I was originally scheduled to come back to the Bay Area last Tuesday, just after my brother and his new bride came back from their European honeymoon. Somehow I managed to screw up the last plane flight as it was reserved as SJC-to-SAN instead of SAN-to-SJC. I didn’t find out my mistake until I went to check in the night before the flight. Mistake acknowledged, I cancelled that flight for credit and sought out alternatives: land, air, and sea.
After finding $150-200 last minute flights not to my liking, I looked at renting a car or taking the train back. Last year, just to try it, I took the Pacific Surfliner up to Santa Barbara, which connected to a 6-hour bus ride up 101 to San Jose. The train trip was great. The bus, not so much. However, it was cheap at around $65 one-way, with no additional taxes or fees. There’s also an all-train option which had two segments: San Diego to Los Angeles on the Pacific Surfliner followed by Los Angeles to San Jose on the long-distance Coast Starlight with a 90-minute layover at Union Station.
Then I remembered that Amtrak offers a unique rail pass just for the state of California. Simply named the California Rail Pass, it’s structured like a Eurail pass in that it offers a set number of days travel over another set travel window. In the case of CA Rail Pass, it’s 7 days over a 21-day period. The pass includes all train and connector bus travel within the state, from Dunsmuir to the north down to San Diego. Regional/intercity trains such as the Capitol Corridor, San Joaquins, and the aforementioned Pacific Surfliner are included, as is the Coast Starlight. The only exception is the California Zephyr, another long-distance train that starts in Emeryville and travels east to Chicago via Reno and Salt Lake City.
The price of the pass is a mere $159. I bought it Thursday and started traveling Friday. That leaves me six additional days of travel. I’m using the rest of the travel days to explore a bunch of minor league parks, starting with a San Jose-Stockton game tomorrow at Banner Island Ballpark. The itinerary is as follows:
The game this Saturday vs. the Yankees is one for which I don’t expect to take the train. Instead, I may drive with some friends up there. There’s also an option to drive after the game to Raley Field, where the River Cats are taking on Reno at 7:05. We’ll see how it plays out the rest of this week.
All of the ballparks are close – most within walking distance – of Amtrak stations. The furthest is probably Banner Island Ballpark at 1.5 miles from the SKN station. I wanted to fit a Modesto Nuts game in but the schedule is pretty much all night games while they’re at home for the next few weeks, and I’m looking to avoid those.
It looks to be a fun series of games to check out. If anyone’s interested in joining me for one or more of the games, you know how to reach me.