by Jennifer Tipton
It’s astounding how many Venturans work in Santa Barbara or the surrounding areas and with the closing of Highway 101 were unable to get to work. The alternate route to take Interstate 5 over the Grapevine took hours and became treacherous! Some chose to do this and stay in Santa Barbara until the 101 reopened but the availability of rooms was quickly diminishing.
My wonderful husband (I must add “wonderful” because he is and well, he better be reading this) was one of those that could not get to work the first week of the highway closing. The following week however, Island Packers and Amtrak stepped up to save the day! The earliest train did not leave the station at the Ventura Fairgrounds until 9:30am, so to get a full day in at their job, many took the Island Packers’ first boat that required being in the harbor, ready to depart at a crisp 6:15am. The boat ride was crowded, chilly and bumpy (pharmacies probably made a fortune selling Dramamine).
Once again, to get a full day in, my husband took the 7pm train home. This train was delayed (several times); I eventually picked him up at 9pm. The fairgrounds were packed as many were picking up friends and family, but it was an organized effort directing the traffic amidst the masses.
He then discovered the 4:40 train departing Santa Barbara appeared to run on time, but the commutes were so crowded there was no way they could check tickets. He reports one passenger as big as a house, shoving his way through the crowd to be the first to board, but that’s okay since he did say “excuse me”. He also watched a gal coughing, sneezing and blowing her nose slide her hand along the handrail with countless other passengers sliding their hands along the same handrail behind her…did somebody say flu season?
Although the commute was long and uncomfortable, we are so grateful to the Island Packers and Amtrak. I had phoned them both to make reservations and in the face of all the craziness, both were so kind and helpful. Now that Highway 101 has reopened, that wonderful husband of mine says he’s never been so happy to drive to work!