Wednesday, July 6, 2011

US Summer 2011: Commuting Easy With Panoramic Views!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

Dates: July 1-2, 2011
Location: Amtrak (San Francisco Ferry Building, 101 The Embarcadero (next to Gate E at Ferry Building)San Francisco, CA 94105 and Greyhound (Sacramento,California)
Fares: Amtrak ($29) and Greyhound ($27)

The availability of public transport to go around nearby cities from San Francisco, California is a welcome thing for me who wants to go sightseeing and add to my list of places visited without much distractions to my bestfriend Dearie's schedule. So when I learned that a former colleague lives in Sacramento, California which is only two (2) hours away from San Francisco where I am staying,I did not have second thoughts about commuting. Well, yea, I dread commuting back home but I have heard how easy and convenient it is to travel by train or bus around California and this is maybe my only chance to try it. Goal is to take Amtrak California to Sacramento and on my way back to San Francisco by Greyhound Bus.

Amtrak California operates and takes passengers to the so -called Capitol Corridor which stretches from San Jose to Emeryville to Sacramento and beyond, by rail and by Thruway Bus services. From San Francisco Ferry Building station,I bought my ticket for both the rail trip and the Thruway Bus which is sold only as part of a rail trip for $29. The station was staffed and offered enclosed waiting areas, restrooms and in-person assistance.

From San Francisco, I took the Amtrak motor coach to the Emeryville station. The Thruway service bus is a full-size,modern intercity touring coach with comfortable reclining seats,abundant leg room,air conditioning,an onboard restroom and a luggage storge.

At 10 in the morning, Emeryville was a busy station, with at least 50 commuters. Earlier though,I learned that 6:40am was busier with 135 commuters,80 of them bound to Sacramento and were mostly lawyers and policymakers. Hmmm,if I had been an early riser,I would have enjoyed conversation with this legalese at the trains luxury and "social" seating areas with tables on both levels.

Aside from the tables (which ideally should be reserved for groups of three or more but I found myself there nonetheless and later on joined by three old folks ), there was a footrest and tray table at my seat. There was also convenient storage area for carry-on luggage above the seats and at the end of each car so I comfortably set my luggage near the exit.

But what really amazed me about the Amtrak were its larger-than-life windows! As soon as the train started rolling along its track passing five (5) stations Berkeley,Richmond,Martinez,Suisun-Fairfield and Davis before I reached Sacramento, the scenery flew past like a movie. Oh, it was once - in - a - lifetime views which I would have missed if I didn't brave the supposed commute.

My choice of Greyhound for my return trip to San Francisco was faced with lots of discouraging comments.My Sacramento family suggested I take the Amtrak back as they were worried I won't like the bus since they know I don't commute and has a personal driver when traveling around Metro Manila. What they didn't know was how crowded and cramped our buses are and that I watch the scenery as I ride (so didn't want to have a take two of the same scenery at Amtrak no matter how awesome it was)!

Glad I was insistent.Otherwise I would have missed another smooth commuting experience. Greyhound requires no reservations,just arrived thirty minutes before my intended departure (7pm which is still a broad daylight coz its summer)to purchase the ticket. Then boarding began 15 minutes before departure which I almost missed because I went to the restroom.

Aboard the bus, I had a very relaxing bus ride with comfortable reclining seat, a free Wi-Fi (which I didn't use but glad they have one ) because my eyes were riveted gaping through wide panoramic windows for the once-in-a-lifetime views.

Guess with these two precious commuting experiences, the 20 US states to complete the list, may only be Amtrak or Greyhound away!

(This is part of the 5-week US Summer Vacation series, which took place from June 30, 2011 to August 3,2011 in California, Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pemnsylvania, and Indiana)

1.Four Countries In One Day

2. Enjoying Cable Cars in San Francisco

3. Enjoying Union Square and Downtown San Francisco

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