By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
By Howard Cole
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
By Leif Haven
Larson volunteers to take me on a walking tour of downtown. King City's wide streets were originally laid out by the Spreckels sugar company, and its denizens raised sugar beets. Italians and Swiss Italians subsequently transformed the region into a dairy center. Now, however, some 86 percent of the residents are Hispanic, and most folks are growing salad vegetables.
You can learn a lot on a walking tour. Larson touts the municipal golf course he hasn't visited because he doesn't golf, and we pass the bars he's never set foot in because he doesn't drink. His passion, it soon becomes apparent, is amateur dramatics. He's a member of the Stage Hands, a local community theater group, and recently played the captain's messenger in Mister Roberts. His character, at one point, drunkenly attempts to smuggle a goat aboard the U.S.S. Reluctant. In an agricultural town like King City, it was no problem casting a goat thespian for the role.
This is more of King City than most folks will ever see. From the highway, all that's easily visible is the hulking water tower and "what used to be the garlic processing plant," Powers says. When asked what that sprawling complex does now, he smiles sheepishly. "We're trying to figure that out." At the end of the month, that won't be Larson's concern. The city's finance department is being outsourced, as there aren't the finances to sustain it. He has no job prospects lined up. "But it's okay," he says. "I'll find a new job." It's a mantra many in King City have been forced to adopt.
Asked what locals do when they're not working, a King City security guard pauses before stating, "At 4 p.m., it's gonna get hella windy." Huh. But at the very stroke of four, huge gusts of wind rattle the bus shelter. I am on the cusp of the most critical — and precarious — leg of the journey. A trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles on public transit became feasible only in December, when the Army financed bus lines from King City to Fort Hunter Liggett and from the base to Paso Robles. These lines run just twice a day — in the early morning and late afternoon. Only eight minutes separate the scheduled arrival of the bus in Paso Robles and the departure of the last bus out of town. Even a minor delay would blow up the itinerary — and, not insignificantly, leave me stranded in Paso Robles overnight.
The No. 82 Fort Hunter Liggett Express pulls away from the dialysis center at 4:15 p.m. — it was still hella windy — with your humble narrator as its sole passenger. We head through jaw-droppingly beautiful country — massive vineyards; rolling hills; gnarled, moss-draped oaks growing out of gullies. The sky is remarkably blue and the clouds are every bit as magnificent as those in any Albert Bierstadt painting.
Driver Jerome Garza used to teach junior college California history in the early 1970s. He picks up where he left off for my benefit, lecturing his solitary passenger on the local flora and fauna, the histories of the adobe buildings alongside the road, and the ghost towns dotting the region.
He wishes me luck as I'm dropped next to a rusting M-551A1 tank near the mouth of the military base carved out of Hearst's former land. Gargantuan camouflaged trucks driven by shirtless soldiers in helmets rumble past, down a seemingly endless road toward the fort's main drag, five miles off. It's 4:50 p.m., and the No. 83 Paso Robles Express is due in 20 minutes. It's the one bus that just can't be late.
Of course it's late.
A sense of resignation familiar to any lifelong Giants fan grows as the minutes agonizingly tick by. At last a blue and white bus emerges from the horizon, rolls through the base's archway, and grinds to a halt. It is 15 minutes past due. The machine spits back the Monterey-Salinas Transit all-day pass I bought in San Jose, so I ask whether two bucks will suffice. "Sounds good to me," says the young, bespectacled driver. I take an instant liking to this man.
He roars down country roads, past whole valleys of mobile homes, and through infinite vineyards. But he cannot alter time and space, and it soon becomes apparent that we will not make the transfer on time. A single soldier disembarks at the barren downtown of San Miguel at 6:05 p.m. — meaning we have 15 minutes to drive some 11 miles, making multiple in-city stops. Desperate, I lean forward and inform the driver that I need to make that last bus or I'll be marooned in the depot overnight. Is there anything he can do? Amazingly, there is.
Fortune smiles upon me. This was no ordinary driver, but a supervisor filling in for a shift. So when he orders the final No. 9 San Luis Obispo bus of the day to wait, they listen to him. He can authorize a delay of only five minutes, until 6:25. That gives us seven more minutes. The bus heads over a bridge and along a hillside — five minutes to go. We coast to a stop at a mall. Most of the passengers disembark. Slowly. One leaves his iPhone. Three minutes to go. We pull into traffic. Red light. Another red light. Ninety seconds to go. A long overpass. A gentle right. And — mahalo! — a right into the Paso Robles Transit Center. It is 6:24 p.m.
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ok, first of all, i want to address some of the prices & timepoints, & 'transfers'. (for the record,I am the author of the original hitchiking site: http://www.legendaryrob.com (mind you, some of it is outdated, and some of it is politically correct, but i stand by my statements, re, safety (and dan savage agrees with me; closet cases are creeps, generally).--anyhoo, never mind the politics: lets start with the cost he says $41., i can save him some $ firstly: take any given samtrans allnighter on mission to palo alto caltrain station from downtown sf .(around $4.), then buy a 'super express' all day pass' from VTA $12.-this will not only get you on the #22 bus to downtown san jose, it will include your MST fare all the way to king city.--now, at king city, you now have of course to wait on the ft hunter liggett bus, (M_f only)but thats your lookout.,*(it was originally going to only allow military onboard, since ft hunter liggett is a 'closed' fort, but I guess thats not an issue anymore. buy an ALL DAY PASS on the slo county system-$5.oo. get to sant a maria: ok, I take issue with the idea that a 4 mile walk is a 'transfer', but whatever.. however the clean air express (m-f only) is around $7., then, yes the VISTA coatal express, is around $3.50 (they are SUPPOSED to accept/issuetransfers from sb area systems,(according to santa barbara MTD) but I have yet to see them actually DO so), then, yes, the transfer from pacific view mall in ventura to thousand oaks transfer center. (again, the rt 161 from To is ONLY M_F).however, a MTA DAYPASS is $6.00.it will get you ANYWHERE in los angeles county, and, get this: one ride thru long beach to the VA center, where you can get all the way to the carl's jr in san clemente for a little under 2 bucks.at carl's, you can buy an all day pass for North County transit/san diego transit for around $5, it goes thru camp pendleton, and oceanside, and includes most transit vehicles in san diego county.(trolley, the SPRINTER train from oceanside to escondido)* walk across border, and you can catch a jitney to downtown tj for about a buck.-you are on your own from there.--so, I have just got you 100+ miles furthur for a buck or so less. now, your writer also overlooked a MUCH easier (and cheaper) amtrak return: the pacific surfliner from the BURBANK station to the caltrain station in SF is ALWAYS around $50 bucks.the articles author, took the very expensive coast starlight service instead.--the pacific surfliner, goes from as far south as downtown san diego to either santa barbara or SL depending on time of day, and then AMTRAK (not greyhound) shuttles you up the coast- thru paso robles, king city, salinas, san jose, sf, then it goes to oakland or emeryville.
now, on to prundeale: there IS a restroom near the prunedale park& ride-no less than a football field away is a chevron station: (within eyesight) with a friendly staff, and (unlike a LOT of places in the bay area-you dont have to beg to use the can).(i'm looking squarely at the carls jr on powell & market here, folks: CA law says 14 seats or more have to have facilities for paying customers, and they have NEVER opened their damn bathrooms EVER, to my knowledge)--only carls i know that acts like that.grrr.
You could have taken bus provided by lowfarebus.com at McDonald (600 Van Ness & Golden Gate) at 6:30 am daily. The bus will arrive at Los Angeles Chinatown Metro Station (1231 N Spring St) at 2 pm the same day. Chinatown Metro Station is probably 10 minutes walk from LA Union Station. Total cost for bus ride is $45, one way. The bus co also gives you one free sandwich & one free bottle water. Bus has bathroom. You can reserve your seat via lowfarebus.com or gotobus.com.
Amazing that this is doable but my formally 7 hour commute (round trip) to work from Santa Cruz to Carmel (and only 5 days outve a 6 day work week) is now completely impossible.(Thanks MST) I love teh scenery but CentCal needs trains!
Congrats on surviving the trip!
OK, you've done this. But have you ridden the 38 from the beach to the Transbay Terminal? Or taken the 22 all the way to 3rd and 20th after school lets out? You do that…then we'll have something to talk about.
What a great way to let people know that public transportation is as available as it is throughout California. I have been amazed to find out how much of the state is accessible via transit, especially since California's reputation is that of a car culture. The army financed bus line from King City to Paso Robles was especially interesting. I had wondered about that leg when I started to read the article and was not familiar with this piece.A few months ago I read an article about a similar trip from Pittsburgh to Florida, but that trip did involve a few legs on Amtrak as there were more gaps between transit lines.Thanks for a wonderful article.
Life is short and while we are waiting for the big moments, it's good to be reminded that life is really in the small moments, an adventure unfolding all around us. Using Mass Transit puts us in close proximity to a broad scope of humanity. Whether traveling by bus, train or ferry from town to town or just across town, remember to put down your book/IPad/Itunes once in awhile and immerse yourself in the experience of being a passenger on life's journey, 'it's a trip!" Great article
Back in the 1980's, there was a story in (possibly) the LA Times about two young men who went from West Covina to San Diego on transit bus lines. Took them all day, and they wound up coming home on Amtrak, but it was still an interesting story if you're a transit fan. Back about a hundred years ago, a group of electric railway officials did a cross-country trip from either Boston or New York using nothing but trolley lines. This was only possible for a few years, and there was one gap in upstate New York where they had to "cheat" and take a steam train, but again, it was quite an adventure. (Some day, I'll write up my cross-country, El Monte to Boston and back on the Greyhound journey--what I call the Dog Tired Tour of 1977)
Awesome job, Joe! The Muni Convention ( http://goo.gl/XE89L ) is proud of you! I totally want to do this.
There are two types of people in the world. When presented with the idea of going from SF to LA (or some similar distance) by hopping from local bus to local bus,
Type 1 folks will say: That's crazy. Why not just fly/drive/Amtrak/Greyhound it?
Type 2 folks: Sounds like an adventure! Let me see if I can get time off work....
If you can get to LA from SF by bus, why stop there? I did LA to San Diego (and could've caught the trolley to the Mexican border) in the 1990s: http://users.humboldt.edu/jcba...
I LOVE road trips and am familiar with almost every mile covered in this odyssey. What a great eccentric idea done justice by the right tone and style.cheers,
Just sad. This writer is trying to do it the hard way when it's way more convenient to just buy a Greyhound bus ticket and go from downtown San Francisco to downtown Los Angeles. It would be like in Japan trying to go from Tokyo to Osaka on all local trains instead of taking the vastly more convenient Shinkansen "bullet train."
Great story. This trip was done in reverse from San Ysidro to San Francisco 30 or forty years ago and chronicled in either the LA Times of the SF Chronicle (pardon the pun). Then the writer had several long hikes between the Central Coast cities because there was no public transit in place then.
Thank you, Joe - what a great article! One day I too shall do this, if only for a bet or worthy cause.
great solution to all the homeless that come here for the welfare magnet and havena one way bus tix to la
The Greyhound fare from Oakland, ca to Los Angeles, ca is $42 if you buy it on the web. Takes 12 hours to get to LA by greyhound.
And the "one hour" flight from SFO to LA actually takes at least four hours (including the three hours you will need to clear the security but NOT including the time it takes to get to the airport - and then of course at least another hour to an hour and a half to get your luggage and get from the airport to anywhere near where you are actually going.
It takes me 5 and a half hours to get from my front door in SF to my brother's front door in LA, by care but last weekend I decided to fly. It took - 6 hours! and it cost nme $328 for the ticket, plus $30 for long term parking at SFO.
How on earth did you visit Ventura and not comment on the gigantic, snaking house sculpture at the bus stop? It's at once hideous and entrancing! http://www.wayfaring.info/2009....
From afar, it looks even loonier. Also, they're totally ineffective as bus shelters, as pigeons nest in the upper reaches and crap onto the benches. Mark Ulriksen did depict the house in his illustrations, and I documented it on our Google map of the trip:
Great little travel piece. I've often wondered myself whether this trip was possible. Thanks for giving my day a much needed lift.
I rode a greyhound from Santa Maria to Oakland. It was an amazing trip as I was just visiting CA after finishing college. I ended up staying in the bay area for 4 years and meeting my husband. We live in FL now and have a baby boy. None of that would have ever happened without the bus trip. I couldn't afford a plane ticket and I was unaware of the train option. Wow the story took me back. The smell of the bus. The fields of lettuce, the variety of humanity I met.... Good read. Thanks for sharing.
Interesting article, but you do a bit of a disservice to the uninformed by making it appear this is the ONLY way to get from SF to LA without a car. Once you got to San Jose, you could have transferred to an Amtrak Coast Starlight and been at Union Station in LA something like 10 hours later. Or you could have taken a Greyhound bus and gotten there in a similar amount of time. You might instead have claimed you were traveling from SF to LA using only Local Public Transit lines. It would have been more honest and less misleading
The title "in transit" let me know that this wasn't about a trip on Amtrak or the Doggy Bus. Although I've traveled between the Bay Area and LA by train, bus, pickup truck, furniture van, an assortment of cars, various aircraft, and a cruise ship, this mode of travel I will leave to the young and adventurous.
Thanks for the compliment. I'm confused, however, at how you managed to glean any inference in my story that "this is the only way to get from SF to LA without a car." You also chide me for not claiming I was "traveling from SF to LA using only Local Public Transit lines." You have somehow missed the headline and repeated references in the body of the article stating just that -- in fact, the sole conceit of this story was to travel form San Francisco to Los Angeles on public transit.
Thanks for reading anyway.