Adventures in SoCal

For my final winter break of college, I went to visit family in Los Angeles and also traveled to San Diego. The family visits were pretty standard and not exactly the kind of thing I post here, but I also got some amazing photographs.

Getty Center

After getting over the jet lag (to some degree), we traveled to the Getty Center on the first full day in Los Angeles. I am personally not one for art museums, but the Getty Center has both interesting architecture and amazing views. While the rest of my family looked at the artwork, I went around photographing the buildings and the views. The museum is also at the top of a mountain, which is traversed by a tram, affording me an opportunity to photograph a unique rail system.

I-405 Sepulveda Pass from the Getty Center
I-405 Sepulveda Pass
Tram at the upper station at the Getty Center
Upper tram station
Fountain at the Getty Center
Fountain in the garden

Wilshire Boulevard and Century City

I have pictures of the Downtown Los Angeles skyline from previous trips, but Los Angeles does not have a single high-density urban core the way that most cities I travel to do. So, I set my sights on Wilshire Boulevard. After a bunch of scouting out locations on Google Earth (which was no easy task when all I had was my cell phone), I concluded that the parking garage at the Westfield Mall in Century City would be the best vantage point. The view did not disappoint. While the first time I tried was a cloudy day, the weather forecast revealed that the next day would be sunny. And sunny it was:

Wilshire Boulevard skyline from Century City
Wilshire Boulevard skyline from Westfield Century City

However, that was to be outdone later that day. Thanks to some help from my family, I was able to get access to the roof of one of those buildings on Wilshire and photograph Century City. Los Angeles requires helipads be on the top of tall buildings, and that is exactly where I was standing. This gave me a nice 360 degree view of the Westside of Los Angeles.

Century City skyline
Century City skyline from the roof of a Wilshire building

That was a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity. It’s not every day that you can access the top of a skyscraper in the middle of Los Angeles, and I am extremely grateful for my family and the property management for letting me up there.

Exploring the Metro (a bit)

I had a free afternoon and nobody had any specific plans, so I figured I would take the opportunity to explore the Metro some more. I have always been a fan of the Los Angeles Metro since it’s such a new system and serves a metropolitan area vastly different than most other rapid transit systems. Nothing new had been opened since I was there last (though a whole lot is coming very soon), so I didn’t have any obvious candidates to explore. I thought about it, and decided maybe I should go to Boyle Heights since it has the only two underground light rail stations outside of Downtown (until the Crenshaw/LAX Line opens in a few months). After a long trip in from Westwood on the Expo Line, followed by short trips on the Purple Line and Gold Line (once the Regional Connector project finishes, this entire trip will be a one-seat ride), I got off in Boyle Heights at Soto. The design of the platform was pretty standard in keeping with the heavy rail stations on the Red and Purple Lines, but the entrance design was unique and well-incorporated into the local community.

Soto station entrance plaza
Soto entrance
Soto mezzanine
Soto mezzanine
Looking west at Soto station
Soto platform

I then traveled back towards Downtown, not sure what to do next. I remembered along the way that the Little Tokyo/Arts District station will be demolished and replaced with an underground station as part of the Regional Connector project, so I decided to get off there and grab some pictures since I had no idea when I would be back next and I may never get a chance to photograph that station again.

Little Tokyo from south end
Little Tokyo station with all the construction activity behind it
Little Tokyo from north end
Little Tokyo station north entrance

From there, I took the Gold Line back to Union Station, then the Purple Line to Wilshire/Western, and the 720 bus back to Westwood.

Traveling to San Diego

After a nice time in Los Angeles, I headed down to San Diego. I traveled on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner, getting on at Los Angeles Union Station:

Surfliner locomotive at Los Angeles Union Station
The Siemens Charger locomotive for my train
Back of a Surfliner at Los Angeles Union Station
The coach-cab car back of my train
Front of Los Angeles Union Station
The station entrance (taken several years earlier on another trip)

The train trip itself was pretty uneventful. Everything went smoothly, and we arrived at San Diego Old Town station right on time. The view from the train was somewhat varied. The leg from Los Angeles to San Juan Capistrano was just industrial backlots, going through pretty gritty areas. However, from there on to San Diego was absolutely beautiful, going right by the ocean.

Surfliner and empty trolley track at San Diego Old Town
My train at San Diego Old Town
San Diego Old Town Station House
The station house

Maritime Museum

After getting off the train and meeting everyone else at the station, we drove downtown and spent a few hours at the Maritime Museum. The museum was pretty cool, containing a bunch of old boats and two submarines. We started off on the Star of India:

Star of India from land
Star of India from the coast

While I normally get a lot of skyline pictures when I visit cities, the prospects weren’t all that promising in San Diego with the time and resources I had available, so my only ones were taken from the Maritime Museum:

San Diego skyline from maritime museum
San Diego skyline from the Maritime Museum

We also visited a few of the other boats and submarines:

USS Dolphin at San Diego maritime museum
USS Dolphin
Russian submarine at San Diego maritime musem
Former Soviet submarine

San Diego Trolley

I had the opportunity to explore the San Diego Trolley system on the second day there, so I made sure to do that. I had done no planning whatsoever, so I just figured I’d go around randomly and see where it took me. I started at Santa Fe Depot and figured I’d head inbound.

Inbound Green Line train at Santa Fe Depot
Green Line train at Santa Fe Depot

So, I caught the train and took it to 12th and Imperial where I had the chance to transfer to the other lines. To my surprise, the Green Line ended as a single track and reversed from there, rather than the double track setup common at most termini.

Green Line train departing 12th and Imperial
My train after turning around

I then headed over to the other lines:

Two trains at 12th and Imperial
Blue and Orange Line platforms

Without any real idea where I wanted to go, I figured I’d hop on a Blue Line train. I rode it inbound to the end of the route at America Plaza, which at first I didn’t realize put me right back at Santa Fe Depot where I started.

Structure at America Plaza
America Plaza Station

I then walked back to Santa Fe Depot and hopped on an outbound train to see what the line was like further out from downtown. I wondered if all the stops were fairly close together like they were downtown, or if they were much further apart like I experienced in Charlotte (which, by the way, operates the same type of vehicle). It turned out it was the latter, with my phone informing me we hit speeds of up to 50 MPH. I was on the lookout for any particularly notable stations, and ended up deciding Stadium fit the bill. It was a rather bizarre station, having both an island platform and side platforms and being designed to look like the stadium it serves.

Stadium station from the stadium
The station is designed to look like the stadium
Center platform at Stadium
The platform setup
Stairs landing at Stadium
The mezzanine level between the entrance and platform

After leaving Stadium, I was planning on heading out to Grossmont and transferring to a train back to downtown. However, I was much surprised to find ourselves going underground, nowhere near downtown. An underground station on an otherwise above-ground system is too interesting to pass up, so I jumped ship at San Diego State University.

Outbound platform at SDSU Transit Center
SDSU underground platforms
Elevator at SDSU Transit Center
SDSU Entrance Plaza

I then continued on my way to Grossmont and turned around there. Turns out I just missed the inbound train, so I had to wait 15 minutes for the next one. Oh well. I busied myself with photography in the meantime:

Outbound train at Grossmont
Outbound train at Grossmont
Entrance to Grossmont
Entrance to the station from street level
Benches at Grossmont
Benches at Grossmont

Eventually, my train came and I headed back inbound. For whatever reason, 32nd and Commercial really caught my attention, so got off to get some more pictures:

Inbound track at 32nd and Commercial
Platform at 32nd and Commercial

I then continued on my way back into Downtown, with dusk approaching. Once I got back Downtown, I took pictures of a bunch of the stations there:

Inbound platform at Civic Center
Civic Center
Tracks at Park and Market
Park and Market
Train at Gaslamp Quarter
Gaslamp Quarter
Tracks at Fifth Avenue
Fifth Avenue
Silver Line Trolley at Gaslamp Quarter
Trolley at Gaslamp Quarter

The trolley really interests me since it’s an old streetcar, but also has a pantograph and LED destination sign. Interesting renovations.

After that, I met with everyone for dinner.

The Coaster

The next day, it was time to return to Los Angeles. I decided to take the Coaster up to Oceanside while everyone else drove in order to give me another photography opportunity. It went well except for one tactical error: it was Saturday. I lost track of the days and thought it was during the week, where the Coaster leaves Santa Fe Depot at 9:18am. The clock hit 9:18, and no train. To make sure I got it right, I looked at a posted schedule and then checked my watch to make sure I got the day right. Turns out I got the day wrong. Oooooops…

Coaster track at San Diego Santa Fe Depot
Empty track. Dude, where’s my train?
Siemens Charger locomotive at San Diego Santa Fe Depot
Amtrak Charger locomotive lying out of service

Anyway, the weekend train left at 9:35, so it wasn’t that bad of a delay. The train arrived as expected and I boarded.

Coaster train at San Diego Santa Fe Depot
My train waiting at San Diego Santa Fe Depot

The train ride went fine. I got another beautiful view of the coast heading back north to Oceanside. The train arrived in Oceanside, then I got off and met up with everyone else, and we drove the rest of the way back to Los Angeles.

Back of a Coaster train at Oceanside
The back of my train at Oceanside
Metrolink locomotive at Oceanside
A Metrolink train to Los Angeles waiting at Oceanside
Sprinter track at Oceanside
Sprinter light rail platform
Oceanside station house
The station house at Oceanside

With that, we returned to Los Angeles, and the next day we flew back home.

All in all, this was a pretty nice trip. I spent some time with family but also got plenty of time to explore and photograph on my own.

I’m moving to Chicago

So I suppose since I have this website built on a platform designed for blogs, I should post something here.

I was recently hired as a Solutions Engineer at BlueBolt Solutions in Chicago! I will be working there starting in June-ish. I still have one more semester of college to go in the meantime, but have a plan now.

I really look forward to working for them, as their work seems really interesting and the small business environment offers me room to grow as well as a much more individualized job. Chicago will also be an awesome city to explore.

The picture below is the current wallpaper on my computer in anticipation. I took this picture on a trip to Chicago during spring break last year, which was what sparked my interest in the city in the first place.

Tracks into Downtown Chicago from Museum Campus/11th Street Station
Tracks into Downtown Chicago from Museum Campus/11th Street Station, the current wallpaper on my computer