Los Angeles to San Diego By Way of a 4-Ton Behemoth.

Amtrak #566 departed Los Angeles Union Station right on the dot. The bi-level car was new — or appeared to be — the seats were comfortable and there was a cafe/lounge on the lower level directly below me. What’s not to like? I did find that, although I travel light and my rolling suitcase is not very big, it did not fit in the luggage rack above my seat. A minor issue.

This is clearly a popular mode of transportation, even here in the Land of the Freeway. My car was probably half full with people boarding and exiting at just about every stop along the way during my 2:20 ride. Many were business types, pecking away at their laptops as we rolled along.

I was met at the Solana Beach station by my daughter and her husband, and by my granddaughter. From there we went to Balboa Park, home of the justly famous San Diego Zoo. This was my second visit there. The first time included a stop at an incredible display of model trains that, as far as I can recall, essentially filled an entire building. It’s a ‘must-see’ if you are at all into trains and train travel.

As expected there were throngs of people, but the crowds are managed quite well. It’s no doubt a generational thing, but I’m always amazed (and occasionally even delighted) at the innovations modern techology makes possible in our daily lives. My daughter had the valets park her car — a great idea because of the crowds — then, several hours later, sent a text message to the valets 10 minutes before we returned to the zoo entrance. When we got there, her car was waiting for us.

She had arranged for a kind of insiders’ tour, which included getting up close and personal with a number of interesting animals. For me, there was a three-way tie for the Most Interesting category: A cheetah (which mewed just like a house cat), a Siberian wolf (snow white with blue-green eyes which suddenly fixed on me like lasers), and a five-year-old rhinoceros (two-and-a-half tons and still growing).
The rhino eats 60 pounds of vegetables a day and I happened to be at the head of the line when the keeper asked for volunteers willing to hand feed the brute. Chicken out in front of my granddaughter? I think not. Feel the rather urgent need to wash hands? I think so.

Back to Los Angeles today and departing for Chicago on the Southwest Chief at 6:40 this evening … just in time for a flatiron steak and a half bottle of merlot in the dining car. I’ll have a full report on the Chief next time.