Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,

The Hat Pack

I'm pictured in the attached user icon wearing my "Aussie hat" — the hat I bought while in Australia on account of without a broad-brimmed hat of some sort (I'd forgotten the ones I already had) I would get sunburned on top of my head. (I got badly sunburned on my legs, but that's a different story.) I've become quite fond of that hat, even though I've managed to distress it considerably in only two years. (The wire in the brim that holds its shape has a break in it, so the hat brim is kinked and I can't figure out how to repair it.) I took it with me on my Europe trip last month, for instance. So imagine how unhappy I was when I lost it yesterday.

Yesterday morning, I woke early (not difficult as my body clock hadn't made it back to California yet) and walked over to the 1st/Metro light rail stop to catch the free #10 bus that connects light rail to San Jose Airport and the Santa Clara Caltrain/Amtrak station. Although it was still dark (I was taking the first Capitol of the day), I took my hat because I thought I might be walking in the sun and I'm quite sun-sensitive.

At Santa Clara, I was distracted by trying to help the big group of people who didn't know where to catch the Capitol I'm glad a northbound Caltrain didn't come along, or else I bet a bunch of them would have got on it (all trains are the same, right?) and ended up in San Francisco instead of Sacramento. So it wasn't until three hours later, as I was starting to put stuff back into my backpack as we approached Sacramento, that I realized that my hat was gone.

I hunted around the area where I'd been sitting on the train (I'd had a table to myself, which makes using the computer much easier), but no luck. I decided the only other place it could have been would have been on the bus. I called VTA customer service and they told me that the earliest I could know about whether they found my hat would be Monday morning. So I decided to not worry about it on account of I couldn't do anything about it.

At Sacramento I'd rented a car from Hertz, which has a "hot line" telephone in the station lobby on which you call them and they come pick you up. Except that the phone is broken. However, I had the phone number of the local agency where they actually are and called them on my mobile phone. They told me, "We're a little busy here. It might be about twenty minutes before we can get you."

I said, "I might as well walk, so don't worry about it," and set off walking down I Street. The Hertz agency is on 16th Street, near where Lisa and I stayed during the UP150 event last month. It took me a little longer than twenty minutes because I initially turned left at 16th instead of right and had to back-track, but I figured "twenty minutes" really meant "sometime within an hour, if you're lucky," so I consider that a win. Besides, the walk is good for me.

I picked up my rental — a bright-red Toyota Corolla — and advanced north as expeditiously as I could. It was 11:45 AM and I needed to be at the Bank of America in Yuba City before they closed 1:00 PM. Fortunately for me, traffic was favorable, and I got there with around fifteen minutes to spare. After a twenty minute wait for an agent (as long as you're in the bank at closing, they'll serve you), I got the necessary paperwork signed, which took less than five minutes. Then I did a couple of small errands in Yuba City and headed over to see my sister and nephew for about an hour or so before I needed to get back to Sacramento. I gave my sister and nephew chocolates and toffee I bought for them at LHR, and left with them a jar of Exemoor Heather Honey for my mother.

I'd predicted a 4:30 PM return of the rental car, and it was exactly 4:30 when I pulled into their lot, which was pretty good, considering I had to allow time to refuel the vehicle. After a ten minute wait, they checked me back in, and I told them that I could go ahead and walk back to the station because it was an hour before departure. The agent seemed relieved to hear that, what with five people queued up waiting for cars. I think they were going to turn that car I just gave them very quickly.

The walk back to the station took less time than the walk out because I didn't have any false turns. I had time to stop for a coffee before getting to the station. I didn't have long to wait before they started calling boarding on the 5:40 departure. Because of the recent rebuilding of Sacramento Valley Station having moved the passenger tracks far away from the station, they have to start boarding much sooner than they once did, because it simply takes a lot longer for people to get out to the platforms. I wasn't too fussed, however, and made my way to the train with fifteen minutes or so to go before departure.

While getting settled into a table and setting up my computer, I dug out my folio with my e-ticket paperwork. (Amtrak has recently finally joined the 21st century and implemented electronic ticketing rather than requiring a specific, valuable paper ticket.) I couldn't find it. In fact, from the papers I had I thought possibly I'd somehow only bought a one-way ticket from SCC to SAC. I quickly repacked my bag and dashed back down the concourse. There is a ticket vending machine halfway back to the station, and when I inserted my Amtrak credit card, I found the reservation for the trip I was making, which was indeed a round-trip, and printed the confirmation slip again. This allowed me to get back to my seat with four minutes to spare. Had I had to go clear back to the station or even buy a new ticket, I don't think I would have made it, and the 5:40 is the last train of the day that goes back to San Jose.

And when I reopened my backpack, I found the original e-ticket confirmation.

Still huffing and puffing a bit from the run back and forth on the concourse when the conductor came along to check my ticket, I explained what I'd done. He told me that if that happens in the future to just give them my name and show ID — if I'm on the train for which I'd made the reservation (the Capitol is the only unreserved coach train left in the Amtrak system, so this isn't always certain), they can find the reservation on their handheld ticketing devices.

I settled back in and had a fairly restful train ride back to Santa Clara. I couldn't sleep (the coffee probably had something to do with that, along with the adrenaline jolt from the near-miss at Sacramento), but I was still pretty tired when we got to Santa Clara and trudged back over to the #10 stop for the ride home.

On a whim, I asked the driver, "Did you happen to find a broad-brimmed hat on the bus today?"

He reached behind his seat and produced my hat! They only need two buses to cover the #10's weekend schedule, and this was the same vehicle on which I'd traveled out that morning. He chided me for losing it in the first place ("How could you lose a hat like that?") as he returned it to me.

Despite a few missteps along the way and a temporarily-misplaced valued piece of headgear, Saturday turned out pretty well. Missions were accomplished, trains were ridden, and everything worked out for the best. Still, I was pretty tired, and was very happy to get that extra hour of sleep last night. I think my body clock had finally found its way back to California. The only issue now is that it may continue headed west toward Hawaii.
Tags: amtrak, family, trains, travel
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