Bay Area, North Coast and Redwood Country 2002

Note: photos coming soon....

Tuesday, Sept 3

The day started out almost like a regular workday, except that I decided to leave my car at home (battery problems) and take MTA #245 to Chatsworth Metrolink. The bus was full of the usual reverse-commute crowd, traveling to the industrial parks around the station. There was just enough time to grab a quick snack from the station snack-bar as the train arrived.

The Metrolink from Chatsworth to Burbank Airport was basically the same trip I do every workday. It was just a short walk from the Metrolink station to the United terminal. I got my boarding pass and breezed through security. The terminal was a bare place, with electrical outlets (but no network connections) for laptops and an ATM that threatened to take my card without giving out any cash.

Then it was time to board the plane. My "security karma" ran out, as I got picked for a second inspection, complete with shoe check. (No big deal, it wasn't like the plane was going anywhere without me!)

After we boarded, we had to wait a few minutes on the runway, as at least three planes were stacked up ahead of us. But once we were in the air, everything was smooth during the one-hour flight.

At SFO, I made my way through the maze of various construction projects to the Samtrans bus stop. For awhile, I watched as college students dragged all their worldly possessions toward a bus marked KX-STANFORD.

In about 15 minutes, Samtrans #292 to San Francisco arrived and I got on board. (It's almost as fast as the #KX express and you don't have to argue with the driver about luggage). On board, I chatted with a few travelers who had just returned from places such as Japan, Thailand and India--on business.

Once in Downtown San Francisco (eerily empty Transbay Terminal), I took a Muni #15, and then a #45 bus to the hotel.

By this time, it was 12 noon, and I realized that all I had eaten, so far, was a granola bar from the Metrolink station and a cup of orange juice on the plane. Time for lunch!

After eating, I caught Muni #22 from Marina, through Haight-Asbury and the Fillmore to West Portal. There, I transfered to my favorite Muni route: the Muni Metro #J through Dolores Park. By the time we got to 30th/Church, there was some sort of system problem, and we were left waiting at 30th/Church for over 30 minutes. But eventually a car bound to Balboa Park showed up, and I was able to finish my trip. From Balboa Park, I took BART to Embarcadero, and a #F historic streetcar to Pier 39 (usual tourist trap stuff) and Fisherman's Wharf, walking from there back to the Marina district.

Later that evening, I rode Muni #47 down Van Ness to Market, then rode the #F-Line streetcar over to West Portal, where I had dinner. After dinner I caught Muni #22 (which again was late) back north toward the Marina, and then #30 back to my hotel.

Wednesday, Sept 4

Although Caltrain is faster, I decided to go to San Jose using Samtrans and VTA, for nostalgia's sake. (On earlier trips to the Bay Area, that is how I would often travel on-the-cheap between the two cities).

Of course this trip is no longer as cheap as it was. Back in 1991, Samtrans #7F was about $1, and (then-)County Transit charged $2 for an all-day pass. And the County Transit passes were valid on Samtrans as well. Nowadays, Samtrans KX costs $3.50 out of SF, and a VTA day pass costs $4. Service on the VTA #22 was also a bit less frequent than in days past, due to the bad economy. But it was still an interesting ride.In San Jose, I stopped by the VTA office to pick up some schedules.

After lunch in Downtown San Jose, I rode the VTA LRT to Baypointe Station, then transferred to the new Tasman LRT line to Mountain View. Ridership on the Tasman line was disappointing, as the line passeed through an industrial landscape littered with the survivors of the dot com blowout (although there were a few apartment buildings here and there, built in a nod to transit-oriented development). Near the NASA facility the line passed though a short underground trench (was there something out there "they" didnt want us to see, I thought?) The line ended at the Caltrain station in Mountain View.

The Caltrain ticket machine wasn't taking any bills, but it did accept my credit card. And not a moment too soon, either, because the train arrived just as my ticket had finished printing. The Caltrain ride was reasonably good, I noticed that they had re-upholstered some of the old gallery cars with better-looking (and more comfortable) seating. On the way to San Francisco, we passed by the Millbrae Bart station under construction.

Once in SF, I took the Muni N car north from the Caltrain Station to Embarcardero, then switched to an eastbound BART to Walnut Creek.

After loading up on more bus schedules at the CCCTA office in the BART station, I boarded BART again, with a crowd of Raiders fans, going eastbound. This time, though, I got off at Orinda station, and transferred to a CCCTA #950 Pablo Dam Express)

#950 is pretty scenic. We left the BART station with about 10 other passengers, and, after a short time on a crowded two-lane road, we enjoyed great views of the San Pablo Dam. The route finished up by looping through a quiet neighborhood single-family homes before ending at a joint CCCTA/AC Transit bus stop. While waiting for my next bus (AC Transit #69), I saw another #950, this one with a full seated load, pull up.

After about 20 minutes, AC #69 arrived. As I boarded it, I noticed that the ridership demographics were dramatically different. Instead of the taciturn middle-aged, surburbanites on the #950, #69 was populated with a noisy young urban crowd.

I rode #69 to Contra Costa College, then transferred to #74, which traveled through Richmond and into the BART station (an Amtrak train was there as we pulled into the bus plaza. I rode BART to Berkeley for dinner, then on to SF and back to my hotel (via Muni #30)

Thursday, Sept 5

The real adventure started by trying to find the Golden Gate Transit stop near Van Ness and Lombard. (I thought there would be one at Van Ness and Lombard, but there was not). The nearest ones were at Van Ness and Union or Fillmore and Lombard, both some distance away. Union won out, so I checked out of the hotel, schlepped my bags down Van Ness toward Union, and waited for the GGT #80. While waiting I watched as out-of-service commuter route GGTs passed by.

The bus went over the Golden Gate Bridge and through the hills overlooking Sausalito, and via US-101, making occasional stops along the freeway. I already had been as far north as Novato, so everything beyond that was new ground to me. (Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, all becoming less small town rural and more suburban....)

The end of GGT #80 was in Santa Rosa, and we got off at this fancy transit mall area. SRT (local Santa Rosa City buses) and SCT (Sonoma County Transit buses) ran in and out of the Transit Mall. I boarded SCT #60, the line that went the farthest north, to Cloverdale.

SCT #60 was pretty full along Mendocino Ave. in Santa Rosa, but emptied out somewhat through Windsor and Healdsburg.

At the end of the line in Cloverdale, there wasn't all that much, but I did find a pretty good Mexican restaurant within a few blocks.... After spending about 30 minutes relaxing in the civic plaza, next to the bus stop, I caught SCT #60 back to Santa Rosa.

I still had about an hour to kill, so I walked around the nearby mall, and had a smoothee (it was hot in Santa Rosa that day). Then it was just about time to catch my next bus, so I walked back over to the transit mall.

Around 4 p.m., Mendocino Transit Authority #95 appeared. It was a small, 20-passenger "cutaway" van. Riding along with me were a couple of students and a commercial fisherman. The fare was $8.75...but I did get a lot of riding for the money!

We drove along SR-12 (first a short freeway section, than another overused two-lane road) to Sebastopol, where another commercial fisherman-type got on. (No-one else boarded the bus for the rest of the trip). Then, after traveling through some gently rolling hills, we hit the coast, where the road (PCH or Hwy 1) got twistier and twistier as we drove along. (Luckily, no-one got motion sickness....)

The first major stop was Bodega. There was a small mini-mart there, so we got off to get snacks, use the restroom, etc. (One of the students said that she wanted a steak, but the closest thing in that store was a strip of jerky....or a can of Spam!)

Next stop was Bodega Bay, where the fishermen deboarded. After that it was about 30 minutes of windy coast highway, incredible views of the ocean, cows contentedly chewing their cud beside the road, etc. Eventually, the road went inland, and we passed by the camping areas at Jenner, Fort Ross, and Stewarts Point.

We arrived in Gualala around 6:45 p.m. at the Sundstrom Mall, a large wooden barn-shaped shopping center. I crossed the only street in town (Hwy 1) and walked to my hotel and checked in. There didn't seem to be that much in town in terms of restaurants, but the nearby supermarket was open, and my hotel room had a microwave. The rest of the evening was spent just relaxing, walking down to the nearby beach and watching the sunset.

Friday, Sept 6

Well, the next (and only) bus going out of town would leave at 7:45 I hurredly got up, checked out of the hotel and made my way to the Sundstrom mall to get my next bus, the MTA #75.

I boarded the bus, paying the $5.50 fare. Riding along with me were about three young kids on their way to school. The driver made sure that they were securly buckled in, and then we were on our way northward. After passing by the small community of Anchor Bay, we arrived in Point Arena.

Point Arena looked like a larger version of Gualala, with more shops, a movie theater, and a public library. The three little kids got off, to be replaced by a high school student, a senior citizen, and a small but noisy family. After a short break of about five minutes, we were on our way again, with a quick stop at the high school where the student deboarded.

As the family sitting in back squabbled among themselves, I sat back and enjoyed more incomparable panoramas along the sharp curves of PCH. Eventually we arrived at the Navarro River Junction, where the #60 bus was waiting for any passengers going north to Fort Bragg. (The family got off here, leaving me the only passenger at this point).

Now we were going inland, along the Navarro River, where the redwoods grew so thick that, if it weren't for the sun occasionally peeking through the branches, one would think that it was night-time. After about 15-minutes of darkness, we rolled through wine-growing areas (former farms and orchards), and stopped in the little town of Philo, where we picked up one or two passengers. The next stop was the Boonville Drive-In Restaurant, where we had a 20-minute rest break.

(I asked the driver about Boontling, the "language" that was spoken in these parts in the 1800's. She told me that it had pretty much died out, and that the only "foreign" language likely to be heard anymore was Spanish....)

Pretty soon we were back on the road again, and after some amazingly steep hills, we were in the Ukiah Valley. The route ended at the Ukiah Library, downtown. Other MTA buses stopped here as well, but it was probably just as easy to walk the few blocks rather than deal with the somewhat convoluted local bus schedules (and relatively infrequent service).

Quite frankly, there was not a lot to do in Ukiah. The streets seemed busy enough, but there were lots of boarded up buildings (including a video game arcade). I visited a small thrift shop, but the idea of paying $3 for a scratched Mantovani record didn't appeal to me. So I mostly stayed in the city library, stepping out only to have pizza for lunch.

Later that afternoon, it was time to catch the 4:05 p.m. Greyhound going north to Eureka. Unfortunately, the Ukiah Greyhound stop is not right downtown, but at the Ukiah Airport, about a mile or two out of town. To make matters worse, the ticket office is at the MTA bus yard, another mile or so south of the airport. So, I took the MTA bus from the library to the Airport, and had to cross a busy street to get to the Greyhound stop.

At 4:15 p.m, the Greyhound was running late, and there was now a small crowd of people waiting for it. After about 45-minutes, just the Enterprise car-rental outlet at the airport started to look tempting, the Greyhound bus finally arrived. It was about 3/4ths full, mostly with families who had been on the bus for days. Most of the boarding passengers already had tickets, but I flashed the driver a $20 bill and was told to buy a ticket at the next stop, in Willits.

Our next stop was Willits, at a local restaurant that doubled as a Greyhound ticket office. This was also an official 30-minute meal stop. I bought my ticket and gave it to the driver, then took my chances with the McDonalds across the street, as the restaurant didn't seem that appealing (surly service, dirty restrooms, etc). Getting to McDonalds required crossing Hwy 101 (the main boulevard in Willits), but the auto drivers were nice enough to slow down and stop. Try that in the big city.

As we travelled north of Willits, the surroundings got more and more rural, and then we hit the redwood forest. We stopped at a number of small town liquor stores (Laytonville, Garbervile) camp stores (Leggett) and the like. Usually the driver warned us, "There is no bathroom at this location, please use the one on the bus!". As the evening progressed, it got darker and more difficult to see, but I did notice lots of lights at the Scotia lumber mill.

Finally, at about 9:30 p.m, we arrived at the Eureka Greyhound. It was just a block-long walk to my hotel, luckily. I checked in, settled in, and shortly fell asleep!

Saturday, Sept 7

Welcome to Eureka. I located the Amtrak bus stop (at a coffeeshop a few blocks from the hotel). After breakfast at the local health-food co-op market, I walked around to Downtown Eureka, admired the quaint architecture, and took a Eureka Transit bus around town. (On weekdays, Eureka Transit runs four routes, but only two ("Gold" and a composite "Rainbow" route) on Saturdays. The span of service on Saturdays is much less as well; weekend buses stop running at 4 p.m!) I boarded a "Rainbow" route bus and rode through this rather quiet town. The bus loop seemed to be well used, mostly by senior citizens and a few young families.

After the Eureka Transit bus arrived back to its starting point, I had a quick lunch, then boarded a Redwood Transit bus to Arcata/Humboldt State Univ. Redwood Transit uses 40' surburban-type buses on its long route between Scotia and Trinidad (These buses are also equipped with bike racks on the back, but a special permit is required to use them). After passing through Downtown Arcata, I deboarded at HSU, and visited the library, before boarding my next bus.

Arcata Transit runs 35' red-and-yellow buses around town. The city of Arcata has lots of dead-end streets, and the buses serve a lot of them. This makes for slow going. Once back at the HSU bus stop, I caught a Redwood Transit bus to Trinidad. These buses had decent ridership up to the McKinleyville airport, then it tapered off rapidly.

What was in Trinidad? Not much, just a shopping center. I grabbed some snacks, and waited for the return bus. This was a nice ride, as the bus driver was particularly friendly and told lots of stories about life in Eureka and Arcata. This particular trip routed through Manila (a dusty place full of old bungalows--no one boarded here) and over the Samoa Bridge across the bay to Eureka.

After a short nap, I walked (no more buses running!) downtown and simply looked around. There was a car show, a museum benefit dinner ($20 for a plate of salmon!) and a few other things going on. Also the waterfront area was a very nice place to just walk along.

Near the waterfront the former Northwestern Pacific Railroad tracks run in the street, but don't wait for a train anytime soon....

Sunday, Sept 8

This is the day were I practically spent all day traveling from one end of California to the other. We started off in the early morning on the Amtrak bus to Martinez. This bus stopped in most of the same towns that the Greyhound did, although the actual stopping locations were different. For example, we got a better look at Scotia (a lumbermill with a shopping center near it, but no-one got on there). The Garberville stop required a big u-turn on a dead-end street near the southern part of a town. One passenger, who was traveling all the way to Ontario, got on here.

Leggett was the same camp store stop as the Greyhound, but the Willits stop was at the California Western Railroad ("Skunk Train") depot. We enjoyed a short break here, as there was a gift shop which sold candy and souvenirs (but no coffee, much to the driver's dismay). Ukiah was our main break, 30-minutes at the Burger King.

After Ukiah, the bus stopped at the Cloverdale Transit Center (a nice facility, but far away from the center of town), Healdsburg and Santa Rosa, where we changed drivers. After hitting Petaluma, we cut over to Vallejo and over the Carquinez bridge to Martinez. Finally, we arrived at the new Martinez station. There was about a 30-minute wait for the train, so I walked around a bit, bought some snacks, and watched as other trains pulled in and out.

Once on board the San Joaquin train, the ride was ok, if a bit slower and bumpier than I remember back in 1994 (one really rough spot near Antioch almost knocked some people out of their seats). The largest crowd boarded at Fresno, (primarily students using Amtrak to commute between home and school). I also noticed a lot of wrecked freight cars near Wasco.

At Bakersfield, the usual formation of buses awaited to take passengers to various points in Southern California. The bus I boarded stopped at Santa Clarita (where about half of the riders got off), Burbank Airport, Van Nuys, and the Van Nuys Flyaway station before arriving at Chatsworth. I deboarded at Chatsworth, and a cab (which I had called from Van Nuys Flyaway) arrived within five minutes to take me home.

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