trains go right down the middle of the street right in front of that hotel! However, before you book your stay there, you need to know a little bit more about the Jack London Inn.
First, let me state that the Jack London Inn has improved quite a bit since my last stay. However, it is still the lowest quality place to stay of the three hotels that serve Jack London Square. On the front of the hotel, the windows are sealed with double panes of glass. Unfortunately, dirt has somehow gotten in between the double panes of glass. Thus, the windows are dirty and the doulbe panes of glass prevent them from being cleaned. Your room will have dirty windows and they can't be cleaned. On many rooms on the third floor, the air conditioning doesn't seem to work in some of the rooms. Also, you will probably only get one small towel per person in your room unless you ask for more towels. The hotel seems to have a reputation for having a shortage of towels.
On the good side, if you get a room on the fourth floor (don't settle for the third floor), you can see all the trains from your room! There are something like 20 passenger trains each day that go by the hotel plus many freight trains! This hotel is a train lovers heaven! If you want a little closer view of the trains, just step outside the front door of the hotel and stand there. Don't step into the street or you will be run over by a train!
This hotel is seldom booked solid. However, this time, it was good that I had a reservation since the hotel was booked pretty solid. An organization was holding a convention at the hotel and had most of the rooms booked. You might wonder what organization would hold their convention at this hotel after seeing the conditions of the hotel that I just described to you. It could have been a rainfan convention since I'm sure those people would put up with the minor problems to be close to the trains. But, it wasn't. I am not joking when I tell you that just about everyone at this convention had either a long white cane, a seeing eye dog, or both! It was a convention of blind people! This was one of the most unusual conventions I had ever witnessed. The hotel even set up a dirt area in the undercover parking lot for them to take their dogs. Jack London Square is pretty urban and there aren't any real dirt areas to walk your dog.
I have not yet written up this leg of the trip. Below are a few notes that I have made to myself so that I can remember some of the things that did happen on the trip. I will be writing about this segment of my trip soon. In the meantime, click here to read about my previous trips on the Coast Starlight or click here to read about the start of this entire journey!
For the very first time, I have successfully logged onto the Internet while on the train! A friend of mine has a Ricochet wireless modem. This modem works throughout most of the San Francisco Bay Area and the San Luis Obispo area. I connected to my http://www.aho.com/amtrak.html page and then sent an e-mail message to myself and to his pager.
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