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Posted on 20th Mar, 2023 in Travel

No trip is complete without it's share of mishaps. So naturally on a journey as needlessly complex as mine, there has to be a snag of some sort. The next couple of days are meant to be transitory. After leaving my friends in San Francisco, I was to check in to a hotel in San Jose so I could catch a morning train to Los Angeles. This is where the trouble began.

Gremlins at the Ghost Hotel
The former Arena Hotel
The former Arena Hotel

It was relatively quiet when my friend dropped me off in front of the Arena Hotel in San Jose. Perhaps it was because it was a Sunday night. The fact that there weren't any events at the nearby stadium that night may have also been a contributing factor. Either way, I was looking forward to a good night's rest after partying it up in San Francisco for the last week.

The entrance to the hotel was not actually on the street. It's located in a courtyard in the center of the complex, flanked by a driveway on one side and ensconced in a C-shaped building on the others. As I walked in it was unusually dark but I didn't have much time to think about that. I heard an unusual rustling sound and realized something small was moving toward me at high speed. Startled, I turned towards it but couldn't see what it was. I could tell it was close though, so I looked down just as it averted a collision with me and scurried in to the hotel. As it entered, the light from the hotel lobby revealed that the gremlin before me was in fact a small child. More confused than anything else by this point, I followed him in hopes of being able to check in.

When I arrived at the front desk it was deserted. There was no one in the lobby, and now I was standing next to the kid who had a set of keys on a long lanyard around his neck.

"Oh shit!", I heard from down one of the hallways leading away for the front desk. A security guard came jogging up to us in a panic. As he'd soon explain, he had locked himself out of the area behind the front desk. Another guard had done that the night before, and he didn't want to be the guy to have to call a locksmith for $200 for a second time. As this comedy of errors continued to play out around me, I forgot why I was even here in the first place and set out to help the poor guy.

While the guard couldn't just hop over the front desk due to a series of plexiglass dividers that reached the ceiling, there was someone who could slide in to the space between the plexiglass and the desk. After bargaining with our local gremlin, the guard convinced the him to let him give him a boost over the front desk and once he was in he could unlock the door. The operation went off without a hitch and soon the guard was able to regain his access and his composure. Now it was time to figure out what was going on around here.

As I was questioning how he had locked himself out (he had stepped away from his post to refuse a delivery for room 205), he also had a number of questions for me. Firstly, how did I get in to the place, which is an odd thing to ask of a guest at a hotel. I would learn that the hotel was completely empty tonight because it had been sold. Later research would indicate that it was in fact, the City of San Jose who purchased the hotel. Yet, this also meant that he was asking me to leave.

Hotel Closed for Business sign
Sure would have been helpful if this had any meaningful information on it

I had a reservation that I had made over a month in advance. So what gives? As I explained this to the guy he informed me that the previous hotel owners hadn't informed anybody but that if I need a place to stay, I can try the Motel 6 down the block. As he was telling me this, a woman appeared in the lobby (also in a security uniform). The child ran to her side and it became clear that she was the gremlin's mom and also the guard's boss. So after having to explain himself to her (and conveniently leaving out the part about locking himself out) I was sent off in to the night to find a place to stay. On the way out he pointed out a sign that I had missed on my way in.

Where Flamingos Fly
The Flamingo Motel
I don't know why I keep staying at places named for this bird but I haven't had a bad time yet

My first instinct was to reach for my phone and try and book something online. I found a place a block further down than the Motel 6 for a great price and a lesser chance encountering Norman Bates. I hit that "Book for tonight" button immediately. Unfortunately, the "book for tonight" button does not actually book the hotel for the very same night. When I went to check in, I discovered that it had booked me for the following night. Fortunately they still had rooms available, so I checked in and headed up to my room. It was spacious and had all the amenities I had come to miss after the last placed I had stayed at.

I filed a customer service request with the website I booked my hotel through over the original hotel I was meant to stay at and another request about the misleading "Book for tonight" button. Then I settled in for a well-earned rest.

Wannabe in L.A.

The following morning, I woke up to a text message telling me my train would be 20 minutes late. The first time on my trip I've seen that happen. This is the penultimate leg of this phase of the trip though. So long as I'm in LA tonight so i can catch my flight tomorrow night, it's all good. So I walked over to the train station a little later than planned and sat down to wait.

The train should have arrived by 10:46, but the time came and went. The Amtrak app updated with a new delay. It was now scheduled to arrive around 12 noon. Within minutes, a representative came out and announced to the waiting room that they would offer a bus service at no charge to get anyone who didn't want to wait for the train to get to their destinations. The bus would leave in an hour.

I hate buses. They are the worst form of transport in my opinion. Add to that that the drive from San Jose to Los Angeles is about 6 hours on a good day and it becomes a nightmarish proposal. So when presented with the option to take the bus (which is allegedly faster than the 10 hour train ride but way less comfortable) or to keep waiting for the train, I opted to wait. As I was looking for ways to kill time, I started writing this blog post while chatting with. The time for the bus' departure came and went. Then it was noon. The train's status was updated twice more to further the delay. First 12:33 then 12:46. By this point I had concerns.

Fortunately one of my friends from San Francisco was planning to drive to LA today to visit family. So I'm waiting to hitch a ride with him as I write this. While the last of my rail plans on the west coast are dashed, I will still make it to LA in time to take in the sights before I have to fly back to New York.

Honestly it's impressive that it took this long for things to go wrong but hopefully all that is out of the way so the next segment of the trip can go smoothly.

UPDATE: Just moments after I had set my plans to road trip to LA and finished writing this blog post, the Amtrak rep returned to the waiting room floor. He announced that the train had been held up at Oakland this entire time and had finally just departed. The train arrived at the same time my friend did. It's weird how things can work out so perfectly sometimes.

Amtrak Coast Starlight Train 11 at San Jose, CA
Amtrak Coast Starlight Train 11 at San Jose, CA only 3 hours late