Bus Ride to Martinez

The Amtrak Bus was about 10 minutes late. The driver, an older, greying, cigarette smoking lady said not to worry about it. We would probably get to Martinez early. I learned from a lady with a service dog that the bus would be full because she had had a hard time getting a reservation. Apparently holiday travel and Humboldt College students were the cause. With the bus being full I asked the bus driver if she was expecting any handicapped people boarding because those reserved seats were empty. She said no so I sat in one of those reserved seats.

Did I feel guilty? No because I could always move. Allergy season has started. A couple of passengers and the driver were hacking the whole trip. A little irritating. I found out that the bus had wifi which was a first for me. I learned from my sister that my mothers surgery for this morning was a go.

The bus takes you down Highway 101. There's plenty of nice scenery along the way and traffic isn't bad until you get to Santa Rosa where they take you through downtown.

Note that most of the pictures are going to be poor because I'm using my IPad Mini, shooting thru glass, and I'm moving.

Rohnert Park and Petaluma came next. Both are big cities with lot's of traffic and stoplights. We don't have many stoplights in Mendocino County. I was happy to have a bus driver navigate these streets. Don't think I could handle it anymore.

Witnessed the bus driver getting mad at several people spending to much time saying goodbyes to relatives or girlfriends. Has a schedule to keep. Leaving Petaluma I had someone sitting next to me. He was quiet and was reading a book on Chilies(?). Two women in front of us were talkers. I know their whole life stories. How many kids they have and the many places they've lived. Even where they have fished.

After Petaluma we left 101 and veered off towards Napa (Route 37) where the scenery changed.

For a birdwatcher there were plenty of ducks, herons, and shorebirds to look at in the many bodies of water and marshes along the way. Route 37 takes you into Vallejo and Highway 80. I've driven 80 and it wasn't fun.

A form of transportation you won't get me on is this thing at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.


From 80 we went on Highway 780 then to 680 and after that I don't know where we were until downtown Martinez and the Amtrak Train Station. The bus driver was right. We were early.

Ok! Word of advice. If you are wanting to use the restrooms at the train depot you will need one of these little tokens.

If you can wait until the train use the restrooms on it. The men's restroom was in a state of disrepair. One of the stalls was out of order, down to one urinal, one sink and the blow dryer didn't work. Makes a bad impression when thinking about Amtrak.


So Easy Even a Dog Can Do it!

Back in June of 2013 I wrote an article titled, So Easy Even a Blind Person can Do it. It was about a Mendocino woman, Judy and her guide dog Jammie, riding the local Mendocino Transit Authority buses. This week several of my sources picked up the story of Eclipse a two-year-old black lab-mastiff mix who knows how to take a Seattle Transit bus three stops to a downtown dog park … by herself.

The dog lives right near the bus stop at 3 Ave. W. and W. Mercer Street. Eclipse’s solo rush hour ride happened one day when her owner took too long to finish a cigarette.

“We get separated. She gets on the bus without me, and I catch up with her at the dog park,” said Jeff Young, who owns the dog. “It’s not hard to get on. She gets on in front of her house and she gets off at the dog park, three or four stops later.”

So do you think you are smarter then a dog? Let me know.

Still Don’t Know How These Things Happen!

I still don't know how these things happen. This morning I was looking at my blogging “stats” (something we bloggers do compulsively) and noticed that I had a surge in viewers this morning. There were 15 views from the United Kingdom and 1 from South Africa. It has since gone up to 17 views from the United Kingdom and added a view from the United States. The strange thing was they were all viewing just one post from last year. That post is, “Psychology of Bus Riding Part Four–How Not to Sit Next to the Weirdo“.

I enjoyed researching and writing that post. It featured me as the weirdo on the bus and holds up well. Don't know how many of the links still work (blogger's nightmare) but I take satisfaction in a post well done.

I spent about 10 minutes trying to find out if I could find the post in a search of the Internet. Could not find it by typing in “How Not to Sit Next to the Weirdo” but typing in the full title located it. It's a weird feeling knowing that you are out there in the “tubes”:>)

So did someone find my post and pass it on to their friends? My wife suggested that a viewed post is like a missed phone call where no message is left. You never know the reason for the call/view.

As I'm writing this post I now have 18 views from the United Kingdom. Like I said we check our “stats” compulsively. Something is going on. Now up to 19!! Please leave a comment.

I ended the Psychology of Bus Riding post with a YouTube video of a group called “The Drastics” doing their “Weirdos on the Bus” song. I thought that was an amusing ending. Maybe something was going on with “The Drastics” that caused some searching on the Internet. The Drastics were a punk band in Bradford, England. They are now reformed as “Mammoth Tank”. The only thing I could find on them is they are looking for a bass player. By the way there is a Chicago reggae (dub) band called “The Drastics”.

So I might never know what caused the surge in viewers. Some thing's are a mystery. Another mystery is figuring out why I'm going to end this post with the Drastics again. Enjoy.


Now up to 24 United Kingdom, 2 United States and 1 South Africa.

What a Week-MTA is Raising My Bus Fare & They’re Cutting Down the Redwoods!


The end of last week was a busy time for me. The Mendocino Transit Authority(MTA) has been proposing a fare increase for several months. Their reason’s for the increase was a shortfall of $200,000 and a low fare box ratio. The fare box ration is determined by fares collected divided by operating costs. This ratio has fallen below 15% which is a magic number. If you drop below it you set off bells and whistles and the bus system would go on probation and could lose funding from various transportation agencies therebye forcing reduced services. The MTA was asking for a 20% increase for all fares.

The MTA has not raised fares since June of 2010, over 4 years ago. I was not riding the bus at that time so this was my first experience with a rate hike. The first MTA Board meeting to address the fare increase was on April 24th. I had been hearing from the drivers about the meeting. I could not attend that day but enough public comment was received that a ad hoc committee was formed to clarify and make adjustments to the various rates they charge. This last Thursday, May 29th, I was able to attend after my SOS Survey at Virgin Creek Beach. 

The board meeting takes place in two places, Ukiah and Fort Bragg. It is “Vide-Conferenced” so you see a bunch of people who are over in Ukiah on a TV in front of us here in Fort Bragg. I was in high company at the Fort Bragg part. There was Dan Gjerde, a Mendocino County Supervisior and a bike rider, Meg Courtney, a Fort Bragg council member, and Dan Baxter, MTA’s General Manager. Word got out that the blogging guy who used the bus to do a “green” birding year was in the house. Mr. Baxter mentioned that my five part series on the “Psychology of Bus Riding” was well worth reading. 

During the public hearing on the fare increases a new rate structure was announced which had some rates raised less than 20% and some were more than 20%. Bottom line as far as my rates were concerned is that my Senior 16 punch pass would cost me $8.50 instead of $7.50, a dollar increase. That means that my fare for a “round trip” from Mendocino to Fort Bragg  will cost me $1.06 up from .94¢. A trip over to Ukiah round trip will be $5.20 instead of $5.00.

I spoke in favor of the rate increase basing my opinion on not wanting a reduction in service (we have already lost Saturday buses here on the coast) and actually wanting an increase in services to make it easier for people to use the bus and get their cars off the rode. I spoke of the need for a bus going to the south coast of Mendocino in the morning so that people could get there and back in a day instead of two.

I had to leave before the meeting ended. I told them the “public” had to catch a bus.

On June 3rd, I noticed that I got 40 hits on my blog, most of which were for my “Psychology of Bus Riding” series. The MTA had linked to my blog on their Facebook page. It pays to be involved.

On Friday I attended a public tour of a planned logging harvest at the Little River Airport. North of the airport on county property there is an old growth Redwood Forest. The county has logged the area in the pass but doesn’t clear cut and has mostly left the “core” of the Redwood area alone. The logging area is pictured below. The orange arrow points to near my house.

There were ten of us in the tour. Included were Linda Perkins and her husband Bill of the Sierra Club, Tim Bray of Audubon, the Register Professional Forester, Roger Sternberg, Bob Morgan, with the county, myself and 4 other public members.

We were given a handout listing what was planned and who (many of the names I knew) was involved. 59 plant species were found with 6 identified as sensitive and special mitigation required for Bolander Pine, Pygmy Cypress, and California Sedge. 39 bird species were identified with Cooper’s Hawk, Purple Martin, Northern Harrier being on the “California Bird Species of Special Concern” list. I told him to add Olive-sided Flycatcher which is common at the airport and was observed during the tour. Two years of Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet surveys still needed to be finalized before logging could start. I think we added a bird during our tour when two Gray Jays flew in looking for a handout. They have been rare this year and I’ve never seen them at the airport. 

The area that’s going to be logged is not a part of my weekly bird walks at the airport so I was surprised to learn that there were five class ll and five class lll watercourses on the site. We visited a running creek (stream).

We were told that a whole knoll of trees would be cut because it was in the safety profile for the airport and the FAA Regulations ruled. Picture the airport as a football field–open at the ends and the seats gradually getting higher on the sides and you will get an idea of this profile. 

Also learned that there had been several plane crashes at the airport. I glad that where I live is in the airport noise abatement area with few flights over my house. It did remind me of my flight lessons in 1973 at the Torrance CA Airport when practicing touch and goes. My instructor, just as we were about to touch ground, said, “oops” as we bounced a few feet back into the air.

I have great confidence that the harvest plan will be a good one. Seeing the back and forth between Linda Perkins and the forester I realized that Linda knows what she’s doing.


You Have Got to Watch This!!!

I came upon this video on the Grist Website. I don’t normally get excited about bus shelters but this one is fantastic. How can a bus shelter be fantastic you say?? Watch the video and find out.

Your welcome!!

I’ve sent this on to the Mendocino Transit Authority for their amusement.


P.S. In no way is this an endorsement for Pepsi Max. Water is your friend.

Public Transit Usage Is at Its Highest Level in More than Fifty Years

Public Transit Usage Is at Its Highest Level in More than Fifty Years

That’s the headline in a “Wired” article that you can find here

“A new report from the American Public Transportation Association released on Monday puts the level of public transportation users at its highest since 1956. More than 10.65 billion passenger trips were taken last year.

One of the conclusions drawn from the report’s data refutes the idea that public transit use rises and falls in response to factors such as gas prices and population growth. The previous high water mark since the ’50s was 2008 (10.59 billion rides), but gas prices were higher then than they are now.”

A ThinkProgess article goes into the issue in more depth. They link to another report and state, “Americans aren’t just taking public transit more often, however. They’re also driving less, according to a 2013 report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. The report found that the amount of miles driven per person has dropped in 46 states since 2007, with Washington, D.C. residents driving the least and young people across the country driving less than older generations.”

You can find both reports here and here.

Photo by: Frank Roche

President Obama has a good transportation plan but has to find funding for it. This Grist article explains what’s in it and how you could fund it.

This Mashable article might explain why more people are riding public transportation. It’s titled, “11 Celebrities Using Public Transportation Just Like You.” I must confess that I don’t know who all these celebrities are but the ones I know about are pretty big.

Photo by: Image: @jamierobb92 on Instagram



A Small Personal Success Story

I have mentioned several times that the Mendocino Transit Authority’s (MTA) policy of not being able to take bikes on their bike racks in certain areas of Ukiah because of tight turns wasn’t publicized in either their bus schedules or on their website. I   attended a board meeting on November 21st and mentioned this fact. This morning I went to their website and took this screenshot .


I like it when someone listens to me. A small success story.


Well it Finally Happened!/It Reminds Him of Maui

I’m was waiting at the Mendocino Main Street bus stop and realized that the bus was late. I was of course going to Virgin Creek for my Friday SOS Survey. After being 20 minutes late I called dispatch and they told me that the bus had broken down in Albion and that Jeff, the North Coast Supervisor, was taking another bus down to rescue any passengers. This created a dilemma for me, did the bus breakdown going south and would still have to connect with Route 75 at Navarro Beach Rd. or did it breakdown coming back north and was heading to pick me up in Mendocino. Another factor would be how long it would take to get another bus down to Albion. I made a decision to drive my truck into Fort Bragg. I’ll tell you why. This bus breakdown was somehow caused by my wife!! The last words she spoke to me before I left were, “I wish that you were driving your truck into town because you could pickup some things (meaning heavy) for me.” I have gotten into what I think is a good attitude of grudgingly using gas in my truck. In this case, I at least had a good reason for driving. Time wise I made a good choice because as I was getting into Fort Bragg I saw the relief bus heading south.

Because of the weather report I was expecting some heavy winds for the day. Apparently that happened during the night (with power outages) in the inland sections of Mendocino and other areas south but not in my section of the Mendocino Coast. We actually had some rain earlier in the week with almost 3/4 of an inch in Little River but on a whole we are having very cold (for us) mornings and warm days. I checked my “Skymate” during my survey and right at the surf line it was 65°F with infrequent 8.5mph max winds. A fellow beach walker whom I know as Daniel said it reminded him of Maui. I was overdressed thinking it was a two sweatshirt day. This is what a “Skymate” looks like. I know some of you guys only look at the pictures:-)

I found nothing new and exciting along the coast so I decided to pickup the items my wife wanted, get a sandwich at the local “Subway” and find a quiet place to eat and watch the birds go by. I decided that the inner harbor along the Noyo River was that place. The birds going by were mostly Buffleheads.

I had parked my truck at Glass Beach and biked down to Virgin Creek from there so at least I saved some carbon producing truck miles (about three). Still at 246 birds with over 2810 carbon producing truck miles saved.



Fixed a Flat/Attended a MTA Board Meeting/Pat Me on the Back

I decided last Thursday that I would chase a bird. A trip to Lake Cleone to try for the Black-capped Chickadee was in order. Although it had been 6 days since it had been seen, I thought, “what the hell–go for it”. I learned on the bus trip into town that there was a MTA Board meeting that afternoon and the big boss was going to attend. I decided that if I had time I would go. Arriving at the entrance to MacKerricher State Park I locked my bike to a flagpole (no bike racks) across from the Gray Whale Skeleton. I should have taken a picture.  

                                       I found these pictures on web. Don’t know who took them but they work. 

After birding the road to Highway One I was on my way to the trail down to the boardwalk when another biker asked if my bike locked to the flagpole was mine. When I said that it was mine he said that he had heard air coming out of one of my tires and sure enough the back tire was flat(again). I told him that I had just gotten all the tools to fix it and could put all my new tire fixing knowledge to good use. He said something like, “that was a good way of looking at it.” I continued my birding but the flat tire dampened my enthusiasm and I didn’t know how long I could bird, fix the tire, and get to the board meeting. Finding the chickadee was a shot in the dark anyway. I went back to my bike and found a nice sunny place and started to work on the tire. Rotate chain to smallest gear, release the cable noodle for the brakes, open quick release skewer on wheel, pull off wheel, use tire lever to remove tire, take out tube (note that puncture hole in old tube was in the same place as last flat on the inside near valve), check inside of tire for anything loose that could cause a flat, partly blow up new tube, put tire half way on, insert tube, use tire lever to put tire all the way on, inflate, put back on bike, tighten quick release skewer, reconnect brakes and check to see if wheel rolled properly. I DID IT! Biked to the MTA office in Fort Bragg and found that I was a half hour early for the meeting. The bus drivers had told me the wrong time.

While biking to the meeting along the Haul Rd. I noticed many butterflies about. Thinking it was late for them I took some pictures.

I’ll have more to said about them in the next post. 

While waiting for the meeting Rick, one of the bus drivers, showed up. He’s an avid bike rider so I was telling him about my experience with the flat. He looked at the wheel and said that I had put it on backwards. The tire tread was going the wrong way. I guess I only get a B+ for fixing the tire. He said that nothing serious would happen with it that way.

The actual board meeting happens in two place at once. One group is over in Ukiah and my group was in Fort Bragg. They use a Skype-like hookup so we could all see and hear each other. I knew one of the board members already. Her name is Meg Courtney. She represents Fort Bragg being a member of the Fort Bragg City Council. I know her from meeting her at the Little River Zen Center. She travels with her dog Annie who sat next to her in one of the chairs. I guess anyone from the public is rare. They only show up when fares increase. I got to speak first. I told them briefly what I was using the MTA for (a green bird year). I told them that I appreciated the bus drivers for being helpful during the year, I asked about using 3 bike, bike racks on the Fort Bragg buses and was told that they were currently illegal but that legislation was in the works to make them legal. I said that there was nothing in their printed schedules or on their website to explain where Ukiah buses can and cannot haul bikes and was told that it used to be in both places but schedules had been reprinted and the website had been revamped but to look for a change soon. I told them that I wanted to take day trips down to the Point Arena area and was told that that was an “Unmet Transit Need” that had been noted already and that they would make sure my comments were in the record. Dan Baxter, MTA General Manager, then asked that I tell the board about my blog. Jeff, the North Coast Supervisor, has been forwarding my posts on the “Psychology of Bus Riding” over to him in Ukiah. I think they got a kick out of my posts especially the one on how not to sit next to the weirdo. There was even mention of how they were working on a new Facebook Page and Twitter Account and maybe they could link to my blog.

Jeff thanked me for attending and arranged for me to catch the “Coaster” back so I wouldn’t have to transfer at the Boatyard. I think the meeting went well from my point of view.

With the nagging thought that my puncture in my tire tube was in the same spot I stopped at, “Catch a Canoe & Bicycles Too”, and told Jason that I had bad news and good news. The bad being a flat tire with the tube punctured in the same area and a tire on backwards and the good being that I got the bike back on the road. He took the tire apart. The rim tape which protected the tube from the spokes was like a big rubber band that could move. He replaced it with real tape and put the tire on correctly. I left with only a $4 charge for a tube patch kit.




Psychology of Bus Riding Part Five–Bus Riding Etiquette

This will be my last post in this series on the, “Psychology of Bus Riding”. The last one, “How not to Sit Next to the Weirdo” was well received. I mentioned towards the end of that post that the efforts not to sit next to the weirdo conflict with what is generally proper bus riding etiquette. This picture succeeds in avoiding the weirdo but totally violates proper public transportation rules. It earned the title of, “This is the ultimate “how to be a jerk on public transit” photo“.

Amazingly, I have found numerous blogs on the subject of proper bus riding etiquette. There seems to be an unwritten but almost universal code amongst us bus riders. Something’s bother different riders more than others. You can find them hereherehereherehere and here. Some of these writers are polite and some are not. There are, apparently, no blog writing etiquette rules. Take for example this statement.

“Rule #5: Wear deodorant.

This is rather important, and you’re likely to annoy everyone in close proximity if you don’t. If, for some reason, you can’t wear deodorant, make sure you get a seat and don’t wind up holding the railing with your armpit in someone’s face — cos if it’s my face, my vomit might end up on your shoes.”

The polite person will say something like this.

“10. Shower. You will be around many people so it is best to smell your best.”

Apparently we Americans are loud and noisy.

“Rule #6: Be quiet.

I often hear groups of loud Americans traveling on the bus from the airport to the subway station. Guess what? It’s annoying, and nobody cares about, like, your analysis of the last episode of 24.”

So what are my main rules for riding the bus?

Be there on time: Don’t expect the bus driver to stop and pick you up because you didn’t get your coffee in time at the local coffee shop.

Have your bus pass or correct change ready: I make an effort to do this because I travel many times with my bike and that takes a small amount of time to place in the rack. I have seen veteran bus riders that have been waiting for a bus get on and have to search for their fare or pass while the bus and the passengers wait for them. I could see it if they were new riders but they know how much it costs. This is my number one pet peeve.

Let the old, handicapped, and pregnant have the seats in front:

This isn’t normally a problem on our local buses but could be in bigger cities. There does seem to be some controversy with baby strollers. I have been bumped out of my seat over in Ukiah by them. One of the young ladies with a stroller was very rude to other passengers and seemed to think she was entitled. I only bring this up because she was taking up space for the handicapped. I found this article that explains the issue.  It’s titled, “On A Rant: I Don’t Move For Baby Strollers.”

Don’t litter: I have seen people leave all sorts of things behind. It’s the bus driver that has to clean up after you so don’t make their job harder. This includes leaving your empty beverage cups behind at the bus stops.

Know who wants to talk to you and those who don’t: This is a tricky one. I’ve been traveling on the bus long enough to know which passengers or bus drivers want to talk. I also know which passengers I don’t want to hear from. Take your time when striking up a conversation.

Do try to smell your best: Just remember–to some people the smell of your cologne can be just as bad as your BO.

Greet and thank your bus driver: They will do the same to you.

That’s my little list of do’s and don’ts. 

I would like to end this post and series with a shout out to a special blog that I’ve found that’s titled, “How To Ride a Bus–A Practical, General Guide to Riding Public Transportation in the U.S.” It was written by SmartChica. She put a lot of thought and time into it. She makes this statement, “I am shocked and amazed at the reluctance and fear others display when they find out I ride the Albuquerque bus or use buses when I travel.

It appears that many people living in the U.S. have never stepped foot on public transportation. With the constant rise in food and gas prices, it would seem we need more alternatives for slashing our monthly expenses. Riding the bus during the week is one way to save some dough and still live your life.”

She gives practical advise on how to ride the bus, which totes to carry, busts some myths about bus riding and even provides some tips on which umbrellas to carry. You can find this article here.

Hope you enjoyed my bus ride!