It was all aboard as I hopped on to Amtrak's Coast Starlight on my way to Salinas to explore what is happening in John Steinbeck's East of Eden Valley.
This is a truly worthwhile train journey since it faithfully follows the coast line for much of the way, first en route to Santa Barbara and then past Point Conception and Vandenberg Air Force Base, areas where no public access is available.
Our coach seat on the second level provided wonderful views as mile after mile of coast line, much completely deserted of people, rolled past our window.
We got aboard at Simi Valley Station at 11 a.m. and were in Salinas at 6 p.m.
Our stay at Hampton Inn and Suites in Salinas is a true delight with all imaginative amenities in our suite complete with sofa, desk and king size bed. And the free breakfast so good that we were there when it opened at 6 a.m.
The first evening we had dinner in the house where John Steinbeck grew up in Salinas. It is now a restaurant and meeting place for special events and dinners and there was much to admire in its tall ceilings, artistic woodwork and its 19th century ambiance and atmosphere.
The dinner opened with some of Salinas Valley fresh produce, followed with a chicken breast stuffed with cheese and wild rice. Dessert was a bowl of fresh berries.
It was a delightful opener for our four day exploration of the city and valley and especially its much lauded
Santa Luca Highlands wine country.
Monterey County is now the largest wine growing region in the nation and the one hundred mile long Salinas Valley known as the nation's Salad Bowl.
Much more to come the next three days on this Salinas visit.