Our loyal readers may have noticed that ratpag went dark yesterday. “How could that be?” you say. “Don’t you have any respect for your followers who may, perhaps, have been salivating at the prospect of another full week of rail and transit discussion?”
To this we say: hear us out.
You see, ratpag sent part of its crew on a ride-along last week as part of our investigative series Life Without Transit and the Perils of Car Ownership. Everything had gone along well – as well as it could when deprived of the familiar stench and crowded quarters of transit – until the final day of the journey — the day that was supposed to be the pièce de résistance of our week on the road.
Well, ratpag has bad news: the day did not go well and for that we can only put blame squarely on Amtrak. Or, to be fair, Amtrak is the easiest entity to place the blame on. Look at us now – back-peddling, flip-flopping – it goes against all that ratpag stands for, dammit! It’s not really Amtrak’s fault – it’s everybody’s fault but ratpag’s. So, like a choose your own adventure book, here’s the epilogue to ratpag’s investigative series. The remaining, intervening chapters of life without transit will run as planned later this week.
Today was supposed to be a big day – it began in Yosemite for God’s sake! ratpag had survived nearly 8 consecutive days without public transportation but that was all to end today as one half of the investigative team had returned back east and the remaining half was left to travel the reverse of our travel guide between Yosemite and San Francisco. Look at the view in that picture! How could anything go wrong?
ratpag began its day of travel at the Curry Village YARTS stop where a friendly bus driver greeted the 7 – 10 wise souls who had decided to leave their fate in someone else’s hands. The bus ride was uneventful as we wound away from the Yosemite Valley and down the foothills along the mighty Merced to the Central Valley and the town of Merced. We arrived right on time and enjoyed the warm California sun in anticipation of our train’s, the San Joaquin 713, imminent arrival.
The train arrived and we departed – a couple minutes late but nothing that couldn’t be made up – and we casually rode along; making stops at Turlock, Modesto, and Stockton. But then at Stockton a funny thing happened. After a few moment’s wait we were serenaded by our jovial conductor with an urgent announcement: there was a brush fire and we would not be traveling any further…indefinitely.
One hour delayed turned into two, then three, then four and nearly five before our train was permitted to proceed – at this point having been connected with the 715 train that came to a stop behind us. Here is the view that ratpag enjoyed whist waiting for those five hours:
If you look close enough you’ll see, just beyond that deserted lot, a Bud Light billboard. The world was taunting ratpag.
Though ratpag would normally jump at the idea of a 9 hour train ride it should be mentioned that ratpag felt a special sense of urgency to get off this one as close to the projected 3 hour travel-time as possible for, you see, ratpag had a flight to catch that very night from San Francisco. We know – you’re thinking “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” ratpag agrees.
ratpag had built in a nice buffer of about 6 hours between arrival in San Francisco and departure by plane but, well, that went to shit. After our train began moving we traveled for some 20 minutes before stopping – yet again! Our conductor announced that this would be a brief stoppage to allow our sister train, also long delayed, to pass in the other direction. This brief delay turned to 40 minutes! ratpag needed and was prepared to do harm for a Bud Light but refused, through cheapness and spite, to buy one from the cafe car.
Our sister train finally passed and we carried on. ratpag anxiously checked its phone to see if it’s newly-rescheduled flight would still be waiting upon arrival. Luckily for ratpag this newly-rescheduled flight was also delayed! See, sometimes delays are good.
The San Joaquin limped into Emeryville some six and a quarter hours late – and this for a ride that was to be 3 hours!
ratpag composed itself and boarded the connector bus to San Francisco. This was to be but a brief visit as ratpag scurried underground to the subway tracks, as ratpag is wont to do, and boarded the first BART train towards the airport. The delayed flight continued becoming ever more delayed and ratpag arrived in time to just catch the plane. The delays had dueled but, luckily for your ratpag editor, the plane delay was not defeated by Amtrak.
ratpag then arrived in Newark and found the AirTrain to be out of service for the next six weeks and cursed the existence of this God-forsaken PAG. Eventually – exactly 24 hours after travel had begun – ratpag found itself in its home, full of bitterness. ratpag certainly has its work cut out for it.
“So wait – why didn’t you post anything yesterday? Couldn’t you have written something during that long delay or on the plane or even sometime after you got home?”
No. ratpag went dark yesterday as a form of protest.