In June, your humble narrator traveled from San Francisco to Los Angeles via public transportation. This journey, as explained in the ensuing cover story, was undertaken for the same reason George Mallory sought to climb Mount Everest: "Because it's there." Mallory's journey was fatal. Mine involved 32 hours spent largely on buses, trains, and subways.
In other words, it was far from traumatic -- but also far from a holiday. Yet one person's nerve-wracking assignment is another's vacation. I received this week a letter from a woman who, inspired by our article, retraced my steps -- and then some.
Adrienne Leifer is a 47-year-old computer programmer for the San Francisco Unified School District. Her reaction after reading of my two-day journey from downtown San Francisco to downtown L.A. was unusual -- "Darn it, I'm gonna do that." But instead of a 32-hour trip to L.A., Leifer plotted out a five-day public transit caravan to Pasadena, where she would join her family for Thanksgiving. Her plan was to walk up her sister's driveway at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 22. She left her home in Laurel Heights five days prior at 9 a.m.
Unlike your humble narrator, Leifer took a leisurely pace down the coast. She did web research on places to stay and establishments at which to dine (I found a motel next to a bail bondsman in Santa Maria and dined for two days on granola bars and hard-boiled eggs).
On Wednesday, Nov. 16, she took the No. 2 bus and T-Third to reach the CalTrain station at Fourth and King streets. She hopped on the 10:07 train and took it to its terminus in San Jose. She then enjoyed a couple of hours in the vicinity -- her research on restaurants was worthwhile -- before jumping the No. 55 Monterey bus and taking it, too, to its terminus. That was enough bus-riding for a day, and she took a room in Monterey.
The next day she caught a bus for Salinas, once again retracing the route SF Weekly took in June. A large crowd of people appeared to be camping out, and Leifer wondered if this was Occupy Salinas. Not exactly: It was just a large contingent of Twilight addicts waiting in line to catch the latest film's debut. She weighed spending the afternoon at the Steinbeck Museum against heading to the antique mall. The antique mall it was. She then climbed on the No. 23 bus to King City (where I was, in June, regaled by a day-drinking breeder of fighting cocks who'd lost his teeth on another bus).
Leifer followed the SF Weekly route from King City to Fort Hunter Liggett, and from the fort to Paso Robles. Thanks to a literally last-second bus transfer, your humble narrator managed to avoid spending the night in Paso Robles. But sleeping there was always Leifer's plan. She stayed in a "scrupulously clean" motel that not only featured the normal Gideon Bibles in rooms but numerous bits of wall-hanging biblical decor and a tract on the origin of Amazing Grace.
The next day -- Friday, Nov. 18 -- she bused to San Luis Obispo, then Santa Maria. The driver on the latter bus took the time to sternly lecture a passenger who had been drinking in the bus shelter and cursing at elderly women waiting alongside him. This, Leifer notes, would not have happened in San Francisco. It does happen in Pismo Beach.
Form Santa Maria, she caught the Breeze Bus to Lompoc, and from there she caught another ride to Solvang. And that's as far as she got on Friday. Like the protagonists of the movie Sideways, she spent the weekend there. Sunday, incidentally, was laundry day.
On Monday, Nov. 21 she was off to Santa Barbara by 6:15 a.m. As someone who has arrived in that beautiful town in the early morning, I know the urge to simply stay put. I fought it. Leifer did not. She spent a lovely day in Santa Barbara. On Tuesday, she was off to Ventura, Thousand Oaks, North Hollywood, and, eventually Los Angeles' Union Station -- my terminus, and the spot where I bumped into Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.