Day 3 The Beach Life & Day 4 Into the Breach

On Day 3, Jo and I pretty much stayed put.  We didn’t head into town or even leave the Balboa Peninsula for that matter.  Half the reason was because it is awesome and relaxing just hanging out there, nothing more needed.  We checked out the beach, went out on the pier to Ruby’s.  Ruby’s is an old style diner, burgers, shakes, and such.  Except instead of the traditional location on the side of the road, this one was on the end of the pier.

After that the most transport we did anywhere was rent some bikes and ply the entire Balboa Peninsula.  That was pretty cool, checking the out the area.  Later on she’ll have some awesome photos of our exploration posted and I’ll post links to them here.

Overall, that was the summary of Day 3.  Complete, utter, beach bumness.  It was awesome.  🙂

Into the Breach, Day 4

Day 4 started at 7:00am.  Our escape route from the Peninsula was to give our buddy Mike a ride into work, then drive the last few miles into Santa Ana Station and ride the train into LA.  So far being this far from LA, has posed serious complexity to actually getting into the city.  Any route, includes multiple transfers and approximately 2 hours and 46 minutes at minimum.  There is one bus on the Peninsula, which I must admit is fairly impressive considering.  It has almost zero ridership this far south on its route and the people that do ride it are almost all maids or some other service sector employees that come to the Peninsula and then leave the minute they’re done working.  I get the notion this is a running theme in LA.  Half the population seems to serve the other half, directly.

The bus that serves the peninsula is the #71 Orange County Transit Authority Bus Route.  The primary route goes up and down highway 55 off of the Peninsula and into the mainland area.

We managed to head out the door around 8:05am.  This was almost miraculous considering Jo usually won’t budge before 9am.  We dropped our comrade Mike off at the office and headed toward Santa Ana Station.  We pulled out and headed for the sprawling monstrosity of a highway.  We rolled onto 55 north bound and that turned into the lovely 8 lanes of chaos, frustration, road rage, and anger.  It was beautiful in its own sickening way.  We made good time and in about 25 minutes arrived at the station.  We took a minute trying to figure out where to park, eventually found a good place in the parking garage on deck 3.

We walked into the station with plenty of time for our 9:58am departure.  The Santa Ana Station was a masterpiece among stations.  Simple, mission style architecture.  The station stood about 3 stories tall and now serves multiple purposes for the city of Santa Ana.  Downstairs was a pleasant waiting room.  In one corner was a souvenir shop.  Opposite of that was a little cafe.  On the far end of the station stood Jo and I at the entrance, and in the other corner parallel to us was the ticket counter.  We strolled up, and inquired about our reservation.  The ticket clerk courteously printed the tickets, and handed them over to us.  Irony, out of the two tracks that stood outside, he said track #2 and we ended up waiting and boarding the correct train on track #1.

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner

The Pacific Surfliner pulled in at exactly 9:57am.  Like a crack team of operatives, we rolled out of the station at 9:58am.  The trip was pleasant, and definitely beat trying to drive the Interstates or highways into downtown!  After about 10 minutes both Jo and I passed out.  We both needed that extra few minutes of sleep, being up late every night so far.  We awoke about 10 minutes out of the station.  As we passed gateway point into Union Station I realized Los Angeles, compared to about 15 years ago when I visited before, has drastically improved rail operations – or simply put, has rail operations again.  We say Metroliner Trains, other Amtrak Trains coming in, and off on other alignments one could see the subway cars.  Overall impressive.  Los Angeles finally wins some points for drastic improvements from the past!

We got off there and aimed ourselves for the front entrance of the station and our new mission, which was made en route via txting, was to find the Dash B.  The Dash B, under this new plan to go check out MOCA, would take us directly there.  We almost made it out the door without knowing what the Dash B was, or where to find it, but gleaned the information from an information attendant at the information booth.  With a few quarters in our pockets we made our way out of the station, across the street, and onto an arriving Dash B bus.

Dash B

The Dash B route was cool.  The little short buses, running a small route downtown, with a 7-8 minute frequency.  All this frequency and such, for a measly quarter!  I’ll have to check information on these little routes later, they seem interesting.  In no less than 10 minutes we arrived at MOCA and made our way under the outside display.  David met us there and we toured the MOCA, while MOCA was closed.  It is truly awesome knowing people that can hook a person up with tours like that.

After that Jo, David, Sarah, and myself snagged some great sandwiches around the corner.  We discussed the other ideas for the days’ activities and David suggest we ride with Sarah down to Long Beach to save a few minutes and have more time to check stuff out.  We deemed that a grand and awesome idea and after lunch said our farewells and headed off with Sarah.

Sarah got us into downtown Long Beach where we immediately found the Blue Line Light Rail and jumped another bus to tour around Long Beach.  We got to see some cruise ships, checked out a slight bit of the loading cranes from a distance, and generally just kind of viewed the city from the little tour bus we were riding.

Metro Blue Line

(Light Rail Line)

Once back into the core of Long Beach a Blue Line approached just a few minutes after we arrived.  We boarded while it sat there at its layover stop.  After a few more minutes, with our 3 long LRV train, we headed onward toward downtown LA.  The run started from Long Beach with about 15 people on the entire train.  By the time we left Long Beach there were at least, and yes I was counting like an OCD case study, approximately 140 people on board.  By the mid-point of the trip there was approximately 210-220 people on the train set.  With the people getting on and off at each station, there is little doubt that the train saw at least 600-700 trip
s for that single run.  LA has done a very good job with their system.  I’m now going to have to dig up the ridership numbers for the respective light rail lines.

Metro Red Line


We arrived back downtown at the transfer point to the Red Line.  About 240 people got off of the Blue Line and the majority headed up to the level above to board the Red Line.  Within 5 minutes the Red Line blazed into the station as a subway train does, with heavy breaking the train came to a stop.  Everyone boarded quickly and off zoomed the subway train en route to Union Station.  It is always impressive the speed and mobility enabled by a subway system.

The Red Line, as only a subway train could provide, eclipsed the ridership of the light rail train by a couple hundred.  I wasn’t counting but my estimates where at minimum 4-5x as many as was on the Blue Line.  Again, I need to look up the statistics on this line too.

Back to the Surfliner

Jo and I finally arrived back at Union Station with 12 minutes to spare.  We figured out which track our train was preparing to depart from and headed up.  We boarded the train with 4 minutes to spare, and at 4:10pm sharp, we rolled out of Los Angeles Union Station.

We arrived back in Santa Ana on time and jumped in the ole’ hooptie for our last stretch back to Balboa Peninsula.

LA’s Summary

I couldn’t help but think, “LA actually has better transit than Portland does, what gives?!  Why do I still find it the last place I’d suggest to live?” and immediately came up with a few thoughts on that.

  • Portland has contained itself in a reasonable boundary to serve.  LA is and continues to be a total zoning catastrophe.
  • The roads and blocks in Portland remain human size versus auto-oriented size, which LA fails miserably at.
  • LA has an attitude still and barely a soul knows there is anything besides their car.  Portland absolutely knows there are many options besides the car.
  • Downtown LA could be beautiful and alive, instead there is a lot of work to do still.  Even though there are thousands and thousands more living in downtown LA than in downtown Portland, the later has much more life after 5pm than the former, massively larger city.

LA has vast potential to recover from the last half dozen decades of bad zoning and lack of sustainable infrastructure construction.  LA is a city with a short history, but a solid one with a world spotlight fixed directly at its heart.  LA has the stars, it has the port (ok, so that is Long Beach, but it is the metropolitan area), it has a fair environment, and overall sits in an area that people find attractive.  The only problem is overcoming the damning zoning and livability issues it has.  I have no doubt LA will overcome these issues, but there are definitely some very serious speed bumps on the way.

I’m going to catch 40 winks before jumping back aboard the flanged wheel for our next stretch of the journey.

With that here’s a few shots from day 1 and day 2 of the trip.

I’ve had the debate a few zillion times.  I’ll repeat the debate.  Show me a photo that shows a mode of transport that actively moves while you can be this

comfortable!  My lovely Jo is chilling in the Parlor Car.  I’ve never been as comfortable in a plane, bus, or any other mode ever.  Maybe a cruise ship might give a train a run for its money.

I challenge anyone to present a mode that is as remotely comfortable and human as rail travel.


  1. [i]LA is a city with a short history,[/i]

    In relation to Europe and Asia, yes. Our "short" history only goes back to about the late 1700s. In California, we consider our modern era the founding of missions.

    See this site for details:

    [i]LA has the stars, it has the port (ok, so that is Long Beach, but it is the metropolitan area)[/i]

    San Pedro is within L.A.’s city limits, so L.A. has a seaport as well. The L.A. (San Pedro) and Long Beach ports combined are the busiest in the U.S.

    [i]The only problem is overcoming the damning zoning and livability issues it has.[/i]

    The zoning laws are done by cities. Los Angeles County has 88 of them, plus the county board of supervisor acts as city council for unincorporated communities.

    Los Angeles is the biggest, but it has about 40 percent of the county’s population. It has no chance of annexing its smaller cities.

    California is obsessive about small jurisdictions militantly defending their turf. There won’t be a coordinated effort among all cities to become more livable, because each has its own make-up. L.A. is too multifaceted to have a single urban form for all its communities. What’s acceptable to central L.A. won’t fly in the San Fernando Valley or the Harbor area.

    The nice thing about the nonuniformity is that at least there is something for everyone somewhere in Southern California. It’s a matter of finding your right neighborhood. We have great urban neighborhoods without official licensing.


  2. Overcome zoning problems and big blocks? Yeah, let’s demo and start over…

    "About 240 people got off of the Blue Line and the majority headed up to the level above to board the Red Line."

    The Red Line is downstairs from the Blue Line.


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