Carpinteria and Santa Barbara

After my arrival in Carpinteria I spent the week working on recording material. I’ve however talked about that elsewhere, since it’s well outside the scope of my transit sleuthing! But here’s a few of the day to day adventures and what not.

That First Commute

For the first trip to the office, I scoped out the transit agency for the area and found that there was a bus that would bring me from across the street of the nearby Starbucks directly to the front door of the office. All I needed was fare, and found online after checking out the MTD site for Santa Barbara’s Transit Agency, I could pick up a ten ride ticket at the Albertsons next door.

After I picked up the ticket, the first trip on the bus was a short sweet ride that took just 5 minutes. In the evening that first day I actually opted to take a walk back to the hotel. I wandered up through the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Reserve. It provides a beautiful place to walk out to and along the beach front. The subsequent day I rode the bus one more time, catching the 21x.

I used the MTD App to see when the bus was arriving this day, and gotta say it’s one of the more accurate I used. There were a few glitches in the app like needing to recenter on where the stop was after every few views of the arrivals. However, in spite of the glitches it still worked well in giving me arrivals so I’d know when to go board a bus.

Attaining a Bike

Carpinteria is very bike friendly. All the local roads are slow neighborhood style streets and one routinely sees the school kids to the beach bums to the retired folk biking around town. In the small little main street of Carpinteria there’s also some pretty top tier food options, again, easily able to swing between them via bike. With that in mind I set out to borrow a bike for the days I could from the office. On Wednesday I was able to pick up said bike, and I was super ecstatic that I though immediately, I’m going to go to town and get something tasty tonight!

So upon receiving the lock from security I was all set, and headed into town. That’s where I decided to get some grub at Sly’s. Let me tell you, this place was not messing around! The food was extremely good, and definitely doesn’t fall into the “small town” food category, but more into the big city batting 5 stars level food!

After that I rolled and picked up some things from the local grocery for my rocking steeds front basket. I just figured I ought to fully use the advantage of the bike to the max, so I sure did. Rolled back to the hotel watched a movie and passed out. A most excellent evening!

Bike Commute!

The next day I biked into the office through the park area again. Along through the trail I took a few photos and a short video. The congestion pictures however are of the inbound cars on 101 and on the side road. Every single day they were all backed up. The absolute worst way to commute.

That evening, on the way back to the hotel I took the long way home and snagged a few more photos of the bike trip around, along the coast, through the beach park and back up through Carpinteria and back to the hotel.

Oil rigs. I saw a number of them. If you drive, take a good look at the things you support out there seeping oil into the ocean every day. They’re some nasty shit and one can actually go down to the beach and see remnants of the rigs work coming to shore on a semi-regular basis. I found this kind of odd that they allowed this to occur this close to the shore. In Louisiana they have a lot of rigs offshore, but one can’t see them and rarely does one actually see the oil coming ashore. However, the other filth in the water of the Gulf of Mexico there in Louisiana may have just obfuscated the oil, I couldn’t verify. Either way, it was like a dystopian imagery seeing those offshore toiling away. They did make for an interesting view of lights off the coast too.

After that, I headed into town for dinner, but ate a bit lighter and spent some time working that evening. More on this trip in the next post, there is indeed more. Until then, cheers & happy travels!

California Coastal Carpinteria Trip

Going back in time today, the story of my trip to Carpinteria, California for a week of work. I had some fun adventures and around about explorations while learning how to traverse the landscapes of Carpinteria on up to Santa Barbara. The trip, spoiler alert, was a most excellent and awesome trip! It all started on April 1st, but no fool’s day for me, with a bike ride.

Departure Bike

I left the house and walked a mere ~200 feet and there sat one of the new zippy e-bikes that LimeBike has in the city. I scanned it to unlock the bike, loaded up my luggage in the front rack and off I went to the bus stop. It wasn’t absolutely necessary to use the bike, but it would give me a few more minutes downtown if I wanted to grab a coffee or something. I often, since my trip is from Ballard to Seattle City core and then to the airport, stop and grab a coffee or eats downtown before leaving for the overpriced and routinely lackluster options at the airport.

Within just a few minutes I arrived at the bus stop and checked the arrival. The next King County Metro Route 40 bus arrived within just a few minutes. I boarded, plopped my luggage on the ground and sat back and enjoyed the ride into the city. We arrived downtown, I decided today to skip the downtown drink and grub and instead opted to board the LINK direct to the airport.

I boarded the LINK and in a short time I arrived at the airport. The regular security bullshit and TSA circus facade ensued and I already wished I had decided to take the Coast Starlight. Flying is the closest thing to the icky confines of a bus, one just gets to go 400+ mph and arrive faster, but the journey and the airports are such a mall bathroom style trash show. However, there was a silver lining, like so many of my flights these days, I was at least flying first class on Alaska Airlines.

As one does with the Alaska Airlines wing of SEATAC I rode the little underground subway bus train contraption.

First or Business Class

There’s so many blasted designations about first class or business class, this status or that status, upgraded, or bobbityboopity status. One just doesn’t know what entitles one to what when it comes to the airline flight experience. As anyone would, I long to just be rich and be ushered to my plane with my closest of friends, family, and comrades only! But I digress, this business or first class thing I had purchased wasn’t so shabby!

The flight was smooth, except for a little bumpy coming out of the low lying clouds in Santa Barbara. Walking off the plane I noticed two things about the airport that I immediately fell in love with. The first thing is that they have a patio you can sit on that is effectively on the tarmac where you can watch planes taking off and landing. The second thing is that it is a small, super chill, single food establishment type of airport. None of that crazy big airport cruft!

Upon arriving, I of course, now needed to get from Santa Barbara to Carpinteria. That’s where things were sort of tricky. I’d done exactly zero research on how to get from there from here. I checked Google Maps and it gave me a transit ride that would take about an hour, I checked Lyft, it would take about 35 minutes, and there was also a possibility, if I wanted to, that I could go to Goleta and take the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner into Carpinteria via the ~27 minutes trip along the coastline.

I did the dumb thing and took a Lyft, albeit he conversation was fun, friendly, and rather heart warming. My drive was a guy originally from Ethiopia, who had come to America about 15 years ago. He told me how he’d come here, worked construction for a number of years. He had a great boss that even during the downturn helped all his crew out by letting everybody stay at his house. He had then gotten married, and now his wife and him live with their two children there in between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria. He drives Lyft now and it gives him the freedom to work when he needs to, take her to work and immediately start getting pickups, and even pick up the kids and have all that flexibility one needs as a parent. He loves it!

We also talked cars and Lyft costs, and the related economic impact of that. He knew it was closer to the loss and profit line then a lot of drivers seem to realize. It was refreshing to talk with such an optimistic guy in light of today’s political nightmare we have.

That was the last car I’d get in for the trip however, and even though I had a great conversation with the driver, I was glad to be out of that traffic mess and on to other things. I arrived at the Motel 6, which seemed immediately I’d made a slight mistake, as a a much nicer hotel was next door. But it turns out, after check in, the room wasn’t half bad. Very 60’s era retro, clean, and very egalitarian. It appeared it would work out perfectly, as I only needed the room for the very functional purpose of sleeping. I’d otherwise be in the office or around exploring the whole time anyway.

That Oddball City Limits

One thing I noted, as I’d mentioned I could catch the train at Goleta, is that Santa Barbara’s Airport is effectively in Goleta, not in Santa Barbara. But zoning and city limits and all that fun stuff put things where they are. Here’s a map of the city limits of Santa Barbara outlined in red.

city-limits

…having arrived, I unpacked, and immediately went about getting some work done and then caught some sleep ready for the week of teaching & recording! But alas, I’ve got more about that coming, so stay tuned!

Empire Builder Onboard

Our exodus from Chicago went smoothly. Arriving at Glenview, Milwaukee, and subsequent stops on time. The train ran smoothly in these segments, how the train ought to run really. It makes me curious too about the 110mph trains in this corridor. It would be nice if we could get the Empire Builder up to those speeds in this corridor, or at least up to 90 mph with the existing equipment. It seems a possibility with the fact the Santa Fe, decades ago, ran the double decker Superliner cars easily at 90mph!

The Bleak Countryside

As we rolled north and then turn northwest in direction upon leaving Milwaukee the landscape changed slightly. From neighborhoods, cleanly organized traditional grid suburbs, and empty countryside with spotty industrial building corpses and a spot of trees here and there, the scenary shifted away from all of this. In its stead was the grand smaller girth of the northern Mississippi river.

Always a sight to see at any point, but at this point in the Mississippi where we cross she’s extremely wide, but deceivingly so. You see, there’s numerous islands right center in the river, where the bridge segments make landfall. I suspect, at time of construction this made the bridge construction dramatically simpler versus attempting to cross at a section that would have traversed the entire width. The crossing is seemless and if one doesn’t know the geography would cross without awareness that the segment before and after the island are the same river!

The river shorelines on both sides are endless trees with a few small house boats interspersed between them all. We ride along on the south shore of the river, with the almost desolate look to the countryside. It’s spring, supposedly, but one couldn’t tell by the lack of green amongst all the trees. Nothing is really blooming yet, and everything is a tones of gray, with the brown grass peaking out among the high river waters flooding the shorelines.

After a few hours the sun begins setting and the absolutely epic view along the hilly horizon is outside our window. An amazing view that requires a few pictures, and a long look along the edge of the hills. The red emblazons this hilly edge as the yellow of the sun’s light dissappears for the night. The pictures, upon quick review after taking, are a paltry nothing compared to actually seeing the beauty of the sunset in person.

As night rolls around, the bunks down, the train rocks back and forth settling us in for sleep. Tick tock, tick tock the night hours pass by.

Homeward Bound Empire Builder

Today, we left Chicago on the Empire Builder on time with a clear highball clean all the way to Milwaukee. The train is such a great way to depart such a great city smoothly rolling along. The breathtaking views, the grand station, the comfortable Metropolitan Lounge (or one of the other first class lounges) which is recently remodeled bring together an absolutely great experience.

Chicago Union Station Metropolitan Lounge

Before even talking about the trip I need to elaborate on this Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago. This is the way to do travel right! My first thought walking into the new lounge is simply, “wow”! It’s nice. There’s a small bar, a cheese and fruit bar to complement the wines, an upstairs section and downstairs section, and enough nooks and crannies to kind of hide away with a little privacy throughout the lounge. The airlines or anybody that actually cares about quality experience and comfort should take note, that this is how you put a comfortable lounge together.

Upon entering we (wife and I) walked in and displayed our tickets, which then granted us access to the lounge. We entered and were greeted by the fruit and cheese bar, with the wine & other drinks bar just past that. I immediately stopped by a had a wine tasting while she climbed the steps to the second floor. While I was tasting the wines she found a comfortable set of chairs, propped up leisurely and had a few phone calls to make.

While she enjoyed her conversations I went through the rounds of wine options. I then decided to actually got a bottle of the reisling for the trip! It had a nice sweet and smooth body to the taste, that would be perfect pre- and post-deserts on the train. With the bottle in hand I went upstairs and took a number of photos of the lounge.

The art on the wall included some of the famous pictures and logos of the fallen flags, such as the Pennsylvania Railroad, one of the classic shots of an old PRR steam engine (T1 Class) that is massive in comparison to the men standing in front of it, and other shots of engines and other railroad imagery adorned the walls.

The chairs and couches in the lounge are upholstered nicely with a range of styles. Some chairs have high backs, some are more functional, some sit along tables and counters for laptop work, and there are numerous outlets on the various tables and counters along the walls.

Enough on the Metropolitan Lounge, onward to the train! (i.e. the next post)

Observations of Krakow

Today I’ve gone out and ridden several of the Krakow tram lines. The map shown below gives you a good idea of a well built transit system with appropriate redundancies, requency, and overlapping lines to actually connect inner core city areas with outerlying areas, all crisscrossed with appropriate cocnnecting bus service for lower ridership local style service and a lot of 60 foot bus service.

The trams operate almost entirely in dedicated right of way, except in the old city inner core. Everywhere else they operate in medians, dedicated routes, tunnels, and other pathways that allow them unencumbered travel. This makes for easy frequency and timely travel that rivals that of auto-travel along similar routes. In rush hour it is easily the fastest, except for bicycling, way to travel throughout the inner core and immediate outter regions of the city.

A thought for comparing Portland to Krakow is, don’t. The comparisons really aren’t even close to apples to apples, however there are many things each city could learn from each other. Let’s take a look at a few of those learned lessons, by looking at each city. Not to compare competitively but to see from a learning perspective. (If we can do that) 😉

The trams and Portland’s streetcar and light rail operate in similar ways, at certain times. Both have some tunnel, but not much. Krakow has a tunnel that has two stops near Krakow Glowny, the main train station. In Portland we of course have the tunnel with the elevator to the Zoo and a minor cut and cover style tunnel at Gateway.

Both tram/light rail systems have street running, that is theoretically dedicated, but often mixes with traffic. Both also mix heavily with pedestrians, which honestly in both cities is much safer than the actual automobiles mixing with pedestrians. One major difference I noticed however was the delivery vehicles that come into the city core aren’t the type that would dismember or kill people the way they do in American cities. Anything coming into or out of the pedestrian heavy city core is generally traveling slow speeds and operated in an extremely safe manner. This is something Portland could very well learn and adapt a few rules on.

{Operational Observation}

The 3rd day I was in town some jack ass driver ran into the tram. I noticed an immediate difference in how things get resolved here versus in the United States. In the US, the police would likely need to come, some supervisor would need to show up, and in the meantime that entire tram/light rail vehicle would have to just sit there causing congestion among the entire transit system. In Krakow however the tram driver cursed at the driver to get out of the way, and then the driver took their dented and damaged Mini Cooper and got out of the way. The tram then continued on it’s way since both vehicle were still operative. As should be the case, the Mini Cooper driver would just have to deal with all of their stupidity and cover the costs of damage themselves without interupting the entire transit line! I was impressed!  (I also know, from hitting a pole with a Mini Cooper once, that the damage would be about $3000 dollars!)

Population and Geography

Both cities have unique landscapes to build around, as do all cities. Portland has many hills, two rivers, ancient volcanoes, and other geographic terrain to build around. Krakow is relatively flat, with thick forrests and greenery with a twisting river running through the city.

One city is hundreds and hundreds of years old, the other is barely over a century old. Portland has about 600k people living in the inner core and about 700k living outside of the inner core in town centers and sprawling suburbs of single family homes. Krakow has about 430k living in the core, with barely a measurable amount of people living in the surrounding area. Most in Krakow live in flats, or what Americans would call apartments.

{short rant start}
…and dont even look down at that notion, they’re doing just as good as single family home owners in life with those flats. If you scoff at that notion as Americans do sometimes, you’re showing your damnable ignorance. If anything it shows how deeply suckered you are by the marketing for “space space space!” Space doesn’t get you a loving family, a vibrant life, or otherwise.
{short rant over}

In the inner core of Portland, as in the inner core of Krakow everything is very walkable. There is zero need for a car in this city, albeit about 50-60% of the population uses a car on a regular basis to do something. Around 40-60% use a car to commute. In Portland of course, about 40-60% also use a car to commute into and out of the city inside Portland city itself, however outside the core about 95% commute into the city by car.

Portland and Krakow both have job centers distributed throughout the urban core of the city. In Portland the metropolitan area includes other town centers and job center areas such as the west side like Beaverton, Hillsboro, Intel, Nike, Vancouver also has several sprawled out job centers. This is something that does set Portland apart, in the number of jobs that are located well outside of the actual city itself.

Another key thing I’ve notied is the city of Krakow is an atomic city. There’s a huge Soviet Atomic energy plant just to the south eastern section of the city. It’s barely 1-2 kilometers away from where I’m actually staying. I have to admit it is somewhat forboding, however I know it’s doing volumes to keep the air clean compared to the horrid coal plants that would prospectively be here otherwise.

Even with the clean energy of the atom being provided, the city manages to get some strange toxic smells and is even smoggy on some days. When I say smoggy, I’m talking about Los Angeles level smoggy. I’m not sure what plants or other pollutants are cast into the air, but they are definitely there.

People

Polish people have a diet similar to that of Americans, albeit they eat dramatically less food. By proxy, I’ve seen two people that could be termed obese by American standards. Only two. Honestly, this is kind of a surreal experience because everyone simply looks very different because of this. Albeit we’re an extremely similar people, there are after all there have been many Polish immigrants come to the United States. Everyone else looks extremely healthy and fit in comparing to the average American, which makes me wonder what differences in lifestyle allow this. Again, this is just merely an observation of all the people I’ve seen so far here in Krakow. So just like Portland isn’t like the rest of the US so may Krakow be and outlier in Poland.

People in Poland also dress conservatively. Portland people dress however they want with all sorts of absurdities thrown in for good measure. In America in general people dress frumpy like they’re a walking catastrophe that don’t know how to purchase cloths that actually fit on their respective bodies. The difference at first glance might seem small, but the differences become very noticable after a couple of hours.

But Polish men generally dress in fitting jeans or slacks (for business), with tshirts or other comfortable and casual button
ups. Often wearing nice shoes of fair quality that look good.

Women dress very attractively in Poland. Pencil skirts, leather skirts, conservative leather jackets, blouses, jeans, shorts, tshirts, and the like. There is a distinctive cut off however right around 45-50 where women seem to shift entirely to long soft colored pencil skirts that run to the ankles and blouses that easily classify these happy ladies (that to Americans might seem grumpy, but they’re not, Communism fell after all and they’re real aware of this fact) remind me of merry grandmothers going about their business without a care in the world about the modern rat race.

Languages

Another thing I’ve noticed, that obviously differs from Portland and also other trips to western Europe.

In Portland, people speak English almost entirely. If you don’t speak english in Portland you basically are going to have an extremely hard time doing anything on a regular basis.

In Krakow you can speak english or polish and get by very very well. You could also speak russian and probably do very well too, just from the similarities in many words and such. Also, if you know Italian words for food, you’re also not going to go hungry if you eat out. There are Italian Coffee shops and places to eat everywhere. Italian food is easily more popular in these parts that Polish food actually is!

The difference in languages that I’ve seen between Poland and western european (north western I should add: Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, etc) countries is that most conversations start in Polish here, and almost the entirety of conversations in northern western european countries start in english. Often even conversations among locals in those countries start in english but in Poland you know when locals are speaking to each other beccause it is very clearly Polish.

I assume, again I have to research this theory, that Poland having english as a signficant language goes back to the formation and inclusion of Poland in the European Union. Where as the north western european countries like the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and other countries had started speaking english far before (likely in a significant way after WWII, but really even before that) Poland did. Also, Poland had to deal with decades of russian influence where english was absolutely not a preferrred language to know. With that in mind, the youth in Poland today (< 30) are the first generation(s) that actually had the opportunity to learn english as a core language.

Other Notes

A few other things that I have noticed that I find fascinating. Some of these are just interesting to me and others I’ve noted as they would drive me crazy since some things in America have me spoiled.

Note: Grocery Stores

{partial rant start}
Oh my god I want my natural, organic, non-mutated farm produce and meat! I want it now! Krakow, from what I’ve been able to determine, has no actual fresh food and produce. I realize America generally doesn’t either, but living in Portland has me ridiculously spoiled and dammit I want some fresh fish, some vegetables that were picked a few hours ago. I want something I know hasn’t been flash frozen!

The grocery stores here are the equivalent of Wal-mart style … how should I put it? Shit? The food just isn’t good in the grocery stores. The restaraunts are pretty good, I wonder where they get their food? Maybe they just inject tasty into it somehow? I don’t know.

But the last thing, which is such a small thing, but it makes me nuts. I don’t care about needing to buy a bag, or expectation that I should have my own bag for groceries (because in portland that’s how I roll anyway because I’m not a wasteful asshole). But what does bug me, is I have to hurriedly bag my own stuff (in my bag or the one I just bought) and quickly get out of the way myself at the grocery store.

That by itself might not be so bad, but combine that with the lack of a smile and a hello (even a Polish one that I only recently understood) would be an improvement, but instead the cashier just sits there like a machine, poking the buttons quickly and shoving you along to bag your groceries. This makes me miss New Seasons or even *gasp*
{partial rant complete}

Summary

So far I’m thoroughly impressed by Krakow. In the coming days I’ll be trying out many of their cycle tracks and river runs. So I’ll have a lot more to add to all of this, as biking is a legitimate and regular thing that people make use of here in Krakow. So stay tuned… more to come!

Sneak Peak of Some Upcoming Transit Sleuth TV

Currently I’m in Los Angeles sleuthing about. This is a mere 5% of the video I’ve collected so far, a little transit, a few bikes, some trains, a bit of Los Angeles, a sausage and more. Know where the sausage place is, because it was great, totally worth a visit when you’re in LA! So here’s a short sneak peek of upcoming Transit Sleuth TV footage… enjoy! Remember, episode 3 is coming out this Monday at 7:30am.

Los Angeles!

Finally got the first trip of a set scheduled. Here’s my plan for sleuthing to the maximum. I’m going to make two trips to Los Angeles, hopefully both will be before the end of the year. The first trip will be later this month, departing on the Coast Starlight on October the 24th. Paul @emptedesign will be going down on this October trip to help me capture some footage. We’ll also be catching up on the Railvolution Conference on the train ride down. Then the next trip will be sometime in November or December. Here’s the break out of mission goals for the two trips so far.

October Coast Starlight Trip

  • We’re going get a Transit Sleuth TV segment put together for the Coast Starlight trip itself.
  • Catch up and put together another Transit Sleuth TV segment on the Railvolution Conference and a wrap up around that.
  • Get video for a secret project and some segment work on Transit Sleuth TV of the transit in action and explore new realms of the city. Prospectively the Gold Line or elsewhere. Got ideas? Send them this way!
  • Catch a commuter train to somewhere. The question is, which one and where to? Where is a good town center along the way, good livability and related things?
  • Find the good food the locals dig. Where is it, where’s the walkable streets that we should tackle?

Later Coast Starlight Trip

  • Catch up with the Wolfpack Hustle and get the lowdown on the rides, packs and hustles. If you’re not aware of this crew in LA, check this out. Keep an eye out for those rockin’ tall bikes!
  • Bike and transit and bike and transit and bike and then bike some more.

So these are coming up…   Transit Sleuth will be sleuthing and the adventures will be on Transit Sleuth TV on a future episode!