Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Santa Barbara Mission

I want to start out this blog post by stating I was very saddened by the recent Amtrak accident on the California Zephyr near Fallon, Nevada.  My condolences to the families who lost loved ones in this tragic accident.  C & I rode that train in 2010.

We rented a really nice comfortable hotel kitchenette at the Blue Sands Motel. It was perfect at a great price for the 3 of us.  About a 1/2 block away was a nice local market so we went over several times to buy supper and fix it.  The only thing we didn't use was the pool (or the ocean) to swim.  It was pretty cool when we were in Santa Barbara.  I give this motel a FIVE STAR rating and recommend it if you are in Santa Barbara.  It is across the street from the ocean.  Couldn't have a more PERFECT location.

The first place we visited was the Santa Barbara Mission. Old California history has always fascinated me so I was really anxious to 'dig' into the history at the Mission. (Remember the Zorro TV series when we were kids?  I was a fanatic!!)  Turns out the Santa Barbara Mission was one a series of Missions the Francisan Monks built up and down the California coast during the 1700's and early 1800's with the most northern being near San Francisco and the southernmost in San Diego.  The Santa Barbara Mission is the only one still operating as a monastery.  
From the Gardens in the interior of the Mission

Another shot of the Gardens

Just Look at this Cactus.

C walking in the Garden of the Dead.  A sign said over 4,000 Chumas Indians were buried in this small courtyard!  The Chumas Indians built the Santa Barbara Mission it had some very interesting pieces built by them on display inside.  They were craftsmen for sure.  Unfortunately, like most native Americans, they were devastated by the European diseases introduced by the Francisians, mostly smallpox.  I am sure some must  have perished simply from overwork also--something that was glossed over by the history.  The Chumas were enslaved by the Mission system.

The flora was simply outstanding in the gardens.

The tree in the Garden of the Dead under which lies the 4,000 indians.

L in front of a shrine of some sort in the Garden of the Dead.

Not a single marker for any of the 4,000 Chumash buried here but this ONE man gets his own marker.  One of the founders of Santa Barbara who died in 1851, Francisco A. Cota.

Entrance into the Garden of the Dead from the Chapel.  Notice the skull and crossbones over the entrance.  Creepy, huh?

The front of the Mission showing the fountain.  The Chapel is the structure on the right and the Garden of the Dead is to the right of it.

We also visited the Santa Ynez Mission later in the trip and there were a lot similarities and some differences.

Next the Botantical Gardens in Mission Canyon!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Down the Coast on the Train!

Since we boarded the Coast Starlight at 7:05 am, the first order of business was drop your bags and head to the dining car!  This is daughter-in-law with her breakfast - maybe biscuits and gravy?  The Coast Starlight prides itself on being one of the very last lines to still use real china dishes and not plastic.  Once again I found the food to be surprisingly well-prepared and delicious and relatively modestly priced.  And the service was always SUPERB!  The Coast Starlight dining area staff are very courteous, prompt and pleasant.

The ride through central northern California to Oakland was pretty urban.  There not a lot of rural 'vistas' to enjoy.  This was one of the few as we came closer to Martinez.  This trip I did not take any interior photos of the train as it was the same style dining and passenger rail cars as on the California Zephyr.  You can see my photos of the passenger car HERE

Marina on the outskirts near Oakland, California

I think this may have been the Oakland Depot.  I took the picture because there were 3 AMTRAK passenger trains at the depot at once.  I think it was the Zephyr, the Capitol Corridor and us, the Coast Starlight but I'm not 100% sure.  I was glad I wasn't boarding here as it would have been confusing for me.  One of the Major Downfalls to these old historic depots Amtrak still uses is the Acoustics.  They are horrible and when they announce the trains/buses it sounds like the mother use to sound on the old Snoopy/Peanuts cartoons "Wawh, Wawh, Waaawh."  EXTREMELY difficult to understand and I bet one of the things we can look forward to is a vast improvement in the acoustics in the upgraded terminals in Denver and Sacramento.

When we boarded at Sacramento, where they board numerous trains and buses, they announce a platform number.  As you head out the door there were signs such as "Platform B Left" so it was pretty easy.  The directions route you to underground tunnels and you come out on the proper runway of cement (your platform) to board your train.  There you show your ticket to the conductors standing outside the cars to board the proper car.  In Denver, they pre-assigned a seat to you in the station but they did that right on the platform at Sacramento if I remember correctly.

After turning south, we started a beautiful trip through numerous vegetable fields and small California towns.  The scenery was so beautiful.  We saw a lot of fields where the Migrant workers were picking broccoli, cabbage, strawberries and more.

There were numerous vineyards.  My California Train-Riding Buddy told me a lot of the old fruit orchards in California have torn out their orchards and put in vineyards.  I just don't see how these many vineyards will sustain themselves.  I think the wine-thing is a fad if you ask me.  These photos were all taken near Salinas, California in the Salinas Valley - the salad bowl of California.

Another view of a vineyard in the Salinas Valley.

Around Lunch time in the dining car and we are starting to climb the mountains out of the Salinas Valley to go over near the coast.

This may have been the depot at San Luis Obispo, I was taken by the red flowers climbing up to the tile roof.

A close up of the flower.  If could just photo-shop out the air conditioner!

Our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean just north of Ventura.  From here on south, we would not leave the coast.  Once again I was surprised how rural a lot of the coast was.  It was not all the developed Malibu Beaches I had envisioned.  In fact, quite large areas were still cattle ranches.

A campground on the coast we passed by.

Highway out the train window very near Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara!

It was a beautiful train trip and very, very scenic.  I highly recommend taking the Coast Starlight South out of Sacramento if you want an enjoyable train ride.

Next the Mission, Botantical Gardens, Courthouse, Beach, Whales & Carriage Musuem in Santa Barbara.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Delta KING and the Sacramento Train Depot - ALL ABOARD!!

We ate lunch at the Crab Shack on the River in Old Town Sacramento (Joe's?? it was some chain type of thing) and I ordered crab.  MY WORD, that is a lot of work for one little mouthful I must say.  It seemed like it took me all afternoon and we threw our 'trash' into a galvanized pail that was in a hole in the center of the table!!  Fine Dining at it's best?  I didn't take any photos here, I was afraid of permanently buttering up my digital camera!

After Lunch we went down to the Old Train in Old Sacramento for a 3 mile trip down the Sacramento River. It was a nice train ride and fun to see.  It was really inexpensive.  
The Car we went on. They all looked like maybe 1940's era cars?

The Conductors.  They said everyone, including the engineer, were volunteers.  The kids were having a lot of fun, so were the adults!  Well most of us anyway.  We rode in the car (above) on the way down but moved into the open air touring car on the way back.
The Delta King Stern Wheeler River Boat
Supper that evening was on the DELTA KING paddlewheeler.  It is the sister ship to the Delta Queen that now runs up and down the Mississippi River.  It was sunk in the Sacramento Harbor and quite the mess until the current owners purchased it, spent years refurbishing and repairing it.  It is now harbored permanently to the Sacramento Wharf and it has 62 hotel rooms on it plus the restaurant.  Maybe next year I will feel particularly rich and we can stay on the Delta King.  Note in the picture I am standing ABOVE the canvas tarped wharf.  Remember I said they had raised Sacrament 15 feet to prevent flooding?  Well my guess is I was taking this shot from about 15' above the water.

The ramp onto the Delta King.  Remember all those old civil war photos of riverboats and the slaves pushing bales of cotton UP a ramp to the deck?  Must have been about 15' to the deck because here it is pretty level and that's to 2nd level on the boat.

The Dining Room.  I asked, and yes this is how it looked in it's heyday.  Pretty neat huh?

C had a window seat and the river was pretty fast and rising when we were there.  They say the current is very strong and swimming in the Sacramento River is really not safe because it has a strong current off the Sierras out to the ocean.  Every year there are several drownings.  C was on a swim team in college and she said she was almost one of it's victims.  She never went back in the Sacramento River after that.

A Happy Customer of the Prime Rib (or maybe that red wine?)

The Sacramento Southern Pacific Train Depot

The Sacramento Depot was the originally built by the Southern Pacific Railroad.  In 1929, they commissioned John McQuarrie to do the the mural you can see in the upper right corner.  I'll tell you more about it later.
On the left, the blue screens are the departures and arrivals of over 40 trains a day plus numerous buses and the local public transportation system for Sacramento.  The Sacramento station is the 2nd busiest station in the  State of California and the 7th in the nation.  Of course, today it is used by Amtrak but is owned by the City of Sacramento.  There was one big waiting room.

Details of the arches in the ceiling with the windows.  They lined the waiting room area.
Here is L taking a picture with C looking on.  And what was L taking a photo of?

The Mural of Course!
Like I said before, the mural had been commissioned in 1929 by the Southern Pacific Railroad (which I am also assuming was the year they were completing it's building).  One corner you could see it was starting to Deteriorate and peel away from the wall.  I asked several Amtrak employees who had painted this lovely painting and they all said it was 'just old wallpaper'.  WHAT????  I knew that wasn't right and finally someone told me to ask the man in the baggage area.  He did not remember who painted it but at least he knew it was painting and there used to be a plaque but someone STOLE it. Now why on earth would they do that?  Sometimes the stuff people will do makes NO sense at all.

The Mural commemorates the laying of the first rail of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1863, which began in Sacramento.  An email to the Sacramento Historical Society revealed that a major upgrade (similar to what is taking place in Denver at Union Station) is planned to begin next year which will significantly change this old station, making it a modern transportation hub for the city.  Renovations do include the Mural but it is way down the list after much needed code upgrades to the electrical, plumbing, structure etc.  Everything it seems is important but I sure hope they do not forget this mural.

The benches were interesting with the Southern Pacific logo carved in the ends and HEAT Registers in the backs.   Now that was welcome on a cool rainy morning when we left! Another feature I hope they keep are these benches.  In fact I hope they do not change much at all.  I am SO glad I took the train out of Union Station in Denver, and now out of Sacramento so I got to see them BEFORE the renovations.

The Baggage area.  Be forewarned, few Amtrak stations have 'checked' baggage so the rule for the train is pack light because YOU will most likely be packin' your stuff your little ol' self.  I learned me lesson last year on that little tidbit and this year was much much easier as I had about 1/2 the stuff.  Like 20 pounds LESS.

"I'm Leavin' on a Jet Plane.....NO I'm Not.  I'm leavin' on a TRAIN.'

Next Blog, the Coast Starlight!!! to Santa Barbara.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Coast Starlight Train - We Begin in Sacramento.

I started my vacation by flying to Sacramento with my daughter-in-law, where we met my train pal that went with me last summer.  We stayed at the Vagabond Inn Downtown which turned out to be perfect for us.  It was only a hop, skip, and a another hop through the under pass to Sacramento Old Town!  Which was a lot of fun!  And only another hop, skip over to the old Union Station where we would board our train.  Knowing that we would want to spend some time exploring Old Town Sacramento we gave ourselves a full day to do that.  The Vagabond Inn's location is so convenient if you are taking the train, it is an older style motel, but it's clean, the price is right, and the free breakfast was varied and certainly filled us up.  The Daughter-in-Law and Train Pal used their hot tub at the pool that evening but since it was in the low 60's I thought it was a tad cool for that!  But they enjoyed it.
You felt like you just stepped back into time except for the cars.  One could get a good feel for the way Sacramento must have been during the Gold Rush days.  It was similar to being a Hobbit coming out of his hole because after we walked through the pedestrian pass-way under the interstate you were IN old Town.  Magical!
This building on the right contained the Wells Fargo Museum and the Welcome Center to Old Town.  Both worthy of a stop!

Most of the buildings had quaint shops on the ground floor and boardwalk sidewalks.  I don't know what the upper floors were on most.  We ate supper at a Mexican restaurant on Saturday evening that was on the 2nd floor of one of the building.  Another interesting thing we learned was that when it was first founded, Sacramento would flood very badly every year.  Not to be deterred, the city founders simply raised all the buildings, including the capitol building, 15 feet and put fill in under them! Quite the engineering feat today but this was well over 100 years ago and done with real horse power.  Amazing!  A few of the buildings (probably some of the last ones raised) had left their ground levels the same with a lower 'courtyard' effect and then built on more stories.  At first that puzzled us until we found out the whole story.

Sunday morning we went to the California Train Museum located in one corner on the Sacramento River in Old Town.  They say it is one of the premier train museums in the United States and after spending all morning here, I do believe it!  Don't miss it if you are in Sacramento.  And don't miss Old Town either!

There were wonderful displays of all sorts of early locomotives, including some Diesels.

A Victorian Passenger Coach.  Isn't it beautiful!

They had an old sleeper couch from the 1940's with the old style pull down upper berths, and it moved and clacked as you walked through it.  Very Realistic.  This kitchen was in another coach, the dining coach and the man is a really a mannequin.  They had a the different tables in the dining area set with a variety of samples of the different china they used to use on the various lines.

Did you know that trains carried our mail right up to the 1970's?  They sorted the mail in the couches and this was a docent who was explaining how they did this to my Train Pal.  I do remember when they elminated the "Air Mail" Class of postage.  Apparently that was when they quit using the rails to move the mail.  From thence on, it was ALL Airmail.

A display of several rail cars.  One Mr and Mrs. Ronald Reagan had dined in when he was President.  It was then the private home on the rails for a couple of wealthy people for a number of years.  Very Rich paneling and amenities.  They had tried to furbish it like the old President of the South Pacific had furbished his private rail car.  I believe maybe that was Stanford?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

CARRYING ON TO THE FINISH!!! of the Casserole Carrier of Course.

The binding from the top after it's stitched in the ditch.

The binding from the bottom after stitching in the ditch.

Remember that long skinny strip we had left after cutting out the casserole carrier? It's going to become our straps, so trim it down to around 3" - 3 1/2"wide.  Then join the ends and sew a 1/4" seam (careful you don't get a Loopy twist in it)

Press under a 1/4 inch on both sides and then carefully press together, wrong sides together.  I then use 2 decorative stitches on both sides just off the edges to seam it up.  The stitching also adds strength to the strap.

Finished Strap ready to be attached.

Mark the centers of your straps with a pin and then pin those centers to the middle of the bottom of the carrier, placing them so they will run over the open flaps.

Stitch the straps to the 'bag'.  DO NOT stitch them up the sides or it will 'pull' the carrier open when you carry it. You can go a little ways up the sides but don't go all the way.

I like to make a box with the seaming where I ended the stitching to the bag on all four corners for reinforcement.

Place velcro vertically on the flaps (then you can 'adjust' closing it).  On the underside of the top flap and the top of the bottom flap.

stitching on the velcro

Velcro placement with my oversized pan in the carrier.

For the Coup de Grace' I like to place to small strips of elastic for a spoon holder.

The completed Carrier-ready to be sent off to it's new owner, Nancy.
Nancy really earned this casserole carrier.  On her blog HERE at Wyoming Breezes I won THESE.  I was Thrilled beyond words and I have worn my pair almost every night after I take off my sandals.  Ironically, I found Nancy's blog looking for information on knitting--especially socks!  I swear I will simply have to learn to knit socks myself.  What a special treat a pair of hand-knitted socks are.  I seem to have problem though, called co-ordination and Thumbs...but I know practice will make perfect.  Just need more practice, right?
Sewing tip - see the bag duct-taped to my sewing table? It's an old heavy plastic produce bag and it's now resides as my 'scrap n' thread tags' bag.   It's so much easier to dump them in there rather than throwing them over my shoulder like Eleanor does :)  I suspect she doesn't clean up after herself.

DONE - I almost feel like I have finished a major UFO here it's taken so long.   There are 3 installments to making this carrier for anyone new.  Next posts will be about my trip on the Coast Starlight! It was a Grand Memorable Trip and I hope you will enjoy my blogging about it.