The ride was peaceful and since I paid more for the tickets and since it took a lot more time than driving, I decided that I should take note of the advantages of traveling by train so I did some work and drank a beer.
California passed by outside and despite Hollywood and the news, it all isn’t neon lights and surgery enhanced people. We clickety-clacked along through golden grassy fields, green drooping fields of sunflowers and thickly tasseled rows of corn. We wound our way across wetlands with tidal channels cut through them and duck blinds waiting for the fall looking empty and forlorn on the dry ground.
Next we slowly crossed the Carquinez Straits and the water of the delta shined green and boats moved up and down the delta. We passed parks with people playing softball and having BBQ’s in the fresh air. We sped past the C&H Sugar plant in Crockett and then along the shore where fishermen gazed up at the train as it flew past them in such stark contrast to their easy repose in the sun. Small smiling children fishing in the San Pablo Bay waved to the train as it whipped past them. Soon we passed expensive bayside homes in Hercules, the town, formerly the site of the Hercules dynamite plant.
As the train approached the Richmond Station is seemed to speed up as if it wanted to blow past this sad and poverty stricken town. Buildings and graffiti blurred past the windows until the train entered the station and quickly braked to a halt. I disembarked and headed downstairs to buy my third train ticket of the day for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train to go ride over to my friend’s house not far along the line.
I found the ticket machine and was trying to make heads or tails of the buttons, none of which said, “Ticket” or “Buy a Ticket” and I was being eyed by a smallish man who appeared to be down and out. I was punching buttons madly trying to make something happen so as not to appear like some greenhorn who just got off the train from “Cow Town” when the man walked up and asked me what I was trying to do. I could understand his confusion as it certainly must have sounded like I was trying to play the Pachabel Canon or something as the buttons all dinged out a different tone and I was working them with all five fingers. He quickly slipped a used ticket into the slot which registered .70 and he said all he wanted for it was a dollar if I’d be so kind as to help him get something to eat. He skillfully guided me through the maze of “helpful” electronic screens and I was awarded a BART ticket with enough value for a round trip. I gave the man 1.50 and went through the electronic turnstile that opens and closes like a big pair of orange scissors and headed up the escalator to the platform.
I was in luck and I was able to board a train immediately as one was waiting on the platform and I entered through its filthy doors and sat down on its filthy upholstery and was happy that I only had to ride for a few stops before getting off. I vowed to bring disinfectant wipes the next time I had to ride BART. Amtrak was spotless inside, by the way.
My return trip the following day was more or less the same routine in reverse. I did add a hot dog to my enjoyment of not driving. There were no late arriver parents in Richmond, I think that people with small children wisely avoid Richmond unless they are unfortunate enough to be caught in the cage of its poverty. As I was waiting for the train and talking with my mother on the phone I heard a siren and watched as across the street a young kid in his teens clambered over a fence pursued by the police. He was out of sight for a while until more squad cars arrived and suddenly the young man reappeared beyond and to the right of the fence running across the street, one hand holding up his pants. He made it to the far side of a vacant lot before he was tackled by a swarthy-appearing female officer. She probably played some high school football in her day and her belted pants allowed her to run with both hands pumping like an athlete.
I happily climbed aboard the train when it arrived and found a nice seat with a table in the café. I spent my journey home there enjoying the passing panorama of California on a glorious summer day.