Written by Molly Martin
Holly had driven our new PriusC, the Tangerine Splash-colored Lucita Papayita, to Roseville to visit her mom there, so I was carless for several days before meeting up with her in Sacramento. Fine with me. I love riding the 14 Mission Muni bus where I meet the most interesting characters. And for the first time I took the 49 bus to City College where I sing with the Rockin’ Solidarity Labor Heritage Chorus. Several of my old Occupy buddies came to our concert where we told the story of Occupy in Director Pat Wynne’s “opera.” We all sang along to songs from the Occupy Movement and for a little while we felt like we were back on the ramparts. The next day I boarded BART to Richmond where it connects with Amtrak. So 21st Century, I had my e-ticket on my iPhone and got there quite early to avoid any mishaps. At the top of the stairs I was greeted by a couple of guys, one on a scooter, who informed me I’d just missed the train—to Bakersfield. Whew. I spent the next 45 minutes hanging with these guys. The one on the scooter was a BART rider trying to get to San Francisco who had to come up to the Amtrak platform to charge his scooter battery. BART had no electrical outlet, which suddenly seemed like a huge oversight. When I asked how he lost his leg, he told me he was one of five people shot when some “kids went on a rampage” in his neighborhood in Richmond in 2012. He was walking down the street. Of the five people shot, three died and two lived. He felt lucky. Then, in the hospital, he contracted MRSA, ended up having the leg amputated by a bad surgeon, and had to return to have mistakes fixed. He’d grown up in San Francisco and was traveling to visit his dad, who still lives there. When a young woman tripped as she was walking up the stairs, he chastised her for wearing heels and invented a complicated doomsday scenario caused by the heels. She looked to me to defend her, but I wasn’t going for it. I’ve always seen high heels as torture devices to be avoided. Then she said she usually wears even higher heels and it was just “the MS” that made her trip. No one followed up on that, but she joined the conversation anyway, telling us she was on her way to Davis to visit her parents. The other guy had a bike, and a speech impediment that made him hard for me to understand, but I got the hang of it after a bit. He was traveling to Sacramento where he lives, but is “in trouble with the law.” I didn’t ask why but he volunteered that he was riding his bike without a night-light. You have to have a night light on the front and back and he was missing one. “You got arrested for that?!” These are black people and I immediately got my police abuse outrage going. But then he admitted he was drunk. (Ok, the treatment still seems harsh). He really likes gin and we realized we have something in common. I’m not agile enough to try biking and gin drinking at the same time, however. And I guess he’s not either.
The Amtrak senior fare from Richmond to Sacramento is $23. Such a deal for such rich sightseeing! For miles the track runs right along the spectacular San Francisco Bay. And the train doesn’t go so fast that one can’t take in the view. There are birds, people fishing, buckeyes blooming, oil refineries and platforms, big tanker ships, marinas, derelict piers, derelict ships, parks, trails, even a sugar refinery. I swear I saw Jon Carroll picking his way along the shoreline near Port Costa on one of his frequent visits to the edge of the Bay. Then the train runs through a wildlife refuge marshland, full of egrets and birds of many feathers. My companions on this segment of the trip were a couple, Pat and Suzanne, who live in a 26-foot rig that they drive around the West. Pat has a park ranger gig in Martinez in the summer and the desert near Vegas in the winter, where he spends most of his time applying herbicides to invasive plants. They were on a day trip to Old Town Sacramento. She likes to travel. He likes to listen to Rush on the radio. They were just as excited to view the scenery as I. (“So those pipes is how they get the oil from the tankers to the refineries.” Okay. Got it.)
What could be better than ending a beautiful train trip by meeting my beautiful wife at the station? The station is in the midst of a big renovation, so it might be even better next year.