It was time for our last rail voyage today: the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Oakland, just outside San Francisco. For inexplicable reasons, the train became increasingly delayed, so that we arrived in San Francisco only at midnight. But the trip, hugging the Californian coastline, was well worthwhile. The line passes through the huge Vandenberg Air Base (there is no road) which, like many military spaces, is also a wildlife reserve. At Santa Barbara two volunteers from the National Park Service’s ‘Trails and Rails’ initiative boarded the observation car and thereafter we had a free expert guide to what we were looking out on. Alas, there was little wildlife and we sadly did not get to see any dolphins or whales (they frequently are sighted from the train). On the other hand, we saw a rocket waiting on its launch pad (its night time launch had been delayed by bad weather), plenty of other launch pads (nicknamed ‘Slicks’, an abbreviation of ‘Space Launch Complex’), old Minutemen Silos from the Cold War and, in a stupendous display of American military spending might, the fifteen thousand foot-long runway that had been built for the Space Shuttle but never used (all West Coast launches were cancelled after the Challenger disaster). The line was effectively following a trail blazed by a Spanish soldier, Juan Bautista de Anza, in 1775 whose mission was to deter Russian colonisation encroaching on what was to become Alta California from the north. Bautista de Anza got as far as San Francisco, thus altering the course of Californian history. Yet another fascinating story of exploration!