Life Without Transit and the Perils of Car Ownership, Part 4

ratpag reflects

ratpag reflects

We begin our final installment of our Life Without Transit series by noting that the New York Times has “coincidentally” begun their own investigative series about a journey.  Trying to steal ratpag’s thunder, are we?  What are the odds?  Who else has ever thought of writing about a long journey or road trip?  You’re shameful, New York Times.  Rest assured that lawsuits have already been filed.

With that unpleasantness out of the way, we return to bring you our final installment of Life Without Transit.

Back to Transit and No More Cars

The team was growing restless in Sacramento.  We thanked the good people who were so tirelessly working to bring the West high speed rail and set off in the auto through sickening traffic.  I was growing weak.

“I can’t take much more of this automobile,” I said, “We’re surrounded by nothing but autos and we’re strapped to these seats like animals.”

We pulled to the side of the road and had an executive meeting.  “I’m in charge of this trip now!  If ratpag is going to fund and write off this excursion then ratpag is going to make the decisions about where we go.”  So off we set for Yosemite National Park.  We were supposed to go the next morning but it just couldn’t wait.

We made the three hour drive to Yosemite and turned onto the road to the Valley and slowed our pace – not because we wanted to slow our pace but because we had run into more torturous, slow-moving traffic.  I shook in my seat like an insolent child.  What has this world come to?

We crawled into camp and I set foot on solid ground.  It would be my last time in a car on this trip – the journey was over.  I made way for the grocery, obtained a “six-pack” of beer, and proceeded to inebriate myself due to the joy of no longer being subject to automobile travel.  It would be walking, Valley Shuttle buses, and trains from here on out.

4895120-Yosemite_Valley_Shuttle_System_Yosemite_National_Park

It was just after lunchtime, pushing 2 or so, and I insisted that our investigative series continue with a ride on a bus and hike up Yosemite Falls.  We packed minimal water, as I had already drank my fill from the grocery and was concerned about dilutional hyponatremia, and set off to the bus stop.  We boarded, brushed past a few sweaty, standing patrons, and found a seat in the back.  It was good to be home.

A man exited at the next stop and those adjacent noticed an object he had left behind.  “Sir!” she shouted, though he did not hear, “you forgot your medi-…oh my God…it’s weed.  That’s a lot of weed.”  The man had forgotten a medicine vial filled to the brim with marijuana.  The concerned patron brought the vial to the bus driver’s attention who alerted the authorities.  We can only assume the Yosemite Park Rangers thank the woman and forgetful patron for their discretion.

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Satisfied with our first bus experience, we set off on the trail.  We’d walk more this day than we had the entire trip by auto combined and, when you think about it, that’s a bit of a problem.  ratpag doesn’t think that the lack of walking we did during our week in an automobile was all that unusual, really, considering the typical commute and work schedule of many people.  Our legs had started atrophying, bellies a bit more plump, heart rate noticeably higher while climbing short distances up steps – that’s all a bad part of life without transit.

ratpag had returned to transit and walking in Yosemite and enjoyed the beer-calorie-cancelling effects of not being in a car for extensive periods of time.  We had been able to see many things thanks to the auto – notably the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, and the rural countryside of Wyoming and Nevada – but that’s only because there isn’t suitable transit service to get there.

We used drive-throughs, parking lots, free street parking, and interstates – all clogged with vehicles.  Why are there no drive-throughs for light rails?  How can people cry about the cost of transit when there is free parking available?

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ratpag made it to the top of Yosemite Falls and reflected on all of this.  ratpag reflected on how far it had come by car the past several days and how trying it had been – the claustrophobia, the near-miss accidents, the cost of fuel – and then ratpag thought about how promising the ratpag’s travel future looked – more hikes, more public transit and even a ride on Amtrak (this, of course, not knowing of our premature epilogue) – and ratpag thought about how lucky it is.

The sun set on the ratpag team as we walked, without flashlight or headlamp, down the steep, rocky, 3.5-mile trail to the valley floor.  We procured more alcohol from the Curry Village grocer and called it a journey.  The next day one half of the team would be traveling back to Sacramento to fly back east and the following your editor would enjoy bonus Amtrak time on the way to the airport.  ratpag learned a lot – what exactly, we leave up to the reader because we report, you decide.  We think that we can all agree that this was a good use of time.

Transportation Cost Calculator and NYC MetroCard Comparison:

Fuel:  $486; Parking:  $39; Tolls:  $29 = Total:  $554 = 4.95 New York City Monthly MetroCards

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