04/30/12 I drove to Solana Beach this morning to meet Jock, Sharon, Ed, and Janet at Amtrac for Jock's surprise birthday hike at Channel Island NP. Jock was surprised and pleased when we all met at the train station. The train left at 10:03am for Ventura, California. The cars were very comfortable and the ride smooth. There were plenty of bathrooms, AC power for computers, and free wi fi. The scenery along the cost was very beautiful. It was a bit cloudy the entire trip north. We added Bette and John Strauch when we got on the train as they had boarded earlier in San Diego. I mostly socialized on the trip up, but did listen to my Audible book "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" occasionally on the way up. The train trip took about 4.5 hours. In Ventura we got off the train and walked about 3 blocks to our hotel called the Clock Tower. John Strauch and I somehow switched suitcases which panicked me immensely until I realized I had switched with John and not some stranger on the train. After getting settle in our rooms we had free cocktail and cheese platter at the hotel bar. After that we all went to a local Micro Brewery for dinner. We were delayed for dinner as Ed went to his room to get his wife's sweater and returned down a stairway that was a dead-end and got locked in. We waited a half hour before Bette finally called him and discovered his dilemma. He had called 911 but no police had come yet. We tracked him down and rescued him from his stairwell prison. We continued on to dinner and had a great time at the brewery bar and restaurant. I had my first Cuban sandwich ever enjoying it allot. I split it with our birthday boy Jock. Returned to my room and crashed into deep slumber.
05/01/12 Got up early and had a free bad Continental breakfast at the hotel. We found out that the cab service in Ventura was very poor indeed as our original requested van never showed up. We finally got a new one and made it to the Island Packers Harbor for our boat trip over to Scorpion Harbor on Santa Cruz Island NP. The boat ride was relatively smooth and no one in our group got sea sick. I did take a bonine pill as a precaution. We saw a large pod of Dolphins on the way over. They swam right next to the ship for some distance. They are excellent and very fast swimmers. I tried to photograph them but it was very difficult with bouncy waves and the speed that the mammals had. After about 1.5 hours we arrived at the harbor and disembarked having to climb a ladder about 5 steps to get onto the island. We had our island pep talk given by a ranger and got our hike under way. The island was quite green,very beautiful, hilly but relatively easy. The views from the cliffs were inspiring. I became very tired at mid point and took a rest. Perhaps the boat ride and the bonine pill caused my drowsiness and fatigue. I am guessing I walked about 4.5 miles. John and Jock did a much longer hike. We were on the island about 5.5 hours total. Our boat came back to get us on time and all went well. The cab situation at the harbor in Ventura was again a major problem as they guys kept saying they would be right there but did not show up when promised. I thought we were going to be required to walk back 5 miles to our hotel, but fortunately the van that brought us finally showed after and hour plus and we got transported back to the hotel. We immediately had our free cocktail and cheese plate. Next showers making us all feel much better. We all had dinner at an Italian restaurant which had good food and deserts to die for. I had eggplant parmigiana and split a lemon tort with Sharon for desert. Of course we all had wine with dinner. We were all leaving at different times tomorrow so we said our good buys and retired to the hotel.
05/02/12 I slept well and got up at 7:00am and walked to Vons about 3 blocks away for Starbucks coffee and then to the donut shop for breakfast. I returned to the room packed, checked out, and leisurely walked to the Amtrac station taking some photos of historic buildings and historic murals along the way. I enjoyed the trip a lot with a very fun and compatible group of friends. I would definitelyenjoy a trip like this again. I arrived back at Solana Beach about 2:30pm.