Monday, August 16, 2010

The Weird and wacky world of Rideshare

White man in bright sunlight
I traveled up to the North Country to spend some time with the Lando Bear.  For the record, the trip is pretty arduous even though I don’t drive it. We have been dating for almost a year and a half and we have been lucky to have seen each other every weekend since we met with only a few exceptions.  It took a while for me to figure out how to travel from San Francisco to the Shasta County area- being a non-driver and all. In the beginning, I looked toward Greyhound for the most economical option.  Greyhound stops in every teensy tiny California Town on its way up North. It takes about nine hours.  I decided that was not really a good option for me to spend a majority of the weekend traveling on a not-so-clean bus with a bunch of people that looked like they had all just gotten out of jail. With my history with bad boys ….well it would complicate things. I strive to a more simple way of life these days…really I do.
By car, a trip to Anderson Ca from the Bay Area runs approximately a little over 3 hours.  You travel through the Sacramento Valley which features many versions of a long hot bug splattering stretch of road through the valley.  Eventually you hit a bunch of orchards of almost any fruit or nut you can imagine. In the spring –the blossoms are beautiful. Since Orlando owns a car he comes down to see me far more than I go up to see him. I feel a certain amount of guilt, but one long night on Shawn’s Rideshare cures me of all that. Shawn’s Rideshare is my salvation and my bête noire.
First off –Shawn is a good guy-a great guy actually. He has a folksy amiability that makes you trust him immediately.  He is polite and thorough, which I imagine comes from his military background. He seems to truly enjoy working with people and has a genuine curiosity about who you are what your life is like.  Shawn lives in Ashland Oregon with his wife and kids and works in here in Mountain View Monday through Friday. Most locals recognize the horror of that 8 to 10 hour commute but Shawn saw it as a business opportunity.  Shawn was specifically designed to do this drive, because he never seems to exhibit fatigue or for that matter appear to require sleep. (I envy that! I think of all the plays I could write and essays and  cookbooks !) On Friday evening  Shawn picks up all sorts of people from all sorts of economic backgrounds and lifestyles from all over the Bay Area and charges us a mere $45 to cart us up through the Capitol Corridor. (Not sure if that’s what it’s called when you DRIVE  it, but when you ride Amtrak  that’s what it is called.) Then on Sunday evening he does the whole thing in reverse from Ashland. His service is quite incredible and has been a Godsend to me when I first found it. He formed it because he recognized the need for such a service.  I also suspect that the enterprising lad found the commute a bit lonely until he hit upon this idea. Truly he struck gold because the demand for transport up north for us non-driving types far exceeds supply. I’ve told you about the hell of navigating via Greyhound but Amtrak is  a slightly less hellish way to do it. You take a scenic short train ride to Sacramento and then transfer to their bus service. The busses are clean and spacious. However you do deal with a long bus ride. The shortest I have ever done it train and bus is 5 and a half hours, but it can take 7 hours depending on which time you depart. Sometimes there is an hour wait in Sacramento. It’s near Old Sacto but you probably won’t have enough time to explore it by foot. I don’t hate it too much because most times I have the whole bus to myself for a couple hours. Most all the passengers get off it at Chico since most of them are Chico State students. That’s when I will lay down,  stretching my legs to the seats across the aisle without fear of blocking someone’s trip to the bathroom.  September can be a little rowdy with students on board but it gets mellower as the year progresses.  With exception of the roar of the bus engines, I find the trip somewhat relaxing. I doze, listen to books on CD, watch movies on a portable DVD player and try to write. Writing is far more difficult because of all the jostling about. I have to write in long hand on a spiral ringed notebook because I do not own a lap top. The dull roar of the engines sometimes comes through my earphones and that can annoy me. I looked into noise canceling head phones but those weren’t a sensible purchase for someone on a debt diet.   After doing this infrequent weekend commute, I have devised a method where I take Amtrak up in the afternoon and arrive early evening in Redding then travel back to the Bay Area on Sunday via Shawn’s Rideshare. This enables the Lando Bear and I to spend the maximum amount of time together.  This makes him very happy. I do enjoy making the Lando Bear happy. 
At one point I was doing Shawn’s Rideshare round trip. This did not maximize Lando/PA nuzzle time.  I would leave the Bay Area around 8:30 and arrive at Orlando’s at midnight. Unlike my hirsute honey, I require a strict 8 hours of zzzzzs. He and Shawn are cut from the same cloth when it comes to sleeping. I am old and doze off at 10PM. Orlando can party all night without the use of chemicals, sleep a few hours and bounce out of bed and do his grueling Power 90X work out. That concept is boggling to me.
  One of the greatest services Shawn offers is also one of the biggest reasons the trip can take a long time: his door-to-door pickups and drop offs. My primary complaint is that the rest of the passengers don’t realize that they are living in MY WORLD. I get a little grouchy when I remind myself of this at 1:45 AM while Shawn patiently navigates through the hills and tiny side streets of San Francisco to drop off the OTHER passengers. Usually I am at the end of the aforementioned drop offs and it is agonizing to be so near to my lovely cushion-topped extra thick mattress yet so far. Many times I am tempted to have him drop me off in downtown SF so I can catch a cab but hey – you do the math.  A simple cab ride from downtown to my house costs half of what Shawn charges to drive me for 3 hours from Orlando’s front door to mine. Yes I sit it out. I have a survival kit: A lusty historical fiction with an Irish Lass who makes a go of it in the 19th Century Tea business. My handi wipes that smell of Lavender and Chamomile, The Wordy Shipmates on CD by Sarah Vowell, My ipod, My travel pillow, and my Hall’s mango flavored mouth moistening lozenges with twice the moistening power.  Last night was easy. The two young men I wedged between weren’t smelly or grossly obese.( I have had some smelly encounters on the Rideshare so I also pack some natural scented bergamot and lavender water to spray as needed. It greatly helped a trip where a young man had accidentally gotten dog poop on his sneaker at the previous rest stop.) Regardless of my current rideshare buddie’s good hygiene,  the three of us were not comfortable being so close to one another. Closing my eyes and having my head accidently loll onto one of their shoulders was not an option.  I sat there rigidly for the next few hours listening to a movie I had seen with Lando last month that was playing on the small drop down screen in the van. I couldn’t even really doze. I put on my headphones and still had to listen to the movie whether I wanted to or not, because it was so loud and the screen hung directly in front of my face. Still I count my blessings on this trip and remember a previous one where there was a hippie who reeked of cigarettes and whiskey . He and I and a tiny quiet young woman had to squeeze in together cheek by jowl in the furthest smallest back seat together which really wasn’t designed for 3 people. Lucky me-I got the middle seat. He shifted and wriggled, tossing his braids about and grumbled the whole 5.5 hours, and to complicate things Shawn was doing drop offs  to Chico, somewhere outside of Sacramento, Berkeley and San Rafael before arriving to San Francisco. At every drop off the Hippie would leap from the car and greedily suck down a cigarette. This little scent sensitive cub had to endure the human ashtray the whole ride. My survival kit helped me endure it –last night’s ride was a piece of cake compared to that ride. Shawn’s rideshare is not suitable for people who don’t like to risk anything and cannot tolerate being uncomfortable for 4 or 5 hours. I once rode to Anderson jammed next to a lady in her 50s who said out of the side of her mouth to me in a low but declarative voice, “I am never doing this again.”  Since the options are few and far between, I suck it up and try to just go along for the ride.
Whiskey Town Lake
Lando does all the work
but he gets to play too
big cutie
Splash Lando Splash
Cutie Lando Bear
MMMMM Steak and Ice Cream
The Lando Bear has been feeling shorted lately because of the proliferation of his Bay Area trips. I think I manage to get up to his neck of the woods only once a month.  Heck we are both very tired of doing this trek. I can see that it’s not all that fun to sit in a car all by yourself for over 3 hours –sometimes longer due to loathsome traffic jams around the Sacramento area. What with the marriage storm whirling about us as we traverse each other’s personalities, and the strain of our arduous commutes,  we could both do with a lovely relaxing vacation….but that may not happen for a while yet. For now – we will appreciate those mini-vacations of a stroll through a fog ridden Golden Gate Park  and a lovely afternoon of kayaking and swimming in Whiskey Town Lake. Hopefully these little moments in time will solidify what’s already turning out to be a great relationship.

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