Saturday, June 13, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Metro link 1.17.2009.
A Weekend Afternoon Exploration

Capturing a Saturday afternoon spell of clear warm southern California winter weather we grabbed a light jacket and decided to try a Metro-Link ride into town. We drove half an hour to San Bernardino, the end of that leg of the link.
There were a mix all age groups and dress sitting and standing around the gate. It seemed that “previously worn and scruffy” is an ok dress for metro. Yet most were recently showered and Cali-casual.
Investing some study we figured out how to buy a ticket. The machine takes major credit cards. The cost was $15.00 for each ticket. The cost seemed high to us for a trip into to East LA. Using quick math skills we guesstimated gasoline would cost us half a ticket or about $7.00. Gas in southern California was under $2.00 a gallon.
We paid the price, as were set for an adventure. Unsure of when we would return we hopped on the train, leaving the security and freedom of our parked vehicle. We were invited to board and sat on the train a half hour waiting to get started. We studied the schedule in a pamphlet on the train and guessed we might only be in East LA an hour and a half before we had to catch the last train back for the night. We did not see a posted schedule. At least we did not see a schedule that we understood. The Metro seemed set up more for travel to and from work on a Monday through Friday basis than for Saturday afternoon adventurers.
On the schedule we saw a map that indicated that there are three Metro routes into Union Station. The Route from San Bernardino is mostly along the Ten Freeway and is loaded with quick stops. We could have accessed the Riverside Station, and we may explore that trip in the future.

We climbed up into the main cab and then ascended the next set of steps. We came out on the second floor, on top of the world. The ride was clean and pleasant. There were comfortable double seats with an isle in bus like fashion. To my delight there were double seats that faced each other with a table between them. We enjoyed this set up. On the way back Teens used this configuration as a perfect card table.

Mid way a young lady in uniform came and inspected our tickets, just like a real train ride in the movies.

As we rolled into LA we twisted and turned in our seats trying to identify the famous land marks. We watched the familiar freeways slide by as we zipped faster than the auto traffic in the secret metro lanes. These metro lanes are even better than those magic car pool lanes.
A young man planned his next two weeks of freeloading with friends on his cell phone as we neared LA and we were reminded we were on public transportation. He planned his life via cell technology inches from us and we experienced his every word whether we wanted to share his life or not.

At the arrival in Union Station we rolled into an underground concrete rail tracks. We exited into warm slight humidity and climbed the slowly rising ramps up to the “entrance to the cars” level. There were at least two main pathway ramps down to the cars. We had to get oriented to where we were under ground. We kept on the ramp and came out in the main terminal. The terminal does take one back at least a century. The walls are beautiful wood and the chairs are hardy wood and leather. The chairs are a comfortable place to sit, waiting for the train and watch all the people entertainment.

Walking around the station looking at the different electronic postings we finally decided there would be two or three more metros back to San Bernardino that evening. Becoming comfortable that we had plenty of time we walked in to East LA on to Alameda Street.

Walking out of Union Station, we crossed the street with the nice crossing guard lady and stepped into Alameda Street. We were enveloped by the marvelous experience of being in Mexico, minus only the precious little urchins, while being comfortably in the US of A and minutes from home. Browsing the open air vendors, we rubbed elbows with those enjoying the flavors of Mexico. There were entertainers dancing to live music in the square. Comfort and rest areas were plenty.

The enticing smells of Enchiladas and Tacos. We passed mugs of foamy Beers and flavored ices. Leather jackets, purses, sandals, wallets were inexpensive and ready to take their warm aroma and luxury feel home. Lovely cotton dresses, shirts, & scarves.

When we tired of the shopping we ducked into a Cuban-Mexican eatery. Sitting outside, but snuggly enclosed in a patio, we enjoyed the “Casa’s Special Flavors”. The attention from the wait staff was exceptional.

Stuffed with Mexican specialties we wandered to Philippes’ where we had enjoyed the French Dipped sandwiches with extended family years before.

Full and tired, we wandered, slowly, back to Union Station, to wait an hour for our Metro Link to take us home. Lounging in those sturdy leather wide armed chairs we were entertained by the passing people and children. An hour of waiting slipped away comfortably. In the noise of the train tracks we found our link quietly waiting on the tracks. We chose table seats this trip and were surrounded by a group of eight traveling together. Four teen girls, bussed the table closest to us, stuffing trash under the seats and started an active card game. Two pre-adolescent boys, with sloshing cups of sticky looking red liquid, sat in front of us. As boys do they were playing a loud game of “one up on you.” Two tired looking women followed them to seats in front of the girls. The girls and the women constantly corrected the boys behavior, with little change in their noise and activity level. The women stayed on the girls to use cell phones arrange rides home from their metro-link. Nearing the end of our ride the women gathered the children and most of the trash to assemble down the steps so they could quickly exit at their stop.
The Metro came to the end of its day in San Bernardino and we walked to our car in the chilly California, Inland Empire, January evening. We were tired, but enjoyed our Metro adventure.