Oceanside to Los Angeles
Oceanside has a bustling transit center featuring three main train lines that travel through on a daily basis. Amtrak journeys around the country, the Coaster is mainly around San Diego, and the Metrolink goes as far north as Ventura.
Living here all of these years, you would think I would utilize it more, but I don’t.
One time I went across country on the train, another up north to Santa Barbara, and a few times to San Diego.
Not having anything planned for the weekend, we saw something online about the Metrolink costing only $10 for a round trip ticket for the day. So, we thought it would be fun to jump on and explore up north.
The plan was to go to San Clemente to walk around the shops, visit the pier. and, then stop for lunch at San Juan Capistrano. The train stops twice in San Clemente with one of the stops landing right smack in front of the pier. You disembark and there is no better stopover as you are near all of the action. Besides, the pier, there are shops, places to eat, and of course that beautiful beach. We gave a brief thought about bringing our bathing suits then going for a swim but decided that was for another time.
The next stop in San Clemente was also next to the ocean but about a mile north of the pier. There again, you could get out and go to the beach but with less activity as by the pier.
We stayed on to see one of the next stops in San Juan Capistrano. Arriving in San Juan, the now slowing train, slid by quaint little shops where you could easily get lost browsing for hours.
We were excited to investigate these crafty stores, all filled with eclectic stuff such as out door decorations, antiques, pottery, etc. However, that was not to be as I will explain later.
We also saw cute restaurants with tree-lined shaded patios and ambiance for days. Our goal was to walk to Ruby’s Diner which we knew was close to the widely visited Mission San Juan Capistrano. Honestly, we didn’t know exactly how far away that was, but we knew it was pretty close.
However, we were surprised that the ground was super wet, it was raining, well, actually a hard sprinkle. The train was super cool from a fine tuned air conditioner and sitting in wet clothes didn’t sound like fun.
So, we stayed on to see the next stop in Laguna. After San Juan, the train started to turn away from the beach, it was actually inland Laguna Niguel we were going to, not Laguna Beach.
From Oceanside, right away you are greeted with a wide-open view of the harbor and Camp Pendletons secluded beaches. The ocean is to the west the whole time. In parts it feels like you are right on the beach and almost as if a wave is going to hit the train at any moment.
It is a stunning drive. The ocean was so sparkling clear on this day as you drive by both crowded and uncrowded beaches. On some deserted beaches there were only a few people, so I looked to the west to see where they were possibly parking, there was nothing. I’m thinking that they must have hiked or walked a few miles just to get the place all to themselves.
This part of the trip up north, is worth every penny.
However, as we turned east, there was no more sea, no more beach.
We stopped at Laguna Niguel but it was still wet out and we didn’t see anything we could do so, we stayed put and further north we went.
We passed by a few towns then decided to check the schedule and see when the train travels back to Oceanside. As it turns out, if you got off at each stop at this point, it will be another two hours before the train comes back around south. So, wherever we stopped and disembarked, at this point, we would have to kill two hours.
This meant that, we missed our two stops for lunch and strolling around the quaint shops in San Juan Capistrano. Mainly because the Metrolink did not operate very late on a Sunday.
It was decided that we would go to the Union Train Station in Los Angeles because there are things to do around there. From the gorgeous beaches to industry in Los Angeles, here we come. We were actually OK with the new plans.
We passed by so much, including, Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm although they weren’t that close.
We Googled that you could get a taxi to either for a short six-mile ride or grab a bus. One of the stops landed you right at Angel Stadium. This is where most of the passengers got off as there was definitely a game that day judging by the people we could see in the stadium.
Union Station itself, is iconic and has been featured in many movies with its majestic architecture. This station that I traveled from as a kid going to Texas, still looked like something out of the fifties with only a few exceptions. They didn’t have a Wetzel’s Pretzel or a Subway Sandwich shop back then.
The grand main lobby hadn’t changed and the ramps that lead down to the trains were still in place. The seating areas with over-sized chairs were still there and were as comfortable as they looked.
It is an amazing station but, now we were ready to explore the area and stretch our legs. Exiting the station to the outside, we were immediately greeted with an extremely humid and hot Los Angeles day.
Moving at snail’s pace, we decided to walk across the way to Olvera Street. Olvera Street is a historical avenue featuring a Mexican marketplace. Vendors of every kind, display their goods along a boulevard that also boasts restaurants and small cafes filled with authentic Mexican food. I was hot, very hot on this July day, so I had only one interest, well make that three… food, water, and a cool place to sit.
Through the crowded street, we passed by a few eateries and settled on one that did have my needed shady patio. Food…check, water…check, shade…check, all was good. I know, I know, I’m a baby, didn’t want to get wet, didn’t want to be hot.
We passed by a square that had music playing and stood for a while listening. Time was moving slowly as were the beads of sweat on my face. With a little more time until the next train south, I looked over at my traveling companions. I think we all came up with the same idea at once…
Union Station is air conditioned!!!!
It was decided we would get a Wetzel’s Pretzel and kill some time in one of the over-sized comfortable chairs that we saw while walking out.
After a few games of 21 questions just to bide our time, the moment came for us to head to the actual train track. Now we get to once again, see life at the back door, as I call it.
Life at the Back Door
Trains travel through neighborhoods, by businesses, under bridges, and through tunnels. They meander around like sneaky vehicles behind your home, your business, your camp site, RV parks. Sometimes you don’t even know they are there while other times, their horns will blast you out of a deep sleep.
In the neighborhoods, you see their backyards. Do they have a pool, is their back yard unkempt or, is it well manicured? We are passing by and we see you!!!
Hundreds of businesses we cruised by and some you wondered what they did while others had everything in their back area for all to see. There were enormous metal scarp yards, lumber yards, auto shops, cars. wood working, etc. If the back of the building didn’t have a gate, graffiti was all over the place.
Ugly as it was, it was super interesting.
As we passed by the Los Angeles River, there were old bridges that were probably built in the mid 1900’s but they were amazing structures with ornate architecture.
A fellow passenger pointed out the 6th street bridge, which connects the Arts District to the Boyle-Heights neighborhood. This more than half a mile long bridge, cost LA, almost 600 million dollars.
Unlike the other older bridges, this one is modern and as it turns out is on the news almost every night.
But in some cases, not in a good way. In the wee hours, cars are doing spin-outs and graffiti is marking it all up. This beautiful structure is being vandalized.
Some people love strolling the bridge, wanting to get a views of the mountains and the city. From what I read, it was becoming a hang-out for the neighborhoods nearby. If only some people didn’t ruin it. Especially. as much as it cost.
But that is life in Los Angeles, so many people.
Continuing on, we passed by train yards where shipping containers were stacked high, waiting to get loaded, and then shipped somewhere farther away. The dozens if not hundreds of railway lines wove through the city while we wondered how they kept track of it all, no pun intended.
As smooth as the train ride was, I couldn’t take a nap, unlike my fellow passengers. I was too busy being a voyeur, to the back door life of Los Angeles, Orange County and, finally San Diego County. That is part of the fun, a high speed form of people watching.
It was a long day as we pulled into Oceanside around 6:30 pm. I don’t regret missing out on the pier or San Juan Capistrano. That just opens it up for another trip, as it is only about forty minutes away.
We might pay attention to the schedule better next time and that is my suggestion to you. So, if you are ever looking for something to do, channel your inner child and get on board and ride the Choo Choo!!!
Story and phots: Debbie Colwell