Route of train from the Bay Area to Los Angeles
First, the trip provided some amazing vantage points. Near Monterey, the track ran right alongside the Elkhorn Slough salt marsh.
Elkhorn SloughFurther south, the train hugged the banks of the Salinas River, and later, the Pacific Coastline.
Along the Salinas River, near Bradley California
Beach near Gaviota, about 32 miles west of Santa Barbara
In San Luis Obispo county, the verdant hillside appeared particularly alluring.
The numerous beaches the train passed that lacked a trace of human activity, the hilly pastures teeming with cattle reminded me just how rugged California is beyond the primary urban cores.
Finally, the trip exposed me to the state's underbelly. The derricks of the San Ardo Oil Field (the 8th-largest in the state) had a haunting, monstrous aesthetic, a testament to our society's continued dependency on fossil fuel extraction (even in a "progressive" state).
The California Men's Colony, north of San Luis Obispo, paired authoritarian, rectangular geometry with a suprising openness to the outside world. I could see persons (prisoners?) wandering through the courtyard from the train.
San Ardo Oil Field in operation
California Men's Colony
16th-century Spanish conquistadores conceived of California as a physical island. I believe this metaphor to be quite fitting, when taken in the plural: not a singular island but an archipelago.