State Fair 1995 Trip Report

By Dave Schultheis
August 30, 1995

The 1995 State Fair Trip started EARLY, with many alarms sounding at 5:00 a.m., some earlier. Our group of nine hardy souls arrived at the San Jose Cahill Diridon AMTRAK train station in time to catch the 6:00 a.m. bus to Emeryville.

(The simple answer to why the train does not start in San Jose is that there is no room to keep the trainset in San Jose overnight, so it's kept in Oakland. AMTRAK saves money by not running an empty train down from Oakland every morning.)

Our bus driver "Ellie" was an amazing person. She had quite a commentary on various topics and was pretty entertaining while explaining the unusual three-point turn-around at the Santa Clara "depot." (You had to be there.) It was a little cool on the bus; a couple of passengers had to stand in the sun to thaw.

We got to Emeryville with about 5 minutes to spare before the train pulled into the depot. We took our seats on board the new "California cars" being pushed to Sacramento by a new "California" locomotive, with the engineer in a "California" cab car. Of course, the Lounge-Diner car was not ready to serve breakfast yet, but it didn't take very long. The trip was very pleasant with a comfortable ride on some very smooth tracks. After stopping at Berkeley, Richmond, Martinez, Suisun/Fairfield and Davis, we highballed to Sacramento, arriving a little before 10:00 a.m. The AMTRAK THRUWAY bus marked CAL EXPO was waiting for us. We began to suspect something was a little hinky when the driver backed the bus away from the depot, allegedly to make room for another bus. After a short delay, we headed over to the fairgrounds where we were a little more concerned when the driver needed some hints from the passengers to get into the correct lane to turn into the fair's main entrance. As he stopped the bus (in the wrong place) and let us out, he handed each of us a piece of paper which we all promptly folded and put away. He told us he'd be back at 5:00 p.m. and I showed him where the AMTRAK bus stop was located so he could meet us there.

As the bus faded away, westbound on Exposition Boulevard, we read the piece of paper. It began: "Unfortunately, the State Fair has changed its weekday hours. The fair will not open until noon today..." Here we are at 10:20 a.m., outside the main gate, with 800 other people who are all going to have to wait for almost two hours, and we're reading a letter that the bus driver never read, otherwise we would never have left the train station. To make a long story short, our group decided to walk down to the mall at Arden and Heritage, where (some of us) had lunch at the food court.

We got back to the fairgrounds around noon, where we climbed aboard the Monorail for a sightseers-eye-view of the fairgrounds. Everyone got a pretty good look at those things they wanted to see and those things they wanted to avoid.

We then split up with an agreement to meet back at the AMTRAK bus stop at 5:00 p.m. Some went toward the commercial exhibits (slicing and dicing!), some went toward the "extreme" diving display (very thin, very tan young men diving from a tower), some went toward the food booths (dozens!), some went toward the animal exhibits and some went toward the bungee-jumping towers over by the race track.

It was very warm in Sacramento, although I kept trying to tell myself that it was "about 75 degrees." We stopped for water frequently; some internally and some externally.

Barbequed chicken, cole slaw, burgers, lemonade, frosty cones, gyros, beer, pizza, spaghetti, chicken sandwiches, tacos, ribs, green salad, hot dogs, bottled water.

We stopped in at the DMV booth to see what was new. We picked up brochures on the new Monterey Bay preservation plates (with the otter), the new Western preservation (cowboy) plates and the new Lake Tahoe conservancy plates. DMV employees were taking orders and selling plates right at the booth. They were also accepting credit cards.

Some of the group avoided the carnival, some really enjoyed it. They had a huge ferris wheel and all the other standard rides.

Water World amusement park takes up part of the CAL EXPO property. The kids were having a wonderful time splashing around. The big kids were having a good time splashing in the wave pool.

Feathers and Fur was a gallery of birds and bunnies near Best In Show, a collection of 1st-2nd-3rd and Honorable Mention items from the fair.

The Hall of the Counties had the usual wonderful displays from many (but not all) of the 58 counties in California.

As the afternoon wound down, we worked our way back to the front gate to await the bus. It was a different bus with a different driver and he waited until 5:10 p.m. to leave. We arrived in plenty of time to board the train, but we had to stand in the heat since they don't open the doors until nearly departure time.

The train ride back was a little less smooth. They seem to have worked on the tracks in one direction only. Maybe they'll get the other direction smoother by next year.

We got to the new Oakland station at Jack London Square shortly after 8:00 p.m. and boarded the bus for San Jose, where we had to sit for some time while they fooled around. Too bad we didn't know we had enough time to use the phones (to call our insurance companies). The bus was full to the point where one passenger had to stand all the way to Fremont. The wheelchair access lift cover did not seal properly and back-of-the-bus riders got to inhale freeway fumes all the way home. The chosen route included a stop at every red light in the city of Oakland.

There were a number of Fremont/Centerville passengers so we got stuck in traffic getting there, but we were spared a trip to Santa Clara since there were no passengers going that way. Upon arrival at the San Jose depot, the bus driver was so anxious to get rid of us he forgot to set the emergency brake and the bus started rolling backwards.

We all passed around our last best wishes and "glad to meet-yas" and went our separate ways.

(Some of us went to our word processors to write "love letters" to AMTRAK.)

See you 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