The train ride from Los Angeles to Oakland was fairly unremarkable. I slept for a few hours initially and then struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me. He was going to college in Santa Barbara, but didn’t seem to like it and was considering dropping out to become an actor. I gave him so advice, Entourage isn’t as easy as it looks, stick with college! He hadn’t even seen Entourage though, therefore simply struck me as a young teenager struggling to decide what to do with his life (as most teenagers I keep meeting seem to be). After our chat, he played some rap music way to loud through his laptop, then departed in Santa Barbra, giving me a 2-1 Fatburger voucher (not much use unfortunately where I was going). Most importantly he left an empty seat next to me for the rest of the trip to allow me to spread out.
Seeing a power-point in the wall of the train, I then retreated into my laptop and churned through Season 3 of Sons of Anarchy, while also buying over-priced and rather average food from the dining cart for lunch and dinner. I arrived in Oakland fairly late at night, and since I was quite far from where I was staying and still carrying far too much luggage, took a taxi to the guest house I had booked into for two nights. I had since learned that the suburb I was staying called West Oakland is generally known as one of the most violent in the country, therefore the taxi idea was excellent. I checked into B-Love’s Guesthouse, a nice little homestay, that while slightly over-priced, was the best option at the time (as its really the only hostel / homestay in Oakland). In hindsight, I could’ve caught a free shuttle-bus from the train straight to San Francisco and found a reasonably priced hostel there, but glad I chose to stay in Oakland to start with.
My time in Oakland was relaxing, I took advantage of some great hospitality from a brother of a friend called Andrew, as well as from a couple I was related to who lived in an awesome shared community called Steve and Bonnie. Oakland had some great sights to see, I hiked from West Oakland up to the Cemetery and got my first view of the San Francisco Bay Area on a perfect day, seeing the whole city and the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time. I also enjoyed spending time around Lake Merritt, where I finally tried out my new Nike Plus shoes and wristband, a great device that is a cut above a pedometer and allows you to measure you running distance, pace and upload directly to the Nike website. My run around the lake clocked in at just over 5km and was a good reminder that I’m not in the same shape I was in a year ago!
I frequented a bar called Beer Revolution a couple times as well, they had an impressive selection of beers, around 30+ on tap and 300+ in bottles. That being the case, I was alarmed to learn that they had not ONE Australian beer! I tried a fair few of the tap beers, though never found anything that approached the quality of Townsville’s great Ned’s Red Ale. Another bar of note was Cafe van Cleef, a great looking music venue I had lunch at one day and shared a Tequila shot with the owner (on the house). Another bar, Club 21 resulted in me scoring two Whiskey Shots on the house! On the whole, I’m finding my Australian charm is working FAR to well with American bartenders and the bars I’ve gone to where I scored free shots (usually during the day) definitely out-number the bars that don’t!
On the whole, my Oakland escapades didn’t involve too much drinking and for the most part I enjoyed relaxing, making good in-roads into the book I’m reading (Shantaram) and enjoying Thor in 3D one afternoon at a cinema. Oakland really felt like the start of my trip, staying for the first time away from relatives and fully relaxing. Then of course, I ran out of free accommodation in Oakland and hit San Francisco, where any attempts at sobriety were swiftly brought to an end.