RonO (rono_60103) wrote,

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My Last Day of the Year

Today, in what could at least theoretically become a tradition, I headed down to the San Diego auto show since I was off work. With robot_grrl working, and Derrick in Arizona with my in-laws, I would have been at loose ends, and an auto show sounded like a good way to kill the day.

I take The Coaster to work at least 3 days each week, and since I was going to the Convention Center which is easily accessed from The Coaster, I took it down today.

This morning was my first time to take it beyond work, and my first trip that was for pleasure, not work. I also wasn't listening to a book, or reading one, so I was paying more attention to what was going on. I also brought a camera to get some pictures on the way -- The Coaster is the most scenic commuter rail line I've ridden on. So I can describe my trip, and include some of the pics below the cuts.

The Coaster left, on time, from the Oceanside Transit Center. For the first part of the trip, The Coaster is inland a bit -- a few blocks. Along a lot of this run, we see the back side of houses. Comparing this to the three Chicago area Metra lines I've also ridden, this isn't bad, they are often backing onto industrial parks. But shortly past the Carlsbad Village station, we break out into the open for a while, if you ignore the power plant that we will soon pass. We continue through mostly residential and some hotel/resort areas until Carlsbad Poinsettia. Shortly after that we hit our first real open section. However, there aren't good photo oppertunities yet, since there is a fair amount of open ground, and the Coast Highway between the tracks and the ocean.

The next station -- and town -- is Encinitas. Once you get past the Self Realization Fellowship temple and Swami's beach, there are some photo opportunities. I'm 90% sure that this picture is from that stretch:
Ocean View from Coaster, South of Cardif-by-the-Sea California

The train continues through Solana Beach and Del Mar -- stopping at the newer station in Solana Beach, which is at the bottom of a deep cut. Once it leaves Del Mar, we get the best surf view of the trip. For a section the train runs on the top of the bluffs above the beach between Del Mar and Torry Pines.
Surf View from Coaster, North of Torry Pines

Shortly after, the train starts heading back inland, and we get a good view of the bluffs that make up the Torry Pines State Park, one of two places in the world where the Torry Pine grows:
The bluffs at Torrey Pines

After passing over the end of the Los Peñscotios (sp?) Lagoon (probably the best preserved coastal lagoon in San Diego County) the train crosses the open end of Sorrento Valley. This area is very different from the rest of the run. It is away from the ocean, at least visually, since the bluffs at Torry Pines are quite high, and it is wet and has a lot of tall grass as seen here:
Meadows behind Torry Pines

After leaving the Sorrento Valley station, I was now on parts that I'd never been on before. The train starts climbing quickly through what I believe is Carrol Canyon, reaching the highest point on the line about the time it crosses under Miramar Road. As it enters MCAS Miramar for a short run, it is in a low desert canyon, although a fairly green one:
Desert at MCAS Miramar from The Coaster

The train then crosses back under I-805 (which it crossed just after the Sorrento Valley station) and enters Rose Canyon. On the way down, I didn't get any pictures there, or for a while. After leaving Rose Canyon, the train runs through an industrial neighborhood basically paralleling I-5.

This morning, I got off at Old Town, figuring that it would be as easy to catch a trolley there as near the Santa Fe depot. However, I also needed the bathroom. The first one I saw at the train station was a locked porta-potty, so I headed across the street to the State Park. However, the restrooms there were closed for cleaning. Deciding that there must be others at the train station, I went back and found them in the back of a convenience store at the station.

I then caught the Blue Line trolley (my third train and line of the day) towards downtown. I got off at American Plaza and transferred to the Orange Line trolley. I debated stopping at getting something to drink there since I had nearly an hour to kill before the auto show opened -- and the Convention Center station is two stops, and about 2 minutes, from the American Plaza station. However, the trolley arrived, and I decided I didn't want to wait half an hour for the next one.

Since I had time to kill, I wandered around by the Convention Center for a while. I quickly found a passage between the Convention Center proper at the Marriott next door which led to the bay front. From there, I quickly found my way past the Marriott and the Hyatt to Seaport Village. However, not much there was open yet either. I did find a bookstore that had a coffee bar and got a Chai Tea. Before hand, I did get a nice picture of some of the ships across the bay at North Island:
Navy Ships docked at North Island

When I got into the auto show, it hadn't quite opened, but the line for e-ticket holders was already quite long. However, shortly after getting into the line, they opened the doors and I got in quickly.

Compared to the Chicago Auto Show, the San Diego show is small, but it had a good selection. After realizing that the areas by the entrance would be the most crowded, I moved further back.

I spent a few minutes talking to a dealer at the Saturn area, letting him know that I had a 4 cylinder Vue, but would have gotten the hybrid had it been available. I also pointed out that my Vue doesn't get quite the mileage it did in Chicago thanks to the hills, and that my wife and I have a habit of buying 1st year Saturns (a first year LW, a first year Vue and a first year second generation Vue -- in fact I got one of the first ones sold since the 2008 models only arrived in June 2007 when I bought mine). He thanked us for being loyal Saturn owners.

I then tried on a few cars. Most of the ones I sat in were OK, but without driving I'd not be sure. I had a problem with at least two. The Mini Cooper has the speedometer located in the middle of the dash, and then puts the (IMHO completely useless) tachometer front and center on top of the steering column; and the Smart TwoFour is just too small to be useful as anything other than a 4 wheel motorcycle -- and probably orders of magnitude less fun to drive (not that I'm a motorcyclist, but several friends are).

I then went back to were I could drive a Toyota 4 wheel drive over an off road course (see below). I ended up driving one of their full sized pickups, which was OK, but not as much fun as my 1995 Jeep Wrangler (or the 1998 or 1999 Wrangler I drove over a similar course at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in 1998 or 1999).
The Toyota off-road course at the San Diego Auto Show

I then went back in and checked out the other side of the show. There I spent a bit of time looking at the Chrysler products, and was very unimpressed. However the most disappointing was the so called Jeep Wranglers. Having owned, and very much enjoyed, a 1995 Wrangler, the current Wranglers just seemed to luxurious and not correctly utilitarian and rugged. At least I got one of the people working the display to agree with me.

I then worked my way out -- after deciding to skip the other displays upstairs -- and got a test drive of a Ford Escape Hybrid. Having test driven the first Vue hybrid and having driven a Prius in Florida earlier this year, I was familiar with other hybrid systems, and found the Escape reasonably comfortable. Were I in the market for a new car -- which I would only be if someone with good insurance took out my nearly new Vue -- I'd have to debate between the Saturn and the Ford. I might just have to go with the Saturn just to keep my plates making sense.

When I left the show it was a bit before noon, and I wanted lunch. I briefly thought about trying Kansas City Barbecue -- which I saw from the trolley and when driving the Escape -- but wasn't really sure how to get there safely from the convention center. So I instead wandered into the Gaslamp. After rejecting a bunch of restaurants as overpriced I ended up at a Mexican place and had an OK carnitas taco. I then headed to the trolley but as I got there realized that the next Coaster was leaving Old Town before I could get there, and there wasn't another for 90 minutes.

So I went back to the convention center. I decided to take a ride on the inclined elevator -- even though it was labeled as the "ADA route" to the bay. This left me on a high outdoor patio of the center overlooking the bay, where I got a couple of nice pictures (plus the one of the Toyota off road course):
San Diego Bay and the Coronado Bay Bridge from the San Diego Convention Center
San Diego Bay from the San Diego Convention Center

I then worked my way back to Seaport Village, and then to the trolley -- finally finding Kansas City Barbecue again. I took the trolley to American Plaza and then walked to the Santa Fe Depot -- which is basically across the street even though they are adjacent stops on the Blue Line. Soon the train to be the 2:15 Coaster pulled up and I got on board.

This was the first time I've ever ridden a train that wasn't a sightseeing train for its entire run. I got a few more pictures on the way.

After leaving the Santa Fe depot, The Coaster parallels the Blue Line Trolley to Old Town. Much of this way, it is between buildings -- both commercial and residential. At one point it does have a good view of the end of the runway at Lindberg Field, but there were no planes taking off or landing to make for a good picture. It then passes by a complex of tall warehouse like buildings that I once mistook for belonging to some company I'd not heard of: SPAWAR(?), only to realize that it was part of the Navy. After Old Town, The Coaster runs parallel to I-5. However, it does have a good view of some areas, such as Mount Soladad:
Mount Soladad from The Coaster

Soon, the route enters Rose Canyon, and a much different view. For much of the run, the houses above the canyon are visible, however:
Rose Canyon from The Coaster

Once we are across I-805 and into MCAS Miramar, some of the shots could almost be mistaken for parts of Arizona or New Mexico, just not in late December:
MCAS Miramar from The Coaster

Soon the train arrives a Sorento Valley. Having waited for the train at this platform many times, I'm very familiar with what is here. However, it does have different vegetation than just about anywhere else on the run (but not the County, since the Sprinter El Camino Real station where I get on in the mornings is similar):
Sorento Valley Coaster Station

After leaving Sorento Valley, The Coaster ends up in the open area behind the Torry Pines bluffs. This is somewhat flatter and greener than the area in Carroll Canyon on MCAS Miramar:
Area behind the Torry Pines Bluffs

Unfortunately, before I could get any surf pictures, the camera died (I'm hoping it is just the batteries). While I missed the best shots between Torrey Pines and Del Mar, I did get a couple from my phone between Solana Beach and Cardiff. This is the best one:
Surf near Cardiff from the Coaster

After that I got home. Tara and I got some dinner at Jack in the Box (we had a desert coupon that was about to expire). Since Tara had to work today starting at 4:00am, and I got up normally, we'll probably both turn in well before midnight. Of course, this seems to happen almost every (or perhaps every) time we aren't in Albuquerque on New Years Eve. As long as we don't have to repeat what happened in 2002 again (we had to put my 13-year-old cat down) I won't mind.

For what it is worth the full list of these pictures are available at Since I'm not 100% sure that Picasa really supports embedding pictures there is a possibility that none of the pictures will work. With luck (and the clue that the first two pictures in the folder are the last two took) you may be able to match the pictures to where they go.


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