A Postcard From the Surfliner

Somewhere, California


I know where the best seats are. They’re in the last few cars at the end of the platform. Most people, when freed from queue, rush inside the first cars on the track. But it’s those last cars where you can have your pick. Upstairs, I know to choose a seat on the left hand side, facing north where the train is going. Those have an open view of the Pacific Ocean.

From San Diego to Los Angeles, something like half of the ride is right along the beach. It first rides alongside the trolley tracks in Little Italy where you’ll see hanging electrical wires and an eclectic mix of modern buildings. When it gets to Old Town, the view becomes a little clearer. As the train heads closer to the ocean, you’ll start to see more sand until it finally opens up and you are right there, next to the ocean on Solana Beach. It will continue to coast along the water, from Oceanside to San Clemente to San Juan Capistrano. It’s not until you approach Irvine that it starts to go back inland. I guess that’s why it’s called the Pacific Surfliner.

The best time to go, if you could pick a time, is always the one leaving in the late afternoon—the one that arrives in LA right when it gets dark. That’s the one with the sunset. That’s the one where the sky is the same color as the ocean, with its hues of pink and yellow and blue. That’s the one where you’ll see dark silhouettes of palm trees, bonfires, caravans, and restaurants on the piers, and jeeps parked on cliffs with surfboards on them. That’s the one where beach goers, in whatever they’re doing, remain as if they’re frozen in time—staring out in the ocean, walking their dogs, playing in the sand—while you, with a palm on your chin, are looking out and floating away.

That’s the one where you don’t want to be anywhere else other than where you are. It’s the one where, as exciting as your destination is, you don’t really want to get there. There is a little curtain on your side and a plug for your devices on the wall. You’re in your own space, with your camera and books and magazines on the tray table. But you haven’t even opened any of them. You don’t want to right now. You want it to be sunset forever.


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