Sunday, January 31, 2010

Road Trip

Saturday morning we were up early for a 90 mile trip in the Sunrader to visit up in Sacramento, Ca. for a re-seal of the two front wrap-around windows. Dr. George is one of the few, if not the only places that take the care to stock parts for many older rigs.

After a quick inspection using a sophisticated low-pressure leak-testing device, the guys located the problem along the top of the rubber gasket that holds in the Lexan window pane. The gasket is a two-piece system that uses a rubber insert to compress the gasket against both the window and the fiberglass surround. Over time, the gasket dries out and shrinks from exposure, so it either has to be replaced or a sealant used in the gaps to restore a water-tight fit. It is a maintenance item that will come up every 3-4 years.

The fix only takes a few hours of shop time, but the sealant has to cure for a day or two before the rig can be driven, otherwise it won't seal properly. Hmmm. 90 miles from home, one vehicle. What to do?

It just so happens that the Sacramento light rail system has a stop right behind the shop, so we opted for public transportation home. Light rail to Amtrak...Amtrak to BART...BART to Pleasanton, and a ride home from Beth. Couldn't be simpler. It was 10am.

By 11, Duncan and I were walking across downtown Sacramento to the Amtrak station. With a quick detour to clump along wood plank sidewalks of Old Sac, nod to Wells Fargo and admire the statuesque pre-cursor to FedEx (it really beats a white panel truck, btw) we passed by the Railway Museum and walked into the train station.

The station is a bit like traveling through time, with echoes of an era before propellers and turbofans. And while in many ways the coaches are fully modernized commuter conveyances, it is hard to avoid the reality that for most of us, especially on the West Coast, trains are only a fall-back or perhaps a novelty.

Adding to the humor of Saturday's journey, part of the track between Sacramento and Richmond was under repair. This requires a 'bus bridge' between Sacramento and Suisun. The whole concept of a bus bridge seems odd to me, and I have a tough time imagining that operating a bus for 1/3 of the length of the train trip actually nets out a reasonable return-on-fare for Amtrak, but it provided another mode of transportation for the journey. (At this point, Duncan was starting to count them). So we ate our Quiznos sandwiches (with growing regret for not looking for something...ANYTHING...better) and waited for the Bus to board.

Just as we readied to depart, the Conductor came on board the Bus to announce the train from Suisun would be an additional 30 minutes late. Apparently there had been an accident earlier in the day that took our train out of service and this was the replacement. We finally boarded as the track-side clock approached 2pm, backed up briefly to switch to the Westbound track, and proceeded toward Richmond.

We crossed over the Bay at Benicia, where the old rail bridge stands in the shadow of two massive concrete viaducts for cars and trucks. And then, turned toward the Pacific at Martinez and out along the shore of the Bay, we alternately threaded through dockside refinery infrastructure and Bayfront homes. It is good to remember that trains provide a completely different view of the world as compared to the left seat in the fast lane.The transfer from Amtrak to BART in Richmond is fantastic: just a move from one platform to another and we were on our way toward Fremont. A change to a Dublin-Pleasanton train at the Oakland Coliseum brought our modes of transportation to six, with the ride home in the Honda taking it to seven. What was a 90 minute trip up to Sacramento in the Sunrader required 6 hours to cover on public transit. Whoa! But Duncan is a great traveling companion so we had some good laughs along the way and planned some destinations for once the rig is in traveling shape. Oh, and thank goodness for Madden NFL '08...(though I personally prefer the view out the window).

Now... how to get back to Sacramento next weekend to pick it up?

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