Friday, September 10, 2010

On To San Luis Obispo

The train was delayed leaving San Diego for San Luis Obispo but not too much. I settled in for the ride. The train wasn't too full and I had two seats to myself on the good (ocean) side of the train.

But before too long the train stopped at a station and they announced more delays. Apparently two teenagers had been killed by a train. Awful.

After waiting a while they asked everyone going beyond Los Angeles to get off the train - they were putting us on a bus. So much for my comfortable train ride. But when we got on the bus they told us they were just shuttling us past where the tracks were closed and then we'd get back on another train. That sounded better.

But when the bus got to where we were supposed to catch the next train, it had already left, even though theoretically they were holding it for us. So we continued on the bus to LA.

The interesting part (to me) was how they handled the problems. One of the conductors was telling people that obviously they couldn't plan for this kind of event. (This was just one guy, not an official statement.) While you may not be able to plan for specific events, you definitely can plan for types of events. A section of track being closed seems like a pretty obvious thing for Amtrak to have contingency plans for.

It's no wonder the cell phone system gets overloaded during disasters. Everyone on the bus had to call someone to tell them something was happening, even though they didn't know anything at that point. People were even borrowing phones to call and tell someone what they didn't know.

I got a little bit of an inside view of how things were being handled because an Amtrak employee was in the seat on front of me on the bus and I could eavesdrop on her cell phone conversations.

Lesson 1 - if you are going to depend on cell phones, then you need a backup. Or at least a spare battery - hers ran out and she had to borrow one and then didn't have her contacts.

It amazed me how there didn't seem to be any sort of contingency plan. They just seemed to be going by the seat of their pants. For example, they had no arrangement for getting buses and couldn't get enough to take everyone. Of course, maybe there is some elaborate plan - sitting on the shelf gathering dust at head office.

It made me think that we should be revisiting our disaster planning at Axon. Not to make specific plans, but to at least think about what kinds of things could happen and in general how we could handle them.

From LA they put us on a later train and things were back on track, other than arriving at 8:30 pm instead of 4:30. But it's a great trip along the coast. I saw deer and a fox and even some dolphins! And it was a beautiful colorful sunset.

I'd been happy that I'd be able to catch the Thursday evening farmers market in San Luis Obispo. As it was I just caught the tail end of the it. But I got something to eat from a vegetarian place and I chatted with the people at the turtle club booth :-) It's quite a big market and there were lots of people. It was nice to get a quick look at it.

I was surprised to see an Apple store since SLO isn't that big. But it probably serves a bigger area and it is a college town. I made use of the free wifi at Apple stores to send a quick email.

Now I just had to find the place where I was staying - a mile away, in the dark. Deja vu! But, unlike Mexico, there were street lights and shops and restaurants open. And the San Luis Creek Lodge turned out to be easy to find.

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