Day 5 – Flanged Wheel Jumping & Phoenix

At the crack of way to early in the morning Jo, Mike, and I broke out of the Balboa Peninsula bound for Santa Ana Station again.  The plan itinerary at this point in the day goes like this.

  • 8:17am Metrolink departing to Los Angeles Union Station.
  • Red Line to Hollywood for break fast and photo mayhem.
  • 2:30pm Board Sunset Limited to Maricopa, Arizona.

At this point anything could change, except that hard 2:30pm departure of the Sunset Limited.

At 8:17am, the arrival and departure of the Metrolink Train was quick.  Jo and I boarded and put our luggage near the lower seating deck of the car.  Again, very nice that trains have this type of capacity, and another reason we rode in a car to the train instead of taking the bus.  The train has plenty of space for luggage and the bus sorely misses any remotely viable place for cargo.  Urban buses do not a make a friendly travelers aid.

Union Station & Phillepe’s

(spelling? – please correct me on that)

Jo and I piddled around the station for a few minutes figuring out where to go grab some breakfast.  Simply, it seemed the only thing we might be able to find would be Mexican food.  That actually didn’t sound like a bad idea, as we love some Mexican Food, but really wanted some eggs, biscuits, or some such traditional style American Breakfast.  Jo and I poked away at the iPhone trying to figure out where to go.  We found this one place, that looked like it might fit the bill.  We headed off in that direction, down Main and then over to Spring.

We both made it to the exact address of where this place was supposed to be, however it wasn’t there.  Nowhere to be found, except down the block we saw something that looked like it would be acceptable.  A place called Phillepe’s stood before us and we walked our hungry selves down the street and into the front door.  What we saw was the jackpot for breakfast.  With long tables and counter ordering, we stepped into the fray to order.  We weren’t exactly sure how or what way their ordering process was supposed to work.  Diving in head first we ended up with Jo getting French toast, sausage patty, scrambled eggs, and orange juice for $6.55.  I plunked down a solid $9.50 for a pair of pork chops, two scrambled eggs, biscuits, and some hash browns.  The hash browns were made of fresh potatoes, something I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had.  We gobbled all our food and were again ready to take on some exploration.

We walked back across the street to Union Station.  Jo went into the open courtyard area and took and break while I walked around the station taking photos.  I must say, the security & staff people didn’t raise a look of distrust.  I was impressed.  LA, scores VASTLY HIGHER on the – “leave me alone I’m just taking pictures” – scale of coolness.  SF was a tomb of harassment, and LA so far has given me no lip.  Rightfully so, I’m not going to blow anything up, especially with a camera!

Subway, The Metro Red Line

After the 10-15 minute session of station pictures and Jo taking a break, we decided it would be off to the Red Line to check out Hollywood.  We headed down to the subway and jumped on the next train after buying our two $5.00 all day fares.  Once aboard we got two seats side by side and enjoyed the ride.  It was a short 25 minute or so ride and we were up on Hollywood Boulevard walking upon the stars’ stars.  It was an interesting walk, even though I must say I’ve never been much to be start struck by stardom.  I’m the dork that find impressive things impressive, actors and actresses don’t usually measure on that list of impressive stuff.  So I stood by and enjoyed others enjoyment of being star struck, not by the people who are the stars, but merely being in the place that these stars once or sometimes are.  I was entertained by the entertained.

Jo and I plied our way around and eventually dove back into the underground to board the Red Line back to Union Station.  Upon arriving we headed back to the waiting area.  But before I could bring myself to end the wandering yet, I told Jo I was going to go see what the Gold Line looked like.  I knew it was light rail, but I wanted to see the light rail vehicles myself.  Jo headed back toward the grand waiting room and I cut off toward the Gold Line.

Gold Line to East LA

With the giant Canon EOS 40D slung around my neck like a giant “steal me” I decided I would do more than just glance upon the Gold Line LRVs.  I was going to use a bit of my last hour before boarding the Sunset Limited to ride the Gold Line.  At least I would go a little ways down the line.

On the thought of, a few stops, I boarded after snapping a few photos.  I barely made it to the first stop and saw an approaching light rail vehicle and couldn’t help but think, “rats, I’ll probably have to wait 15-20 minutes before I can get another one back to the station, I may just miss my train!”  So I stood firm on the LRV I had boarded with my slight worry of missing the Sunset Limited, and possibly worrying Jo, or worse, making her angry.  We snaked through the remainder of the downtown core and immediately paralleled a field of corn & other plants.  The LRV line then increased height and crossed over the huge LA River Canal.  There one could see the railroad tracks coursing both sides of the canal, we crossed over all of these and immediately rolled into east LA.

The first stop, even amid the slight ghetto look that was encroaching the area, was a spot on perfect example of transit oriented development (TOD).  I wasn’t sure which was there first, the transit or the development, but it was a good example regardless.  We rolled to the next station which was sort of in the middle of nothing, just some warehouse yards and parked cars in the station lot.  Here I got off the light rail to wait for, what I hoped, would be another Gold Line Train along soon.  Without more than 2 minutes, a train arrived, which I snapped a number of pictures of.  I boarded, grabbed a seat on a train set that had approximately 25% of seated occupancy.  Again, I couldn’t help but wonder what the ridership was like on this line.  I also neglected to notice if 3 car trains could run on this line, but I believe they could.  The train I boarded however only had two cars.

I arrived back at the station with about 30 minutes to spare.  My adventure had not been the risk I had thought it might be.  I suppose though, I could have rode further but chickened out.  The Sunset Limited only leaves every other day or so, once can’t exactly miss the train and reschedule for the next one!

Aboard the Sunset

After our short wait, Jo and I were more than ready to board the Sunset Limited.  This however was going to be a challenge of retarded proportions.  When I say retarded, I mean it.

First off, when Amtrak does seating, they already have it all screwed up.  There is more touch points to seat a single person on a train than was necessary in 1920 let alone today.  Amtrak has seriously pushed the ticketing and seat assignment process back to the late 1890s as far as I’m concerned.  First off, they always get everyone to stand in a line to get a seat assignment after buying tickets.  Who in the world does that anymore?  FREAKING NOBODY!  The airlines don’t do it, and I can’t recall a single other entity besides Amtrak that makes their own cu
stomers wait in lines to manually receive seating assignments.  Just let the customers pick a seat assignment at time of purchase.  There is zero reason for this inefficient nonsense.

Then there is the next step.  The step of actually getting to the seat one has been assigned to.  Since the process is so manual, and often confusing for both the Amtrak Employees and the customers, people end up in each others seats all the time.  Rarely do airlines ever screw their part of this process, Amtrak however is a different story.

So with that in mind, Jo and I start walking toward the train through the underground concourse.  Mind you, the Amtrak seating assignment staff were telling everyone to go to track #11.  Here’s the problem though, there isn’t just a track #11, there is an 11A and an 11B.  The Sunset Limited is also not just the Sunset Limited, it is also the Texas Eagle.  Well all of these people go hurdling down the main concourse toward track #11, for their respective train.  These people don’t understand that the train splits, that it is currently connected as one train, and thus once the hurdling people get to track #11 and realize there is an A and B chaos ensues.  Jo and I realized this along the way and concluded through simple reason that coach cars where down #11B and the rest of the train was down #11A.

We bypass the herd of confused passengers and head down #11B.  However another complication awaited us.  Waddling up the concourse was an obscenely obese woman, pushing a cart.  There wasn’t anything exceptional about her at first glance except she was huge.  Jo walked by the woman with no issue and I began to pass her by too.  Now this lady, being huge, wasn’t moving very fast.  However as I was about to pass her by she swung her cart of luggage directly toward me, I leapt forward to avoid having my ankle smashed by the cart.  I looked back at her with a wicked glare and almost lapsed into obscenities.  I’m really truly not keen on getting my ankles busted, and don’t care what is wrong with someone when I am threatened by such risk. I decided nothing said was a better idea.

Jo and I made it almost to the top of the concourse and onto the platform, but even though the confused herd was in the main concourse hallway behind us, many had made it to the Amtrak Employee standing on the platform directing before us.  Now I’m not really sure what the plan was from Amtrak, but there was a guy at the end of the concourse walkway onto the platform attempting to direct the herd of passengers.  He was looking at tickets and pointing to which car to head to.  This seemed intelligent enough, yet another point of possible error.  Yes, another point of error.  In short order this staffer directing people had sent people going to the further cars directly behind us going to the nearest cars.  The problem with this was, that the concourse entrance left little space near the nearest cars to board, but had an area they could have walked to not have been impeded.

With this cluster of people gathered, there was little people could do but stand in line.  However there was a rude couple that just started babbling about getting by, so myself and a few others squeezed over since they couldn’t wait.  From their cries and whining to get past it appeared they thought the Sunset Limited was going to leave and their idea was we were in the way boarding the Texas Eagle.  The couple got by but a scourge of others poured through our line, now disabling me from being able to give the car attendant my seating assignment so he could direct us to the correct part of the car.  Then, of all twisted evils, the obscenely fat woman poured herself through the cavalcade of people and ran her cart directly into Jo & my things.  She blurted out in stupidity, “I’m sorry, I can’t drive real well.” to which I replied, “I know”.  After my curt response she stammered another statement of, “I’m big and have a hard time steering.”  To which Jo and I managed to tell her to hold on a second while we moved the things she had ran into out of the way.  We finally moved our stuff out of her way, with enough clearance for her to move forward.  She uses this opportunity to plunge into another person, yet this time she falls forward also.  All of her excess largess she pushes the cart into this person.  Fortunately the other person moved out of the way a bit and didn’t take the full force.  The large woman straightens herself out and manages to finally get by.

I finally am able to step forward and hand the seating assignments over to the car attendant.  He directs us up the steps and to the left for our seating assignment.  Finally, the process of seating assignment was complete.  AARRGHBRAAA JEEEEEEEEZZZUUUUM!!  Ok, now that I’ve finished that outburst…  I’ll continue.

Phoenix & Hotel #1, Hampton Inn

We arrived in Maricopa on time and Jo’s friends swooped in to rescue us from the train full of stupids.  My brain immediately shutdown as the only thing either of us could see from the car our friend where driving us in was empty black darkness.  The road went on into nothing, and one couldn’t even see the prospects of the city.

On that note, I’ll continue in the next entry.


  1. I regretted never mentioning Philippe to you as to one of the things you should check out while you are in L.A. Glad you were able to find it yourself.

    I don’t know if you had the chance to look around more, but Philippe is truly an iconic L.A. restaurant. Philippe is reputedly the inventor of the French dip sandwich. (There’s another downtown L.A. restaurant that makes the same claim, but it’s hard to prove the veracity of either restaurant’s claim.)

    Last year, Philippe celebrated its centennial anniversary. It sold its French dip sandwiches for 25 cents, and the public response was to swarm the location, leading to a 6-hour queue to get inside. If you go to my Flickr account, you can see some of the pictures I took of the event.

    Philippe isn’t necessarily great for what it serves, but what it does and how it does it. It’s one of the few places you can get a complete lunch for $10 or less (sandwich, two sides, a dessert and a drink). It’s a deli-counter style service and the lines don’t move that quick since your cashier does all the service for you, and most of the seats are at egalitarian communal benches. What’s amazing is how it has a broad cross-section of Los Angeles and that it has remained a timeless classic.

    A lot of L.A.’s older restaurants typically had one loyal demographic that stayed loyal to it but never grew with the times. Philippe is the oddball that managed to stick to its roots and still attract newer fans.

    On your way back to Portland, try taking home a bottle of the hot mustard.


  2. Oh yeah, Philippe’s was awesome. We went to Cole’s the first night too and had Dips. Great grub, dug both places.

    We will be back in town this next Thursday, and hope to catch you and Fred for lunch/dinner/beers that day. We might even be staying in downtown LA, we’re not 100% sure, but will absolutely be in the city. I will follow up with an e-mail to you guys soon, I just keep losing track of what I’m doing – being on vacation and all. 🙂


  3. If you are looking for Metro Rail ridership, it is on The Transit Coalition’s Web site here:

    It hasn’t been updated in May, but the current ridership should be within the neighborhood of these numbers.

    And while the Gold Line will go to East L.A., you have to be a Metro employee to go on that part of the line. :> The Eastside extension is completed and going through pre-revenue service testing, but the public can’t ride it just yet. You were riding on the Pasadena leg of the Gold Line and got out in northeast L.A.

    You were short on time, understandably, but next time, go deeper in to Pasadena and the line gets more scenic. When the trains run through the Arroyo, you get quite a picture of foothills, a nearly dry creek and a narrow freeway down below. South Pasadena is a very walkable small town. It is built around the Mission Station. And Pasadena, well, it’s just one of the nicest cities in California.


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