Billowing clouds of steam whisked with eye-watering, thick, black smoke. Harmonious chugging of a locomotive. Yells of “All aboard!”, an engineer struggling to throw coal from the tender, shrill squeaking of brakes, and Dinah blowing his horn.
Unemployed LA5ers who were able to take the entire day off on Friday were treated to no such nostalgia. Instead, we devoured a delicious “Mexican” breakfast involving more spinach and feta than chorizo and cotija during the morning meeting. The official meeting was a fitting and fun end to President José’s short-lived sovereignty, highlighting $64,499 given to five charitable organizations, over $174,000 in scholarships given to 24 students, and over $125,000 raised for the Foundation towards future scholarships. Many attempts at a group photo were made in the beautiful Union Station courtyard, and within minutes, 30 Rotarians began their trek to...figure out Union Station. Apparently, LA5ers don’t often ride the rails.
Nonetheless, we found our train, and our car. After boarding, and making sure we understood how tickets worked, we cut through Los Angeles in no time flat. The “bar” (a gorgeous, steel-lined casita in car #11) opened, and a long line of Rotarians formed, each of whom attempted to determine in which part of the world it was five o’clock (somewhere, apparently). With Jack Daniels, Sierra Nevada, and half-bottles of sixteen-buck half-Chuck in hand, we enjoyed the next few hours taking in the marvelous industrial landscape Southern California has to offer.
Soon, we saw the ocean, and soon after, our stop. Clambering to the chartered bus, we saw the smoke from the Santa Barbara fires. Unswayed, we stayed the course and made our way to the first winery, where we enjoyed a tasting paired with delicious deli sandwiches. Somehow, everything paired well with turkey, ham, and roast beef sandwiches, and as soon as we were done plowing through the wine sampling, we jumped to our next winery.
The second winery was lovely, and had a spectacular view of their small vineyard. The hostess immediately gave up telling our quiet-as-a-mouse group about her offerings as the gathering devolved into rowdy hooligans eagerly awaiting the next cabernet. We piled into the bus again, to the third and final winery.
Here, we sat around a bar like a bunch of college kids, sampling the largest wine menu yet. Rotarians were mixing, laughing, and drinking happily, when the bus driver reminded us that Santa Barbara was burning down, burning down, burning down, and that we should make haste before the 101 was closed again.
Dutifully, we swaggered, wine-fortified, to the bus. We braved the flames (if memory serves), and arrived at the train station, only to find that we were early, and the train was late. Like good Rotarians, we supported several local businesses, and emptied them of their last alcohol. Once our mission was complete, we walked back to the train, boarded, and basked in the glory of the day.
Suddenly...the train stopped. “Sorry, folks,” the conductor said, “there has been an ‘incident’ on the train ahead of us. We’ll be delayed for one to two hours.” John Lockhard bravely whipped out his phone and saved the day by re-chartering the bus, and all LA5ers were safely delivered to Union Station.
It was an amazing day. We’re looking forward to doing it again. Tomorrow.