One of my favorite ways of seeing the Arroyo Seco is through the window of the Gold Line light rail, which connects Pasadena with Downtown Los Angeles and runs parallel to the Arroyo for most of its distance.
Even though it's a short 20 minute ride from the Del Mar Station to Union Station, I find myself always seeing something new as I gaze out the window. One day, it's the purple lupin wildflowers at Los Angeles Historic Park. Another day, it's a falcon, dive bombing at its prey. Sometimes I even daydream that the beautiful hillsides with their 'stacked' homes are part of Tuscany, not Northeast Los Angeles.
The people watching on the train is fun, too. In the early mornings, commuters can be found reading the paper, covertly sipping coffee (open containers are not permitted on the train), napping, listening to an iPod or talking on their cellphone.
The Gold Line attracts a lot of 'tourists,' too. On my excursions, I've met British Airway employees on a quick getaway to Pasadena before their next international flight schedule ~ German students making films about Los Angeles architecture ~ Big Ten fans seeing the 'big city' after absorbing their alma mater's loss in the Rose Bowl Game.
Some of my favorite fellow travellers are the bicyclists. It's always fascinating engaging these urban street bipeds. Sometimes, they are just using their bicycle as a commuting connection between the train and work, but more often, they are off to an adventure: beach bicycling in Long Beach; street exploring in search of the new taco truck find; hooking up with friends in Hollywood. More often than not, they are students on their way to a charter or local university campus.
It's always interesting to note the people 'energy' on the train too ~ commuters going to and fro work catching 20 minutes of peace in contrast to bicyclists and tourists animated about their rail adventure.
And then, there is the special moment that strikes you unaware.
Such a moment happened last Friday when I was returning home from downtown. It was late afternoon and the train was filling up fast. An older couple boarded the train with seats still available, but not side-by-side. The gentleman took the aisle seat in front of me and the woman sat down next to me. All was quiet for a few minutes as we left the station until the gentleman turned to the young woman next to him and excitedly proclaimed in an accent that sounded Eastern European: 'My wife just became an American citizen!'
The woman in front of me turned around and the very happy, yet shy new American showed us her 'certificate.' It was a joyous but quiet moment ~ the train car did not break out in applause, because only the woman in front of me and myself could hear the old man's comments above the afternoon rider din.
We congratulated her, smiled and then each returned to watching the scenery fly by as the train headed northeast to our destination.
It was all I could do to hold back tears of happiness for her.