From Lansing to San Diego, and back again

Starting about a week ago I took a trip from Lansing to San Diego (by plane) for the wedding of a friend (Matt), and returned shortly thereafter (mostly by train). I took photos along the way to create a sort of travel log – here is that journey. Higher resolution versions of all these photos are available on Flickr.

The trip began with a 5:30 AM flight from Lansing’s Capitol Region International Airport, destination Chicago. Not a super-busy airport, served mostly by regional jets (though Sun Country Airlines flies 737s) – saw one large UPS aircraft land while we were loading.

The flight to Chicago goes over Lake Michigan, of course – here is the shoreline on the Michigan side. I never gave much thought to the “in the event of a water landing” part of the safety briefing before living in Michigan.

And then I was in the much larger, Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, waiting for a flight to Phoenix. Had breakfast at Johnny Rockets! Flying west, it was breakfast time for a very long time.

And then we were off! Much larger plane for the flight to Phoenix, TVs in every seat. What a terrible idea. Most people turned them off. You had to pay for most content.

Played tic-tac-toe over Kansas, seeing circles from all the irrigated fields below.

We also flew over the Capulin Volcano National Monument in northeastern New Mexico. (Thanks @kelly_lave for identifying it.)

And then I was in Phoenix, where I had to leave security to transfer from United to US Airways. Ugh. Not so bad, I guess.

And then I was off to San Diego, where Matt picked me up at the airport.

I guess I made it! Took lots of beach photos while there, of course. Some beaches were sandy, some rocky.

I wasn’t the only one enjoying the beach.

These guys lived in holes dug into the side of cliffs. Signs warned not to feed them, but given how friendly they were toward people, I’m guessing the signs didn’t help much.

Lots of palm trees, of course.

Saw lots of birds, too. Was surprised to see herons flying in formation.

The neighborhood we stayed in was known as La Jolla, and had the La Jolla cove.

Many of the wedding party, and guests, stayed in a rental home with pretty typical architecture for the area, including a rooftop patio.

The wedding was at La Jolla Presbyterian Church, which had quite a sizable campus.

It was beautiful on the inside.

We also got to enjoy the La Jolla nightlife. The rehearsal dinner was at Bernini’s Bistro.

Zooming past the wedding (which I have no photos of anyway because I was in it), soon I would be leaving.

On Friday morning, I caught Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner.

It departed from the San Diego Amtrak station, obviously a former Santa Fe station.

Seating was unreserved, but there were plenty of seats available.

The Surfliner is, of course, known for it’s ocean views.

Passed through several intermediate stations, until we eventually arrived in Los Angeles.

The LA station had many, many tracks in operation.

They were connected by a long tunnel underground. Felt rather airportish.

But here is the main waiting area.

I had a bit of a layover, so I took a walk through the city. Found a Mexican cultural festival going on outside…

…and a very busy marketplace….

…where I had some fish tacos for lunch.

And then I walked downtown. Here is the quite sizable LA police department.

And here is the LA Times!

I found myself wondering if anything was made in America any more.

I also heard a car accident happen. Matt had previously said “everyone says that drivers where they live are crazy, but in California it’s actually true”.

I also saw some sad signage. Can you imagine getting married in a place that advertised divorces?

But then I was in downtown proper.

I hung out in Pershing Square for a while and called Bec.

And then I had some crepes made by a genuine Frenchman.

Then it was back to the station to board the long train to Chicago, the Southwest Chief.

There was a little Amtrak style security theater before we left. Not sure if you can tell, but there is a lot of legroom on these superliner trains.

And then we were rolling. California was looking like California.

We passed through other stations, including this one in Fullerton.

And another in San Bernadino.

I spent a lot of my time in the sightseer lounge car, definitely one of the perks of the superliner trains, and a great place to meet people.

And at some point I realized my phone knew where I was, which is nice.

Arizona was passed mostly in the dark. And then we were in New Mexico. This is a view out the back of the train – they just wouldn’t let me drive, you know.

First stop was Gallup.

The whole region was quite beautiful, of course.

And uninhabited to an incredible degree.

I had breakfast in the dining car. Somehow they knew my name from then on.

French toast.

Many people waved at us when we went by, though they are rather hard to photograph at 90 mph.

And we passed jackrabbits and coyotes.

And donkeys, who knew where the water came from.

Because even where there was supposed to be water, there often wasn’t.

Eventually, we arrived in Albuquerque.

We had a longer break there, while they did a maintenance check of the train.

And also washed the windows.

We were not the only train in station.

But eventually we were on our way again. I had lunch in the cafe car.

A modest repaste.

We went by churches.

And eventually reached Lamy, New Mexico.

Sir, you are a stereotype.

Sometimes the walls closed in.

Hi there, engineer!

The “NM” is critical here.

The soil also turned more red as we headed east.

And then we found ourselves in a brief but walloping hailstorm!

Immediately afterwards, we thought there might be a tornado to our east, but I think it was just a tiny spot of very heavy rain (colors enhanced for contrast here).

And soon thereafter we were in Raton, NM.

Followed by the Raton tunnel. We were in the tunnel for 1 minutes, 20 seconds.

And then I had dinner in the dining car. Ate with a couple that had been married for 62 years. (Communal seating on the dining car.)


Eastern Colorado was looking a lot like Kansas. Kansas itself was passed mostly in the dark. Look at all that green.

Next morning, we arrived in Kansas City, MO.

Where they unloaded all the trash.

We also saw the train to St. Louis in station.

And then we were off again.

We passed over the Missouri River.

And the Missouri countryside.

Eventually arriving in La Plata, MO. Ah, long time no see. I used this station often when I attended Truman State University.

Next came Fort Madison, Iowa.

After which we passed over the Mississippi River.

And then we were in Illinois. Love all the conversations between strangers that happen in the lounge car.

And then we pulled into Galesburg.

Many of the Illinois stations had old trains parked nearby.

Sometimes we caused quite the traffic snarl.

We eventually came to Naperville.

And then Chicago’s Union Station, probably the most used Amtrak station in America.

Where the air was thick with diesel smoke.

The Grand Hall.

I had a bit of a layover before my final train, so I took a walk over the Chicago river.

Well, yeah.

And then I was on my final train, the Wolverine, to Battle Creek. I arrived in Chicago too late to catch the direct train to Lansing.

What if there is a water landing?

And we were off! Passed the Chicago skyway.

And caught the briefest glimpse of Lake Michigan.

And had a little dinner in the cafe car.

Michigan! No, wait, not quite.

There we go.

Many of the stations in Michigan were quite beautiful.

The Wolverine also traveled up to 90 mph.

Kalamazoo was the last stop before Battle Creek.

In Battle Creek, I transferred to an Indian Trails bus.

And in no time at all, I was in East Lansing!

Where it was finally, a quick cab ride home.

Thus ends the trip!

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