Labor Day Travels via Surfliner

I approached Labor Day weekend with no plans.  I have had a lot going on, so I was looking forward to being productive around the house and relaxing.  But then at the last minute, some friends invited me to Mexico for the weekend.

My friends drove down on Friday while I was working.  Now how is a car-free Angeleno supposed to get to the border without a ride?  No problem, thanks to the Amtrak Surfliner!

The Surfliner travels along the Southern California coast, from San Luis Obispo to San Diego, and provides for a picturesque journey.  I’ve wanted to try out this adventure, so I was happy to have the chance.

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My chariot awaits!

I bought my one-way ticket for the 8:19 a.m. train on Saturday morning.  $46 seemed a little steep for a one-way ticket, but I reminded myself I would be spending more than that on gas if I still had my SUV.  Plus, I can enjoy the ride while someone else worries about the rest!  While waiting for the train, I made sure to secure a spot on the platform close to the door so I could get top pick for my desired seat.  I managed to score a western facing window seat so I could enjoy the coastal view, but not one that faced forward (darn motion sickness!).  I was also impressed with the leg room and space for each seat.

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Leaving Los Angeles. View of the DTLA skyline from the window of the Surfliner.

We departed on time and were greeted by the conductor over the intercom.  She was pleasant and had a lighthearted demeanor, and made me feel as if she was hosting a casual dinner party.  She then introduced us to the gentleman who was serving in the dining car.  He didn’t just tell us the breakfast items available for purchase–he sang them to us!  Sara Lee snacks and a bloody mary never seemed so appealing!

I napped as we made our exodus out of Los Angeles County.  The conductor advised us that it would be the bumpiest part of the ride, but I wasn’t bothered by it in the least.  By the time I woke up, we were outside of Angels Stadium in Orange County and I was hearing an announcement from the conductor.

“Alright everyone, the train in front of us broke down.  We are going to be picking up about 300 additional passengers in Laguna Niguel.  We will have a full train, standing room only.  But let’s make the most of it, everyone.  Maybe check out the dining car and get a bloody mary.  You may meet your next ex!”

As great of an idea as that sounded, I remained planted in my seat for all it was worth.  I wanted to enjoy the scenic view from my train seat.  So much so, I actually would pretend I was asleep at each stop to avoid any glares from the unlucky passengers looking for seats.  If that makes me a jerk, just call me Captain Jerkface!

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Beautiful view of the San Clemente Pier from the window of the Surfliner

The ride really became breathtaking once we entered San Diego County, and the Surfliner hugged the coast.  I could see surfers and cyclists from my seat on the train.  It was a beautiful day for a train ride!

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A cyclist enjoys a ride along the Pacific Coast in San Diego County while I enjoy the ride by train

Despite the slight hiccup with the previous train breaking down, we made it on time to the Santa Fe Depo in San Diego.  What a beautiful station!  The tile mosaic was breathtaking, almost as impressive as the tile work in LA’s Union Station (let’s just agree that LA does everything better, right?).

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Tile mosaic at the Santa Fe Depot in San Diego

I ordered a Lyft to take me the final way to the San Ysidro pedestrian crossing over the boarder where I would meet my friends.  Moments before my Lyft pulled up, I noticed a San Diego Blue Line train with its terminal stop at–you guessed it–the boarder crossing!  Now I know for next time that I can take the train all the way to the boarder.  If only I had known sooner.  I could have saved myself $30 and gotten some extra adventure.

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Obligatory selfie in a Tijuana taxi

When you take a train, the journey can sometimes be as incredible as the destination.  That was certainly the case for my trip to Mexico.  I think my next adventure by train may be taking the Starline–the Surfliner’s counterpart up the coast–somewhere north of LA

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3 comments

  1. I am glad you enjoyed your (first?) intercity train journey. I think I had that same conductor on my ride on the Surfliner from Santa Barbara to Oceanside last year. Since you mention the $46.00 fare seemed a little steep I should mention that you could have made the same trip for $22.00. This would have required buying a Metrolink Weekend Day Pass (only available on Saturdays and Sundays http://www.metrolinktrains.com/ticketspricing) for $10.00 at a ticket vending machine at Los Angeles Union Station, riding a Metrolink train to the end of the Metrolink line at Oceanside, getting off the Metrolink train and buying a NCTD Region Plus Day Pass (available seven days a week http://www.gonctd.com/coaster-fares-and-passes) for $12.00 at a NCTD ticket vending machine, and riding a Coaster train to San Diego where the same pass would be honored on the Trolley. Metrolink and Coaster are “bare bones” commuter trains; no food service car,no checked baggage, and (probably) no singing crew members.

    1. Thanks for the info on riding the Metrolink to the Coaster! That’s a significant price difference. At least the entertainment provided by the conductor and singing crew justifies spending the extra $20!

  2. The Surfliner also makes several daily trips north to San Luis Obispo. An advantage over the southern route right now is the construction to expand capacity taking place in Orange and San Diego Counties. The trains might not be running some weekends.

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