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Amtrak California: Lot's of Little Things

I have been a fan of train travel ever since my first Amtrak adventure at the age of 30-something. Even now, I thrill at the sound of the whistle blast. And my nose is often pressed against the window taking in all of the back-road scenery.

Most often, I'm traveling the Capitol Corridor from Sacramento to somewhere in the San Francisco Bay area. When my husband was living in Oakland it was the easiest way to commute back and forth. These days, there are so many commuters, the train runs regularly and on time. Any chance to take the train...I'm all over it.

Most recently, a business meeting took me to the tiny valley town of Suisun...not far from Fairfield and Travis AFB for the destination challenged.  It's only about 45 miles from Sacramento but with today's fuel prices it still made more sense as a single passenger to ride Amtrak.  With a 3-day advance purchase, my AAA card gave me a 10% discount bringing the fare down to $27. The 90-mile, round-trip car ride would have consumed about $18 in fuel -- my darling Subaru gets about 24MPH on the freeway -- but taking the train kept me away from the Friday traffic hassles especially on my return trip. Plus, the trip from Sacramento was less than 40 minutes and was just so relaxing...I'll be doing it again this Friday. Anything I can do to take one more car off the road...

Amtrak Transfers Credit Barbara Steinberg Okay, back to the little thing. On my return trip from Suisun the conductor asked me if I would like a "bus or Light Rail transfer for Sacramento."  Looking dazed and confused I asked, "For free!?"  He went on to explain that Amtrak provides free transfers from the Capitol Corridor to a number of regional transit systems including Sacramento's Regional Transit, Yolobus, Delta Breeze and more. In fact, if my friend hadn't picked my up in Suisun a free transit pass would also have been available.

"Is this something new?" I asked. Well, only if you consider the last five years new!!!  I don't know where or how they publicize this, but they need to spread the word. So here I am doing my best to support this "little thing" that is really a very BIG THING!  As well as the "green" thing to do!

All-l-l-l-l-l-l-l Aboard!

Making my way back to Sacramento from Yosemite, I suddenly realize I am hungry. I pass up a couple of places along historic Highway 49 thinking something better may come along.  Approaching Jackson, another of the Gold Rush-era towns along the route, I remember there's a wonderful bakery on Main Street that I haven't visited in years. I can grab something quick; check-out what's new; and get down the road before traffic

Groveland California: Service Is More Than A Little Thing

Remember when gas stations were called "service" stations?  If so, we know a little something about your age bracket(-;!  Back in those days it really was all about the service and a smile. There was no such thing as self-serve gas. In fact, I'm guessing they service station employees would probably have wrestled the pump from your hands had you tried such an insane thing as pumping your own gas.

In the days of service, they washed your windshield and asked if you wanted your oil checked. Sigh. Those were the days when you could "trust your car to the many who wears the star."

Groveland Verns Near Yosemite Tuolumne County Credit Barbara Steinberg Well, those days still exist in some small towns like Groveland, California. A gateway to Yosemite, Groveland has been around since the Gold Rush. Just a few blocks long and wagon-high sidewalks. Wonderful historic places like the Iron Door Saloon (California's oldest continuously operated bar) and the Groveland Hotel who (likewise) has been greeting guests since the Gold Rush days. And like all of that incredible history Groveland also has one more blast from the past...a real live service station: Vern's Groveland Gas Station.

On my way from visiting the comforts of Groveland and the wilds of Yosemite National Park, I pulled into the very diminutive Vern's. None of that fancy state-of-the-art stuff. No pay at the pump. Just an honest-to-goodness service station. I didn't know when I pulled in. I got out and was heading inside when a young man appeared. "I'll pump your gas," he said. "We don't have self-serve here."

I couldn't believe my ears. "What?" I asked. "Why?" looking a gift horse in the mouth. Imagine...service without having to ask!

Groveland Verns Tim Near Yosemite Credit Barbara Steinberg The reason doesn't matter. What he answered was, "The station's been full-service since the current owner, Vern, took over in 1987."  My young service attendant, Tim, has worked at the station since 1996.  With pump running, he proceeded to clean my windshield. I hadn't even asked. Real service folks, I'm not fooling.

With my tank full I was ready to head down the road to Sacramento -- spirits renewed that there really are lots of little things out there that count. It made the spiraling fuel cost a lot easier to swallow.

BTW - If you're looking for a change in lifestyle and the idea of living on the edge of Yosemite appeals to you, Vern is looking to retire. Yes, that's right...Vern's Groveland Gas Station is for sale. I only hope that the new owners -- if and when they ever appear -- will see the value in a little old-fashioned service.

You rock, Vern!!

Barbara L. Steinberg