State Fair 1994 Trip Report

by Dave Schultheis
August 22, 1994

As expected, our San Jose-to-Sacramento trip on AMTRAK's CAPITOL was just great. The round-trip fare was $27 and it was very well worth it.

We left San Jose exactly "on the advertised" time, 6:35 a.m. As soon as the Conductor took our tickets and marked our places, most of our group of 10 headed back to the Lounge Car for breakfast snacks. (Mike brought donuts but AMTRAK didn't seem to care; they were doing a land-office business with breakfast treats, bear claws, coffee, snacks, hot chocolate, muffin-and-egg sandwiches, candy bars [6:30 am?!], etc.)

Many of the passengers on the train were not aware that the tracks go right over the Benicia-Martinez bridge (at the Carquinez Straights) and through an area called "Bahia," alongside the Suisun Bay, where the federal government keeps the "Mothball Fleet." These (formerly) majestic old Navy ships are "mothballed" in the bay, waiting to be scrapped or reactivated. Some were reactivated during the "Gulf War" and are back in mothballs.

Outside Davis we had to stop the train for a few minutes, and as we were waiting, we saw the reason: The Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus (Red Unit) passed by on its way to Oakland. Our AMTRAK Conductor was very excited to see this train and opened the back door of the lounge car to allow a few passengers to stand on the rear platform to see one of the elephants waving his trunk out the side of the train car.

We arrived in Sacramento about 5 minutes early, just before 10 a.m. Buses were standing by for the transfer to Cal Expo (the State Fairgrounds). The bus driver pointed out the old Governor's Mansion in downtown Sacramento on the way.

The State Fairgrounds are quite large, although I don't have a figure on the acreage. We took the monorail (near the front gate) which tours the whole grounds. It's a good idea for newcomers to take this tour so that they can get the overview of what's where and what they would like to see.

Our group of ten split into various smaller groups (and some changed from their "train clothes" to their "fair clothes"). Some of the things we saw were: Mustang Memories, Space Camp, BBQ Pork, Lemonade, sunburned people, Budweiser Clydesdales, Water World, too many kids, Carnival, Race Track (closed), Forestry exhibit (free samples - went down to the Hayden Ranch), "Weed" display ( wheat - oats - barley ), sheep, pigs and piglets (2 days and 3 days old), calf ( about 13 hours old ), upside-down bungee-jumping, flags from every county, cinnamon buns, DMV booth, CHP Mustang, historical gas-powered engines and tractors, Mosquito World (!?!), Pig races, junk jewelry, slicer-dicer stuff, cheap sunglasses, beer bellies, displays from 45 of the 58 counties, spas, wood carvers, souvenir shops.

We all met back at the AMTRAK bus stop in front of the Fairgrounds at 5:00 p.m., the bus pulled out exactly on time. The trip back to the train station is scheduled for 40 minutes but it took a lot less time than that, meaning that we had to wait what seemed like forever in order to board the train. (The don't let you board until just a few minutes before departure time.)

The return trip was about the same as the morning trip, except that the train was very full from the beginning and that people were eating dinner, rather than breakfast.

We arrived in San Jose just a few minutes beyond the 9:20 p.m. scheduled time. Although it had been a long day, everyone had a great time. I pronounced it a resounding success. Thanks to all who attended!

Maybe we can arrange to do the same thing next year!


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Created on April 9, 1996. Last updated at 21:40 PDT on April 9, 1996.
David W. Schultheis, San Josť, Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, California, USA