I have been writing what will be a five part series of articles for the local newsletter , “Words From The Woods” where I live. They have been about getting around without needing a car. I have gone heavy on the climate change issue because many of them are environmentally inclined and most have kids and grand-kids. Don’t know if they are having any impact but several people have said they enjoy the articles. The latest one is about getting to San Francisco and Southern California (actually anywhere in the world). Since many of my viewers are from the Mendocino area I’ve decided to post the article on this blog to give you an example of what you can do.
I call the following picture, “sunset from a speeding train”.
GETTING AROUND WITHOUT A CAR OR USING YOUR CAR LESS
This article might be the one that you or your friends and relatives will want to use. It’s about getting to the Bay Area and it’s airports and Southern California. Actually you can get to almost any place in the World without a car. The modes of travel that I’ve used are the Mendocino Transit Authority (MTA) and Amtrak. And before you start thinking that the whole process is too challenging for you, I know of an older blind woman (I’ve since learned her name is Judy) and her guide dog that got on the same bus in Fort Bragg that I did in the following story. I found out that she regularly uses public transportation to visit her relatives in the Bay Area and the other day I found out that she had just been to Florida by plane.
In December of 2010, I got an early call from one of my sisters on a Saturday morning. She told me that Mom had been taken to the hospital and it didn’t look good. I had better get down there fast. “There” was a small community called Wofford Heights, on Lake Isabella, east of Bakersfield. During the day the calls kept getting a little better. My Mom had been transferred to a bigger hospital in Bakersfield where by the evening she had been stabilized. It was learned that she had had a mild heart attack. Speed became a non-issue but going to see her was. How to do that? My truck was old and I didn’t want to risk a breakdown. My wife needed her car. I could get there by flying but that’s expensive and you still have to get to an airport. I remembered that I used to visit using Amtrak when I lived near Oroville in Butte County. I wondered if it was possible living in Mendocino. Yes it is!
Getting on Amtrak’s website I found that I could get to Bakersfield by connecting with the Amtrak Bus in Santa Rosa at the Courtyard by Marriott. I found that the MTA’s Route 65-”CC Rider” could get me there in time to catch the Amtrak Bus. You learned about the CC Rider in my article from last month. I have since learned that you can pickup the Amtrak Bus in Ukiah at the Burger King across from Starbucks on East Perkins Street. There is a 1 hour 10 minute layover in Santa Rosa or a 1 hour 30 minute layover in Ukiah. I have priced the current fare for both, using the early Mendocino pickup (last month), and they are in the $55 to $58 range (one way) using senior fares. Yes, that’s correct! I can get from Mendocino to Bakersfield for that price. I will explain the Ukiah connection in Part 4 of this series. Using the Ukiah connection gets you more comfortable seating but it’s a longer layover and and you have to get to Burger King from the Pear Tree Shopping Center.
The Courtyard by Marriott is a very nice area of Santa Rosa and I had time to walk around. I found a coffeehouse that had Wi-Fi and sent an email to Lisa telling her I had arrived in Santa Rosa and then had a Mocha. Since I didn’t have time for Amtrak to mail me my tickets I had to surrender my driver’s license to the bus driver until we got to Martinez where I would get them. Some impressions while on the bus. There was a black woman sitting behind me that was on the phone most of the trip complaining about her ex. She was agreeing with President Obama that black men don’t take responsibility for their children. The bus driver was a short oriental man who had to bounce in his seat to check traffic on the left and to spit out the window. After Petaluma we took Highway 116 and after some time there were marshes filled with thousands of advocets. stilts, ducks and egrets. If you’re a birder there always something to watch for. We went through some wine country, Vallejo and then Martinez where I would catch the San Joaquin Line. The train station was in a heavy construction zone and I marveled at the driver’s skill in getting the big bus through the narrow streets. I picked up my tickets (don’t forget to get a token to get into the restrooms) and waited a short time for the train. Of course there’s always a person, in this case a woman, smoking under the “no” smoking sign. I like riding the train. I read a book (Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein), wrote a letter, played some games on my Itouch (the train’s Wi-Fi wasn’t working), people-watched, and watched the land go by outside my window. We traveled down the Central Valley–Stockton (I believe Stockton was listed as the worst city in California at the time and it shows coming into the city by train), Modesto, Merced (stop off for Yosemite), Madera (starting to get dark), Fresno and finally Bakersfield where my youngest sister and my nephew Kenny picked me up to take me to Lake Isabella.
Now that I’m at my destination let me back up to Santa Rosa. By using the MTA you can request a drop off at the Sonoma County Airport. Alaska Airlines uses this airport and you can use them to get to many cities on the West Coast or you can book a ride on the Airport Express Bus which takes you directly to the Oakland or San Francisco Airport. The MTA continues on to the 2nd Street Transit Mall, a major public transportation hub. From there you can catch a ride to San Francisco using the Golden Gate Transit Route 101 (hourly service). This is where Judy and her guide dog got off. You can also connect to the Sonoma County or Santa Rosa Bus Systems. The MTA offers a drop-off and pickup service within a 3 mile radius of the 2nd Street Transit Mall for an additional fee. I was impressed with the Transit Mall with buses coming and going. They had a guy there that could tell you the schedules and where to stand for all the buses.
Let’s get back to Bakersfield. Many years ago I had to arrange a trip to get my mother and one of my sisters to San Diego for an arbitration case concerning the death of my father in a nursing home. I took Amtrak to Bakersfield where we all met and got on the Amtrak Bus that took us over the Tejon Pass to the Los Angeles Train Depot. From there we took the Pacific Surfliner (Amtrak Train) to San Diego and back without any problems.
My mother was back home for my visit, frail but moving around with a walker. I was able to give her tips on using the walker because of my experience working for the Lodge. I was able to give my nephew his first birding trip although I cringed when he dragged his binoculars on the ground (around the neck Kenny!!). The birding around my mother’s place was great (3 or 4 Phainopeplas around the house). Because Christmas was coming up we all got to pick out a tree and Kenny and I decorated it. It had been a long time since I had done that. I worked on my mother’s computer to get it running better and worked around the house. Had a great visit and stress free trip.
Coming back was a little different. To meet my schedule of connecting with MTA in Santa Rosa I had to catch the Amtrak Train in Bakersfield at 4:55AM. I wasn’t going to ask my sister to get up that early so the afternoon before she drove me down to Bakersfield and I stayed at a hotel across from the train station. It worked out well because I was able to get them their Christmas present, a Costco Membership, before they dropped me off. I remember an excellent Mexican diner around the block from the hotel and being able to use the hotel’s Wi-Fi. I also remember getting up at 4:00AM and walking over to the train station which was already a bustling place. I should mention that Bakersfield is a major hub for getting to many places such as Las Vegas, Palm Springs and Santa Barbara. The first thing I did when on the train was get a large coffee and cinnamon bun. The trip back was mostly like the previous trip with a few exceptions. I remember one guy sleeping through his stop. I remember a small airplane sitting on top of a houseboat moored in a delta canal along the tracks. My layover in Santa Rosa was longer, 3 hours and 10 minutes. I have since learned that I could have stayed on the Amtrak Bus to Ukiah. That would be a 3 hour and 43 minute layover. I used my layover to have lunch (Chevys) and explore the Santa Rosa Mall which is right next to the 2nd Street Transit Mall. Talk about culture shock with all it’s bright lights and people doing their Christmas shopping and the biggest Sears I’ve ever been in. Judy and her guide dog joined me for the trip back to Mendocino on the MTA. It was dark and it started to rain on Highway 20 from Ukiah. I was happy it wasn’t me driving. Learned about the late bus from Fort Bragg to Mendocino ($5.00 at that time because I wasn’t old enough) and caught it and had my wife pick me up in Mendocino.
Well that was a long trip and I hope you enjoyed the ride. It proves you don’t need a car to travel. Remember to tell your relatives and friends about this article when they come to visit. It works in reverse.
You can get a rundown about which modes of traveling are better for lowering your carbon footprint. The Union of Concerned Scientists’ website has an article titled, “The Greenest Travel Option For You.” They break it all down for motor coach (bus), trains, cars, SUVs and planes. They also break down distances traveled and the number of people on the trip. In all cases, travel by motor coach (bus) was the lowest carbon producing way of travel in a big way. “First Class” plane travel was the worst. Google the article to see the full report.
I am under no illusions that my articles are going to convince many of you to change your driving habits. Habits by definition are hard to change but I do hope to get you thinking. I am also under no illusions that mankind will be able to avoid a warmer planet and all of the consequences that it will bring. Why? Because it’s already happening. You can go back and read part 1.
My experimental year of birding by MTA, bike, and hiking is going well although the birding has slowed during the Summer. Shorebirds will start their return trip from their arctic tundra breeding grounds in July. I have seen 219 species of birds and saved over 1435 carbon producing car miles. You can read about my birding year and global warming on my blog. I have to note that I gave the wrong address for my blog last month (can’t blame it on the editor). For those of you who get this newsletter by email and because of the magic of Rick Banker you should be able to click on my address below to go directly to my blog. See you there and please leave some comments.