Railway Walkabout at 300 Kilometers an Hour

AVE  High Speed Train from Barcelona to Madrid Spain

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“Dam [thumbs up]… Train [thumbs down]… Governor, put our water before your train,” reads a billboard message erected by Fresno City Councilman Steve Brandau.

 “We don’t have a train shortage, we have a water shortage,” Brandau told Breitbart California.

I hate to quote Brietbart, but what morons! How short sighted and narrow minded!

 I am a turista in Spain, and loving it!

I am a turista in Spain, and loving it!

While in Spain, I took a Railway Walkabout on Europe’s fastest high-speed rail project, AVE from Barcelona to Madrid. It was hands down better than my experience getting from Fresno, California to the Oakland Airport.

In California, I have used Amtrak from Fresno to Sacramento for business, and I have traveled the Coast Starlight from San Luis Obispo to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. I love the California Railway Museum in Sacramento and I appreciate what trains have historically done for America.

My always planning our next adventure husband booked us two train tickets from Barcelona to Madrid, Spain. The Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) is Europe’s fastest high-speed train.  

For us and our trip, it made sense on so many levels. By rental car it would have taken us 6 hours, by AVE only 2 hour and 45 minutes. It was 624 kilometers, 388 miles, distance from start to finish. It is about the same as the distance from Clovis to San Diego (347 miles) which is 6 hours estimated drive time, and if I add in a stop at Starbucks and a pee or gas break, and God forbid there is a slow down for an accident. Once my daughter took 14 hours to drive from San Diego back home for Thanksgiving.  In California, any drive could be a lot longer than the Google estimate.

 Early morning moon setting over the Barcelona Train Station in December. 

Early morning moon setting over the Barcelona Train Station in December. 

 Phone calls are AOK on AVE. An old fashion pay phone. 

Phone calls are AOK on AVE. An old fashion pay phone. 

On AVE, toilet breaks, lunch stops, buying beer, making a phone call, and photography out the window, are all included in that time estimate.  It is difficult to recognize bird species, or identify trees at a maximum speed of 186 MPH. We had only one quick stop at Zaragoza. The AVE definitely feels faster than Amtrak and the Swiss trains. While walking down the isles, I remember that ‘weebles wobble, but they don’t grab the seats of the other passagers.’

As we speed along, there is no clickity- clack from the tracks. It is a smooth but wobbly ride. The light through the windows flickers fast and hard from the tunnels and side cuts. Early in the trip we get a distant view of the Mediterian Sea, changing into vinyards, orchards, industrial buildings, wind farms, and mining operations. The land is red and rolls along with the train. I can identify strings of invasive bamboo along waterways, but I know the sagebrush is not sagebrush, and I have never seen these pine trees before.

There is nothing comparable to AVE in California public transportation.

 Getting up to speed on AVE. 

Getting up to speed on AVE. 

 Picnic lunch, with a beer, on AVE.

Picnic lunch, with a beer, on AVE.

Earbuds are offered to passengers for free, and a snack cart with water and sodas is rolled down the isle. “Velocidid 304 km/hr” flashes above the door along with the temperature. The seats are high backed with plenty of leg room and tray tables that fold down for lunch. We started in the center of Barcelona, and we ended in the center of Madrid. No traffic, no parking, no argument over directions, and no problem walking to the Metro for the next leg of our journey.

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From our home to the Oakland Airport is 175 miles; 2 hours and 50 minutes if we travel without stops. But we were stuck in stop and go traffic on highway 580. This month, in Los Angeles there are 400,000 commuters a day on highway 405, one of the busiest highways in the country, and this month winds up to 80mph blew wildfire across the highway. This is bad.

 Photos a bit fuzzy? If it isn't moving outside, it is wobbling inside on AVE. 

Photos a bit fuzzy? If it isn't moving outside, it is wobbling inside on AVE. 

The big difference between Spain’s AVE and California’s CAHSR is that I can actually ride on AVE. California needs high speed rail (CAHSR.) 

I say Governor Jerry Brown [thumbs up] … should make Steve Brandau [thumbs down]… drive the 405 into San Diego without a pee break, lunch, or a beer. California has a transportation problem bigger than any water problem.

 Spain's countryside; red and rolling along AVE. 

Spain's countryside; red and rolling along AVE.