A train trip may create lasting memories

Many years ago, when my husband Peter and I lived in New Jersey, he took the train to Manhattan for work.

It was far from a glamorous experience.

Cutting it close each day, (because he wanted to squeeze out every minute of sleep in the mornings) he jockeyed for a parking spot in the very full lot and often ran to make his train.

Once boarded, he would pass row after row in search of an empty seat. Laptops didn’t exist at the time, but he often read business briefs for the hour it took for his train to arrive at the station. From there he walked 15 blocks to his office. He’d wear sneakers to work because of the long walk and change into his dress shoes upon arrival.

Peter worked for Bristol Myers Squibb, the parent company of the makers of Enfamil® formula. As an employee, he received a deep discount on items in their company store. We offered to purchase some Enfamil® for my administrative assistant, who was using the formula with her new baby.

Peter brought home three cases and I took it to work, only to find out my secretary did not use the powdered version and needed the ready-to-eat version. So, Peter took back the three cases and then, with exhausted arms, carried the very heavy three cases of liquid formula through 15 blocks to the train for the hour ride home.

As the old saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.

That is my recollection of train rides. Neither glamorous, nor fun.

Coming off a recent visit to see my sister in Del Mar, I planned another trip to visit her with a dear gal pal. At first, we were going to drive, but my sister suggested the Pacific Surfliner train. I had no concept of what train travel might be like these days. On one hand, I had visions of the Orient Express, and on the other, my husband’s train trips to Manhattan.

We went online to www.pacificsurfliner.com to book our trip. We decided to treat ourselves to business class.

When we boarded, we found that the business class cars had recently been outfitted with new upholstery, carpet, and curtains. Our reclining cushioned leather seats were spacious and provided a very comfortable ride.

Because business class is located at one end of the train, there is a lot less foot-traffic. For most of the ride on the way down, we had an entire car to ourselves. Business class also came with complimentary snacks and drinks.

Before we boarded the train I was wondering - were there machines to X-ray luggage like in the airport? No. Would your luggage need to be checked and stored underneath the carriage like they do on a bus or a plane? No, you take it with you and place it overhead just like non-checked luggage on an airplane.

While business class is located on the upper level, they also had a section for individuals with disabilities who would have difficulty navigating the stairs.

There was a small café where we could purchase more substantial food and drink.

One of the most pleasant parts of the trip was not fighting traffic. We could just sit back and relax, read a book, watch the scenery, have a conversation, or take a nap.

The train crew were kind, informative and pleasant. It was easy to see that my friend and I were newbies to the experience, and they were very helpful.

The cost of my round-trip senior ticket from Moorpark to Solana Beach was less than $115, about as much as it would cost for me to fill my SUV with gas.

We were fortunate to have my sister to pick us up and play hostess and tour guide for our two-day stay. 

I know travel can be challenging for some older adults, but if local train travel seems like an option for you, I can highly recommend a trip from our local area via the Surfliner to San Clemente or Santa Barbara, both of which are a short walk from the train to main attractions.

Consider a trip like this with a spouse, dear friend, or grandchild. It’s a wonderful experience to share and create memories to last a lifetime.   


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Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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