Second Annual OB Rag Trolley Ride – Old Town San Diego to the San Ysidro Border Station

by on July 14, 2011 · 2 comments

in Culture, Environment, Popular, San Diego

Frank, Annie, Brenda, Andy and Larry

It seems that we’ve started a new tradition! We had so much fun last year (see Rollicking Ragsters Ride the Rails) when we all hopped on the Green Line trolley to the east county and back, that we decided to do it again. This time we took the Blue Line heading south to the San Ysidro.

Frank and I, Anna and her beloved Rich, Andy, Brittany, Annie, Brenda and Larry gathered at the Old Town trolley station Sunday morning for our adventure to the border. We hadn’t known when planning this trip that this week marks the 125th anniversary of San Diego Public Transit. San Diego MTS has even restored an 80 year old street car that will be running on the downtown loop sometime in the near future.

Rich, Patty and Anna

Buying the group tickets turned out to be pretty easy task for the most part, as we purchased Day Passes for most of the group and were able to buy them all in one transaction. The tricky part came when trying to buy a couple of discounted tickets for senior citizens, which I thought were half the price of regular tickets. But that’s doesn’t seem to be the case for Day Passes. Senior passes are only available for one-way fares, unlike the Day Pass that allows you to ride all day, no matter which direction you are traveling. That meant we had to buy the return pass, which shouldn’t have been a problem but when we got to San Ysidro all the machines we found offered only round-trip or Day Passes. We were finally directed to another bank of machines hidden behind a building that allowed us to purchase the one-way senior fares…

WTF are these? Scary looking...

The scenery visible from the Blue line trolley was interesting, as some of the photos below will detail. Make sure to click on the thumbnails to see larger images with descriptions.

I had a good time, as always the company was wonderful and the talk was lively. We had planned to end our trip with bottomless mimosas but a detour to Chicano Park delayed our return trip and the restaurant was closing.

I’m going to leave the details to Larry and Annie:

 Larry’s view…

I connected with the Old Town Trolley by riding a bicycle down the San Diego River on the Southern side of the water.  I took the Pacific Highway exit ramp off the bike trail and headed toward Perry’s Cafe.  The road on that lonely stretch of Pacific Highway is rather shabby at the edges, and there’s no sidewalk in some places.  The road itself is very wide, and has diagonal parking down one side that doesn’t seem to get much use.  I think there’s definitely some room for improvement there to connect our fine river trail to the transit hub.

I didn’t like the bike rack at the trolley station.  It had those cast concrete wheel holders with the weeny eye bolts.  It also had a large horizontal pipe that was too high for me to be able to lock both wheels.  So I went across the street to the state park, and locked my bike to an appropriate light pole.  I chose a spot that wouldn’t interfere with cars or pedestrians.  From there it was just a short walk to meet up with Frank and Patty, but I still think the MTS should add some of those undulating bike racks.

In the past I’ve only ridden the trolley as far as downtown San Diego.  So the journey South from there was a new adventure for me.  The track noise was a bit louder than I remembered.  I had trouble hearing some people.  Every now and then a garbled voice would come over the PA system.  Someone said it was Michele Bachman giving a History lesson in Somali, so I did my best to ignore it.  I enjoyed some of the scenery, but there are some seedy sections that should be screened with trees.  The time passed quickly, and soon we were at the border.  It’s a good way to travel to Tijuana if you can go when the trains aren’t crowded.  I’ll be sure to steer visiting relatives in that direction.

Artist Guillermo Rosette works on "Chicano Park Takeover" mural restoration

The ride back was more fun, because we stopped at Chicano Park to check out the murals.  I really liked a lot of the murals, and I was happy to see some of the restorations in progress. But the park seemed rather empty and lonely to me.  Perhaps the advent of the iPhone and Facebook have taken their toll on the old ways of spending Sunday in the park.  As we left I saw some signs painted on the pillars that asked people to not throw trash in the fountain.  I thought they should have been able to convey that message with a mural.

We didn’t have to wait long to jump back on a trolley.  Soon we were back downtown, and most of our group got off for drinks.  I decided to stay on board until Old Town.  I needed to get back to OB by 3 PM, and I wanted it to be a slow and easy bike ride.  It was high tide, so not much of bird show.  I did see a blue heron though.  You don’t see those everyday.

I took the river bike trail all the way to its terminus at lifeguard tower number five. It marks another sort of border that separates the dog people and the dogless.   I’d traveled to the Mexican border and back to the dog border with two side trips in barely five and a half hours.  It was a nice way to spend the day, but I was glad to be back in Kansas again….crappy surf and all.

Annie’s thoughts…

This installment of the OB Rag Trolley Ride was quite enjoyable. We had a slightly younger crew join us, and, as always, conversation flowed naturally between everyone. It’s simply a pleasure being around like-minded people. Similarly, it’s amazing how liberals are able to disagree on various topics without cutting right to the heart of a person’s character and debasing them for all their worth.

But I digress.

This trip took us along the Blue Line of the trolley tracks. The map shows a wave symbol next to it, but there are only a couple of times you actually see the ocean or the bay. One is when you pass the Chula Vista Nature Center near E Street; I can’t remember the other.

Ship yards visible from the trolley

For the most part, it’s a rather intimate look at people’s impoverished lives. It was a tour of back yards, some empty, some chockfull of wooden planks and other debris, some with laundry hung out to dry and some with trash bags that seem to have been waiting weeks for the next pick-up. I almost felt like an intruder. Of course, it didn’t help that I was shutter-happy with the camera either.

The trolley stops themselves seemed desolate and underused, a common complaint among San Diegans, myself included, who say they would ride the trolley more often if it went to more places of interest. I am not lying when I say this, by the way.

But I am also not lying when I say that, as a woman, I wouldn’t feel too comfortable riding the trolley down south by myself. By comparison, our East County ride a while back seemed more accessible, more along a beaten path. Sometimes that’s not a bad thing.

We arrived at our destination of the San Ysidro Transit Center after a very quick hour. We celebrated our proximity to the border by dining at McDonald’s (honestly, can you think of a better way?) where I tricked the cashiers into thinking I was Mexican with my flawless delivery of “Gracias.”

People are in a constant state of flux there, but equally pleasant from what I could tell of the one interaction I had nearly bumping into someone. And like everyone around us, we too were soon on the move again.

Murals at Barrio Logan Trolley Station

Feeling adventurous on our way back, we got off at Barrio Logan and walked a couple of blocks to Chicano Park. What a sight! The murals that transform the freeway columns into museum walls are currently being restored, and we were able to see firsthand the difference a new coat of paint can make.

What I love about this park is that it’s not only used by the locals, it’s utterly owned by their pride for their culture. It’s a feeling you get when you look at one of the paintings or read the words. And it’s a respect even teenagers have when passing Santa Maria’s public shrine. Watching a skateboarder take off his hat as he stopped to say a prayer did away with any stereotypes I had about such a generation.

As with everywhere else, there are also homeless at the park. They weren’t directly on the grassy area, but almost stashed away, further tucked under the freeway ramps by a sculpture fountain I haven’t ever seen, despite my familiarity with the park itself. One lay on the ground motionless beside her scooter; another sat upright looking dazed but smiling. Gratitude only cost three quarters that day (it was all I had in change).

The rest of the trolley ride was rather pedestrian. Sad to say I didn’t stay for lunch and mimosas as the result of previously arranged engagement. But I do believe this sort of adventure should become a tradition. Maybe we can pack a picnic, plan for more stops and really explore the city in which we live.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Annie July 14, 2011 at 6:24 pm

When are we going next?Hmmm?! C’mon, Frank, I’m counting on you and your amazing event planning abilities. I’m thinking we should pick a spot on the map and explore that particular area. Like a bachelorette party – five things you have to do or find before you can leave. We can make it historical, fun and plain silly. What say anyone?


avatar Patty Jones July 14, 2011 at 10:51 pm

I’m in!


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