Featured writer: Jillstravel
I’ve always wanted to travel by train up to Santa Barbara, CA. When my family and I were invited to experience the Orient Express’ newest 5-star resort, the newly renovated El Encanto, I hoped this would be my chance.
We drove up together on a Sunday. After enjoying a decadent afternoon-tea on the Terrace, swimming in the idyllic 85-degree infinite pool, and touring the grounds of the resort, my family needed to drive back home to Los Angeles, due to work and school obligations. Instead of going with them, I booked a one-way train ticket from Santa Barbara to Burbank. My husband was willing to pick me up at the train station the following day. As I watched them leave the driveway, I went back to my cottage and slept well.
The next morning I ate a dazzling California-style breakfast prepared by Executive Chef Patrice Martineau. Later, I enjoyed a marvelous facial by Kelsey Webb at the El Encanto Spa. After a relaxing stay at the exquisite El Encanto Resort, the thought of getting into my car for a two-hour drive home, possibly in some traffic, didn’t excite me. I was thrilled to be taking the Amtrak Surfliner train home. A thoughtful El Encanto staff member printed my boarding pass for me and arranged for a car to take me down to the Santa Barbara train station. It’s only ten minutes away.
At least thirty people were sitting inside the train station, built in 1904, or milling about on the platform awaiting the 2:04 p.m. Surfliner. Once it arrived I followed other passengers inside a Coach car and up the stairs to the second level. I found a window seat and settled in. There was plenty of leg room and a pull down foot rest. The fold out tray could be used for dining, drawing, or to rest a computer. I noticed my comfortable chair reclined back easily.
The conductor scanned my e-ticket as we rolled away from the station and before we rolled up to the Carpenteria station 15 minutes later. Along the way, I took pictures of beaches passing by, multi-million dollar Montecito homes and the back of the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel.
We smoothly stopped in Carpenteria and picked up a few people, before we continued on our journey to the Ventura station. Kids waved to us as our train went by. The 20 minute journey to Ventura was mostly all ocean viewing. Everyone in my train car was quiet, except for the train blasting its horn sound out every few minutes.
Passing oil rigs in Carpenteria and wonderful nature trails along the cliff, I gazed at the waves gently crashed along the shore. Couples stopped along their beach walk to admire the beauty and length of the train.
We clickety-clacked along the 101 freeway before passing Mussel Shoals. Caltrans men in orange vests were working in the center of the freeway. We passed flocks of seagulls standing in shallow water along the edge of the sand searching for a tasty sand crab. RV’s were parked in a long chain along the coast highway. Trees of every species passed by my window: California pines, Queen palms and Nobel fir.
The ride was fairly smooth and so picturesque. I’ve never appreciated the California coast line as much as I did riding the train. While driving a car along the freeway, other cars, trucks and motorcycles pass by and distort your view. On the train, it’s a moving picture of California’s quintessential lifestyle.
Flocks of pelicans soared overhead as we approached the Ventura Fairgrounds and train station. After a brief stop, we slowly rolled out of beach viewing Ventura, to the more inland route towards Oxnard. The conductor said it would take us 12 minutes. With the ocean in the far distance, we passed the Pierpont Tennis Club. Next fields of green cabbage, lettuce, and orchards of citrus fruit came into view. Workers were bent over while harvesting the fresh produce for the local farmers.
At Oxnard, the sign stated Elevation 61 feet. There is a large bus depot next to the train station. The conductor announced that Oxnard’s annual Strawberry Festival is May 18 and May 19th. We passed a lot of strawberry fields on our way to Camarillo in ten minutes.
Next stop, Moorpark in 10 minutes. Now we cruised by industrial parks and later fields of beans and groves of lemons into the Santa Rosa Valley. Horses in corrals rested under tall eucalyptus trees. More lemon and orange groves were being tended to by workers harvesting acres of crops. Arriving into the Moorpark station we passed a skateboard park and elementary school. The cities were getting bigger and more people were joining our ride.
As the doors closed we were headed to Simi Valley, I was a little disappointed that the views weren’t as pretty as earlier on the journey. We passed a batting cage, Law offices and cars lined up at our crossing signal along Los Angeles Ave. Passengers boarding the train started talking on their cell phones and others had blaring music coming out of their earphones. As we neared the bigger cities, the solitude of the train dissipated.
The Southbound train’s next stop was Chatsworth, ten minutes away. The topography became beautiful again as we rolled through the Santa Susana pass. Rocks and boulder are dominated by high, narrow ridges and deep canyons. The rugged natural landscape was a striking contrast to the developed communities of Moorpark and Simi Valley. We even went through three tunnels. Inside the car the lights remained on, yet outside our view was pitch black. According to a website, this first tunnel is 7,369 feet long. It was constructed in 1900 by the Southern Pacific Transportation Company and completed in 1904.
We traversed through another shorter tunnel before seeing more rocky peaks. In fact, the third highest point is called Rocky Peak. It gets its name from the many large craggy boulders that dot its surface. It’s quite beautiful and unique to any other landscape we rolled past. Rocky Peak has been prominently featured in many classic films.
Cruising through the last tunnel, we saw equestrian estates and track homes in Chatsworth. It was the first time another train passed by my window. The Chatsworth station had the nicest arrival sign. The depot offers passengers a Transportation and Movie History museum to explore.
Next stop, Van Nuys with a 15 minute travel time. We passed the Van Nuys airport and watched the private jets, small planes and helicopters take off and land.
We saw a lot more cars, trains and billboards. The conductor announced that the train might fill up with commuters, and requested we make room for them by placing our bags and items in the overhead shelf.
About two minutes later, a conductor came by to tell me my stop at the Burbank airport was next and would take about six minutes. I packed up my things and got ready to leave my relaxing journey. The train only stops for a minute or two at each depot, before closing its doors and heading out to its next stop. This trains final destination, San Diego.
I longed for the tranquil and serene views of pulling out of the Santa Barbara train station and rolling along the coast, yet enjoyed the unique vistas that each city offered along the train tracks.
To reserve a seat on an Amtrak Train, go to www.amtrak.com