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Ventura County

Holiday Travelers Hit Road and Rails

Thanksgiving: Oxnard train station swamped, county's freeways expected to remain busy as revelers avoid flying to their destinations this year.


On Thanksgiving eve, Amtrak passengers in Oxnard stuffed themselves onto jam-packed trains, campers along the Rincon prepared for turkey with a priceless view, and surfers took advantage of large waves from an approaching storm.

California Highway Patrol officials expect heavy traffic on Ventura County freeways during the next few days as thousands more choose to drive and avoid commercial airlines during the holiday weekend.

The balmy weather of the last week should change by Saturday when a strong storm from the Pacific Northwest is expected to hit Ventura County, said officials with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. The storm could dump about half an inch of rain across the county before it moves out of the area Sunday, said Bruce Rockwell, a meteorologist with the weather service.

Today and Friday, the forecast calls for early morning fog and highs in the low 70s inland, the mid-60s along the coast, with lows in the mid-50s countywide both days.

Business was brisk all day Wednesday at the Oxnard Transportation Center as passengers--most on their way to have Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends--waited to board trains and buses.

"We have extra buses set aside this year," said Ramon Placencia, a customer service representative for Greyhound's Oxnard terminal. "The people who have smiles on their faces are the ones who get here early. The people who get here late are angry."

On the train platform, about two dozen people waited for a five-coach train that started in San Luis Obispo and was to arrive in San Diego late Wednesday.

Four-year-old Maile Villablanca anxiously rocked back and forth as she clutched the right hand of her mother, Natalie, as they waited for the girl's father, Francis, to arrive on the 10:30 a.m. train from San Luis Obispo. The mother and daughter had traveled last week from their home in San Luis Obispo to visit relatives in Pacific Palisades, and now Dad was joining them.

As soon as he stepped off the train, Maile sprinted toward him and leaped into his arms.

"There's nothing better than seeing a little girl running up to you at the train station," said Francis Villablanca, biology professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Passengers waiting to board the train were told by Amtrak officials that it was full and that there would be standing room only, at least until the next stop.

"It's busy. We are swamped, but it hasn't been that bad," said Ed Zeis, an Amtrak ticket clerk, as a gleaming silver-colored Surfliner with a capacity of 300 breezed into the Oxnard station. "Ridership is up this year."

Across town at Oxnard Airport, the travel pace was "busy, but it didn't look like the usual hustle and bustle and confusion you usually face at the holidays," said Christopher Hastert, the airport manager.

Miles away, campers along the Rincon had formed a three-mile row of mobile homes and started their Thanksgiving weekend with a breathtaking view of crashing waves and jagged rocks.

Dozens of surfers paddled out to waves 6- to 8-feet high, which weather officials predicted would continue through the weekend. RV owners had set up their outdoor dinner tables and decorated their campsites with festive brown and orange tablecloths and holiday-themed centerpieces.

La Canada Flintridge resident Tom Porte, who with his wife and two sons has spent the last two Thanksgiving holidays at the Rincon, stood in the bubbly waves as high tide approached and cast his fishing line into the surf. He soon reeled in a small perch that wiggled on the hook until Porte tossed it back.

"I have to cut him loose. I usually let them all go," said Porte, who works for Glendale's street maintenance department. "I'll be eating turkey."

Others parked at the water's edge spent part of Wednesday sprucing up their campsites and adding some traditional Thanksgiving touches from home, including construction-paper images of turkeys and Pilgrims, cobs of dried Indian corn and gourds.

"It's our favorite place to be in the whole world," said Valencia resident Linda Dolan of the spot on the Rincon where 10 members of her family plan to eat Thanksgiving dinner today and view of the sunset. "It's like it is for everyone else. It's about family and it's about being together."

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