The Train to Bakersfield

I had intended to do realtime blogging for my trip to visit my mother in a hospital in Bakersfield but events soon sapped my enthusiasm for blogging. I'm back home and will now try to recreate my trip. I had arrived in Martinez and was waiting for the train going south.

Then comes sort of a mad dash to find a seat. It's easy if you're traveling by yourself but might be a problem if you are traveling with a group of people or your family. The first thing most people do is get out their smartphones and laptops. Amtrak provides wifi and a120V socket. The seats are for the most part comfortable and come in a series of two seats together or four seats around a table.

The best part of the trip is between Martinez and Stockton. There's lot's of water and marsh which means ducks, herons, shorebirds, hawks and coots. Apparently I was too busy watching them and forgot to get some pictures. There's also some interesting houseboats and little islands with houses on them. After Stockton it's pretty much the same thing. The California Central Valley is the state's major agricultural region. Amtrak calls it the Nation's Salad Bowl. Throw in some cows and sheep and you get the picture, if blurry. You get into oil country when you get close to Bakersfield. It was dark when I arrived and departed so I didn't get to see it but you could smell it.

Around the major cities on the route you can peer into people's back yards or see the many homeless camps and the trash associated with them. You can choose to look are not. Maybe you think we are a great country with few problems. How you view from the train window might be the difference between conservative and liberal thinking. And then there's the graffiti.



It was just after Stockton that the trip took a different turn. I received an email from my sister that said, “Surgery went well…In recovery for the next several hours”. About an hour later she sent another email. “She stopped breathing when they took out the breathing tube. She's temporarily on a ventilator until she comes out of the anesthesia more…” When I planned the trip there was no surgery in the picture but tests found an issue that had to be corrected and it was risky at her age.

The remaining part of the trip was trying to keep in touch with family members about what was going on. My TracFone failed me. I have been having trouble with the phone ever since I accidentally forgot to buy “service time”. TracFone now keeps deactivating it even though it has minutes and time on it. Email worked and then I remembered Apple's FaceTime (same as Skype). That didn't work because bandwidth on the train wasn't adequate. I was able to FaceTime with my wife at the hotel using their high-speed wifi. I then tried IMessage (Apple's version of texting) and it worked. I was able to have a realtime conversation with my wife. It was agreed that I would check into my hotel room and my sister would pick me up the next morning and take me to the hospital.

The train arrived in Bakersfield 15 minutes early. The passengers commented that this never happens. Normally the delays are caused by having to wait for freight trains to pass. My theory is that freight is not moving because of the west coast harbor shutdowns.




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