Residency on Amtrak

Even before driving with my multiple sclerosis was near impossible, I've always appreciated public transit. Passively sitting and watching life unfold. Though I'm not sure how passive I am. I write. Take photos. Work on projects. But when I want to quiet my mind I just look out the window. I appreciate this all so much more since getting ill with multiple sclerosis.

Preparing to leave Paso Robles

Currently I am on one of my favorite Amtrak routes: Paso Robles, CA to Glendale, CA via Santa Barbara. The first half of the trip is on a thruway bus then we transfer to the Surfliner train in Santa Barbara. If the train from Paso Robles, the Coast Starlight, is available, I recommend that too as you will see places along the coast and California countryside that you can't see by car. For my commute I end up usually taking the Surfliner train which covers Central California to San Diego. The bus is often used to connect to the train. It is a real nice coach with a restroom, a very important fact for those with MS. This one looks brand new. I settle in, get comfy and start writing away.

The driver is real nice. I offered to lift my bag because it is awkwardly heavy for this trip. But he would have nothing to do with that! A gentleman as he helped me and a young man with some learning disabilities. I don't look like I have MS but this nice man treated me very kindly. Steve. I believe his name is Steve. I see a reflection from his coat pocket. How rude of me not to ask. I often do. Also, is it ok to tip a driver? Not sure. I often try with Amtrak. I use business class and they always take good care of me. Sometimes when my MS is acting up I'll ask for special attention. They always seem to oblige. But just incase, there's always an emergency exit!

Ok, one thing with train and bus travel at this point is that it goes too quickly! We are already south of Cuesta grade. The brownish hills, a hint of green from the rains a couple of weeks ago and the rhythm of the oaks. It disappears too quickly.

On a separate note, I am hungry! Brought a cheese sandwich and some tangerines but don't think we're supposed to eat on the bus. I can wait for the train. I am also looking forward to some hot tea on the train. And will probably grab some processed trigger food at the SLO station, like Doritos with horrible fake orange cheese on them. Not sure why but they sounded good.

We should be exiting the freeway soon. We've made San Luis Obispo and here we go, right at Madonna Inn then off to train station at top of Santa Rosa. I went to university here, at California Polytechnic State U, San Luis Obispo. I lived on Santa Rosa road one year. Got my toes painted pink at The Madonna Inn. Lots of great memories from years ago.

Feeling very greatful that I've lived such a full life but I want so much more. To live another 40 years and drink lemonade on the porch with good friends.

I'm returning via Amtrak because I don't drive distances with my multiple sclerosis. I came up with a friend on Friday and was schedule to give a workshop at the Wellness Kitchen in Templeton. Due to a miscommunication we had a small, intimate group turned soul circle. Just what my friend and I needed. Time for a blessing.

Ahhh. Never enough time in SLO! Quaint station built in 1940. The restroom has a code needed to get in. It's 1492. Appropriate for us Americans. Tim the driver has another project so driver Jeff is taking over. There was no Steve. It was a reflection of their logo which says Silhouette. Name tags would be nice.

Jeff got on the radio. We can eat and drink. Non alcoholic of course. Gave us a nice introduction and off to Santa Barbara for the next hour and forty five minutes. Hot tea does sound good...

As I take MSontheRoad out to the country and build awareness for MS, I would like to do much travel via the train. I find it soothing and cathartic. Which is what I need to manage my MS. Life activities that are soothing and cathartic. I'm great at revving my adrenal glands. My yang is thriving! Now to gentle it all down so a fuse is not blown.

The rhythm of the oaks. A soul soother for years. When younger, a university student, I would hop in the car and drive to points country. Away from the city. Along the paved and dirt roads that pattern San Luis Obispo county. I've fished all the local lakes, hiked many of the local trails. That was another life ago. A life I admired and miss but remember with fondness as new chapters in my life unfold. And wow are they unfolding!

Unfolding rapidly in slow motion is how my life is feeling right now. While a bit flustered with not giving my program last night as scheduled, I know it was all meant to be. A swarm of opportunities keep presenting. Seeing the Pacific Ocean as we enter Pismo Beach soothes my soul even more. Seeing the place where I struggled through my last and final foot race is inspiring. And I struggled! But we did it. Three years ago. We've got to remember the little things.

It's easy to think of the little things while on the train. Looking into neighborhoods, into the cities, into people's lives. Seemingly getting to know an area by sight and assumptions. Or making up stories about an old abandoned house or the need for six refrigerators on the porch. Lots to see and lots to miss.

California got some much needed rain this weekend. Everything is a bit more green from the rains back in February but we are dry here. Another storm is expected this coming weekend. I'm not sure what help it did for the snow pack and reservoir levels but we could use every bit we can get. Some areas in Southern California faced some flooding mess but here, along the central coast, the vineyards are wet. The cattle have already been moved out due to lack of food. Sad for the farmers and ranchers.

We need to be especially careful about buying and supporting from our local farmers. We do not need food from Mexico! This is California! One of the best agricultural states around. It would be nice to see Amtrak promote local farmers and vineyards, especially on these routes that travel right through the farms. Especially as we tool our way through Santa Maria, strawberry capital of California.

I'm quite tired but can't fall asleep. I don't want to miss a single thing. The greenish hills. The lack of homes. The cloudy, artistic sky. And the possibilities of what we could see. Wildlife, telephone lines leading to pockets of potential homes. Of stories we will not know.

Heading south it's lovely to see the unaltered lands of the cattle ranchers. While the vineyards have helped with property values, there are just so many of them! Not that there are any cattle due to lack of feed and water. But the soothing hills and oaks, well, they do it for me.

If I was driving I would be tempted to stop in Los Olivos for some nibbles. If friends were with me we may wine taste. Can't really do that on the bus or train. But I will be indulging in my cheese sandwich on the train. And some hot tea.

I slept pretty well last night but didn't feel rested when I woke. Felt wiped out. The emotional and physical drain to get everything ready for last night then to not do it was deflating. This week will be a good time for tea and detoxing. Coffee, as much as I love the flavor is not necessarily the best for me. What is good for me is spending time in the country. And that's what this trip was about. Opening some doors that were not there before. Eventually I want a place to stay in the country, a life that involves more country and less city. I have about two more years in La Canada then a change is near. Maybe before but have a few commitments and it will take me that long to rebuild.

My presence in the country will be my 50 yr gift to me if not sooner. That I will do.

And then, on the train, a story evolves. An older car, maybe broken down, side of the road at a locked gate to a driveway. Two shirtless men removing some Large obtuse object from the roof. Another man sitting at the fence. Flowing plaid flannel shirt unbuttoned. Another man near him. Something didn't look right. Strung out after a hard week of partying? I'll never know but my mind is wandering like a Nick Hornby novel.

Just saw a sign for grass fed beef. But there's no grass. This last storm will produce some for sure but these cattle are being fed. Alfalfa or grass hay I assume. Not sure.

Inspiration. Being chauffeured around by Jeff is a wonderful way to explore the country and brainstorm. To get inspired. To watch a wildlife trail with anticipation. Will I catch a glimpse of some movement? An animal of sorts? And then here comes the Pacific Ocean once again! Oil tankers and the Channel Islands. Still beautiful! Maybe we will see a whale or dolphin. Off to look.

Beautiful but did not see whale or dolphins yet. The rolling oaks disappear and the presence of Monterey cypress and bougainvillea alerts you that Santa Barbara is coming up. There are many ranches over here and many surfers. Ronald Reagan had his ranch near here. There are quite a bit of Avocados, citrus and other crops along the coast.

Quite a few campgrounds along the way for both campers and RVers. I would enjoy that too. Traveling around with a friend, camera, and camp around the US. There are many placed I've been but so many I haven't been to!

I'm wanderlusting a bit. Springtime and I want want want. Want what? Newness. A life more than what I've got. I'm selfish and my ego wants petting. I have so much but yet at times I am not content.

Seems like I'm always searching. For that balance. For the energetic life I lived. To feel fulfilled.

I'm going to take a moment at the fig tree at Santa Barbara train station. Its huge. One of the largest Morton bay fig trees. Massive and impressive. Its grooves and limbs intertwine as the chapters and stories in my life. It's all I got, my stories. I won't be having children. I have nephews, bless them, but what I've got are stories. Interesting, the lives we choose to live.

Time to leave Santa Barbara. Via train. My bag is heavy this trip but hauled it up stairs to the second floor. The server cam by with a snack and drink request. Few minutes later the nice conductor lady came by and scanned my eticket. Amtraks using eticket and QR codes to operate more efficiently. Gotta love this.

The conductor said she hadn't seen wildlife this trip yet in the ocean but we both commented on whales, dolphins and otters seen in the past. This year is supposed to be good for whales. Will have to plan an MSontheRoad whale watching trip!

Cruising the coastline. Surfers. Water. Pelicans in formation. Can't write. Want to watch. I turned my head for a few and missed a great photo of strawberry pickers. And there they are! Dolphins! Two of them. My day is made!

And good thing because we are now heading inland a bit. We will go through some major agricultural areas and then back to Los Angeles or Glendale to be exact. Still stuff to watch but the ocean...she is a gone...

Agriculture succumbs to housing. Development expands. Signs of times past and times to come. Tooling through Moorpark. Wouldn't mind coming back and exploring all of these stops more. I remember Moorpark from horse eventing years ago. The facility is no longer there but the memories have not faded.

Entering Santa Susanna pass with a layering of rocks that make Wile E Coyote and the Road Runner wanting to appear around every bend.

My mind races. The scenery has worked its magic and calmed things down. But my entrepreneurial mind is having a blast with all my options. Why was I feeling so blue earlier? There are lots of doors opening. Time to walk through them.

Self portrait on Amtrak

This might be an issue. Allowing me to ramble on endlessly as I hope for an Amtrak Residency to happen. But how cool for this GirlwithMS? My dream. Cross country. Camera. Writing. MS awareness. The USA.

Let's do this!