State Fair 1997 Trip Report

By Dave Schultheis


Even though AMTRAK reservations people didn't know how to write tickets for our trip until just a few days before we left, we all managed to have a wonderful time.

Everyone made it to the depot on time for the 6:20 a.m. departure. The train was made up of all "California cars," including a new-style lounge & snack car.

This year fifteen people made the trip: John, Dennis, Mike, Dave, Debra, Bob, Jordan, Linda, Peter, Charlie, one-N Glen, two-N Glenn, Al, Herman and Henry.

AMTRAK's Capitol Train # 722 left the San Jose Cahill Diridon Depot right on time. Some of us headed for breakfast in the lounge car right away. Somehow we missed seeing the abandoned community of Drawbridge, in the salt flats. After picking up passengers in Santa Clara, we headed for the upgraded "station" in Fremont/Centerville; then on to a new stop in Hayward.

We picked up more passengers during stops at Oakland/Jack London Square, Emeryville, Berkeley, Richmond, Martinez, Suisun/Fairfield and Davis (beautifully-restored depot ). There were a few unexplained delays, making us about a half-hour late into the Sacramento depot, but the conductor reassured us that the buses would be waiting, and they were. There was some consternation as we boarded the bus, caused by the change in ticketing, but I reassured everyone that we WOULD get back to the depot, regardless of the fact that the bus driver had taken our return ticket.

We arrived at the Cal Expo main gate about 10:30 and took a group picture. After a little more consternation caused by the change in ticketing, we all got through the turnstiles just fine. As usual, your host escorted everyone on board the State Fair monorail to get the overview of the fairgrounds. We then split into various groups and agreed to meet back at the buses by 4:50 p.m.

They've made a number of changes at the fairgrounds, although most of the main attractions were in the same places. There seemed to be a bit of reorganization in the food area, with more places to sit and eat in the shade, and perhaps more food vendors. The Bungee Jump was replaced by the "Skyscraper" or the "G-spot," (two different signs by the same ride) another high-altitude thrill ride. Jordan and Peter were up to the challenge and were rewarded with an interview by one of the local television stations. Sadly, we were unable to find the bird show this year. And the Clydesdales came from "somewhere else," but it was nice to see them. There were newly-born piglets and cows about to calve. There was a mock gunfight in a newly-built area near the race track. There was live music coming from several places around the grounds. Mike got a picture of the Ten-pound bun. There was a new bridge across the central pond, making it easier to get around. As usual, we found the DMV booth and caught up with what's new (not too much). We got our glasses cleaned for free, and didn't win anything at the Cal-Neva Club's free slot-machine "pull." I talked to the Mary Kay lady and found that Mary Kay is slowly recovering from her stroke, so that's good to hear. There were clever political bumper stickers at the Republican and Democratic party booths. We saw many county displays, including prize-winning Placer County. Two-N Glenn and Al went hog-wild in the carnival and came home with lots of plush animals for the kids. There seemed to be more microphone-equipped folks hawking goods: slice, dice, chop, clean, etc. A new type of rubber broom seemed to be a big seller this year.

Some of the County exhibits were very good, very clever, very creative and very extensive. Few were boring. Of course, we could not find an entry from Santa Clara County.

The weather was just fine. It can get warm in Sacramento, and it did, but it never seemed to be unbearable. We could always find an air-conditioned building.

Everybody made it to the bus on time, and a good thing, because the bus driver got tired of waiting at 4:53 and * poof * we were gone.

As usual, we got back to the depot in plenty of time and had to cool our heels standing trainside. They appeared to be still cleaning the train and would not let us on until nearly departure time.

We left "right on the advertised" at 5:45 p.m. and headed back to the bay area. The lounge car attendant was not quite ready to begin serving, and when he was, he sold your host, the first one in line, the very last carton of milk on the train. It's hard to believe that AMTRAK didn't know that they should have stocked up, but they didn't.

The train arrived at the San Jose depot right on time at 9:15 p.m. We made our way through the depot and into the parking lots and headed home.

There may be some letters to AMTRAK as a result of this trip, but not nearly the problems we've had in the past. Overall, I think everyone had a great time and we are looking forward to making the trip next year. Check for a trip announcement in mid-July.

Your comments can go on this page. Please send them in.

See you next year!


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Report posted on August 22, 1997. Last updated at 17:00 PST on March 13, 1999.
David W. Schultheis, San Josť, Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, California, USA