Saturday, December 29, 2007

Servers Down, Boss is Out... Why Not Circumnavigate the Bay by Transit?

This was my situation on Friday. Since I all the work I could do would be entirely on my laptop, which has good batteries, and there was nobody around to see me at my desk (I'm just using "Boss is out" as a literary convention here--in fact, mine is far from persnickety about these things anyway), and there was nobody at home except a sleeping cat (her active times of day are first thing in the morning, evening, and if she's in an ornery mood in the middle of the night--in between that it's all zzzzz) it occurred to me--why not work mobile--really mobile?

So I bought a CalTrain zone upgrade ticket and headed from Mountain View to San Jose Diridon Station. It's time to go get a new monthly pass anyway (my employer is kind enough to subsidize my transit commute, which is awesome, but until I get my act together and subscribe to Tickets by Mail, taking advantage of this requires a monthly trip to SF or SJ where I can find a human to take my vouchers). In twenty minutes, I ran from the platform to the ticket office, bought my pass, bought another ticket for AmTrak, and boarded a northbound Capitol Corridor train.

The ghost town of Drawbridge, and the mountains of salt at the Leslie plant, and the cuteness of Niles all made a nice rolling backdrop while I did, in fact, fire up the laptop and do some work.

About half way to Oakland, the crew requested that all passengers for Jack London Square station head to the front car of the train. This was a bit more work for me than other passengers, because I was in the 4th car, with my bike! Encouraged by a crewmember, I went ahead and brought my bike up to the second level (the one which connects from car to car on AmTrak trains) and rolled it the length of the train, and back down the steps to the first level.

The trouble, it turned out, was that there was a fatal accident somewhere farther down the line. A crewmember told me "I know you're mad at us for making you move your bike, but feel sorry for us because we're going to be stuck here for four hours!".

Quite a few trains were stuck at Jack London Square. The reason for moving us to the front turned out to be this: there were no free platforms left, so we pulled up alongside another train, a door was opened on each, and we stepped across and went through the other train to get to a platform.

At least we were on time, which left me with plenty of time to reach the Oakland Ferry terminal. It's across the length of Jack London Square--I had over 20 minutes, which would probably be enough time to walk it, and no trouble at all on a bike. (Still, given AmTrak, if you wanted to do this trip recreationally without a bike, I'd recommend planning a longer break here, stopping for a snack or shopping if they're on time, and huffing it if they're not!).

It was a quick and enjoyable voyage across the bay to the ferry building. From here I biked to CalTrain, which is an easy ride, though it got a bit tricky dodging crowds around AT&T park (it's not baseball season, what's up?). Still I made it quickly enough, and caught a bullet back to Redwood City.

The CalTrain zone upgrade ticket I used to start my trip (to use my zone 2-3 pass to reach San Jose, in zone 4) was still valid, and when you buy an upgrade you don't have to specify which way you're upgrading, so I figured it should be good for zone 1 (San Francisco to San Bruno) too. Hah! Stickin' it to the man!

According to google maps, I covered something like 100 miles on this trip--and I managed to get work done at the same time!

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