Through a post on Twitter, I just became aware of the Global Transit Map. This set off quite a bit of exploration. It occurred to me to plan out the longest possible public transit trip by bus in North America.
Fair warning, or perhaps fare warning, this is going to be looooong blog post.
tl;dr: You can in theory travel 2,167 miles in somewhere between 19 and 35 days for a grand fare of $317.50 plus meals and lodging, from Brunswick Beach, British Columbia to Wellton, Arizona. Lots of winding roads hugging the coast and going over mountains; lots of waiting for the next bus, including overnight and overday and possibly over-week stays; and several trips that you have to reserve and pay for in advance, but a definite adventure for the transit nerd.
Before I begin, I also want to give credit for the inspiration for this to Heather Knight and Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. They did a marathon one-day challenge ride of all the San Francisco Muni routes a few years ago, and on September 27, 2022, did a one-day challenge ride of as many of the San Francisco Bay Area transit agencies as they could manage. Marathon coverage of their trip is an interesting read.
So, for the longest possible bus-only trip in North America, how do I define this?
- Local and regional public transit agencies; no commercial carriers.
- Bus only.
- Scheduled trips only; no dial-a-ride.
- No doubling back purely in order to rack up miles, but if we have to double back because it’s the only service we can use to get further along, we get credit for it.
- No rail or ferry.
- Can take as many days as we need; this is not a speed contest.
- Can walk up to half a mile to the next route if it is safe and necessary to do so.
- If there are two alternatives that are quite some distance from each other, take the most practical path, but not necessarily the shortest.
- Express routes are fine as long as it’s still the local agency.
- Has to be actually doable in terms of bathroom breaks, eating, and sleeping indoors and not on the bus.
- Does not have to be done with only routes shown on the TransitLand map.
- Vans count as buses, as long as they’re scheduled like a bus; I’m a software geek and a hardware luddite.
The days that I would actually consider trying this are long gone, but I’ve done Nevada City to El Cerrito as well as Daly City to Big Sur, both entirely within California, and it was fun. But, heck, I’m still a transit nerd and this is how I roll. Let’s see what we can accomplish from our armchair, erm, computer table.
My goal, if my rules haven’t shut me out from the possibility, is to use the TransitLand map and linked schedules to schedule a trip from Brunswick Beach, British Columbia, to Blythe, California, over 1,500 miles or over 2,300 kilometers. I wanted to go all the way to Tijuana, but, spoiler alert, the bus-only requirement knocked that out because of a gap between San Clemente and Oceanside or between Temecula and Escondido; a regional-rail-if-needed rule would allow for that, but I’m looking for all bus for this particular exploration.
If there is such local bus transit, I’m happy to be corrected (comment section (far) below).
Time for some armchair travel. Let’s went. Be sure you have your passport or US Travel Card, or possibly a visa if you’re not a US or Canadian resident. You’ll need it for the border crossing.
I’m also using (mostly) the Global Transit Map for my reference. That map is dependent on agencies making a GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) schedule available to the public. So if the feed is not in this map, then I might not realize that a path through exists. So this isn’t guaranteed to be the actual best route. That said, I also use search engines as tools.
Assume we will need exact fare for all routes unless otherwise noted. You will need Canadian dollars for the Canadian routes and US dollars for US routes, but you probably already knew that. I’m not going to bother doing conversions, and I will be using the adult fare.
Assume you will need computer access for reservations, whether by laptop or smartphone.
And a few big disclaimers:
- I didn’t figure in doability for laundry, although I’d guess you’ll have it now and then.
- I can’t recommend for or against any of the eating or sleeping places if I happen to list them; they are only for establishing theoretical do-ability for a particular leg.
- I can’t guarantee this trip is doable or enjoyable.
- I can’t guarantee any of the schedules are accurate.
- I can’t guarantee sleep, meal, and potty breaks can be accomplished without you missing a connection.
- I can’t guarantee that the reservation-required services will have a space for you or even answer their phone or email.
- I can’t guarantee you’ll have a cell signal at all or even most times.
- Distances are approximate and may not include bus route meanderings.
- Fares and schedules are subject to change or my misinterpretation
- Assume you will need exact change in cash for all rides, but verify with each agency.
- Links are subject to being outdated, suffering link rot, or being co-opted by evil sites; visit the website from the agency’s home page for current schedules if you actually plan to try this.
- I take no responsibility for addition or edit errors; assume there will be some.
- Travel light; we’ll sometimes have to walk a mile or so for things like hotels and restaurants.
- For the very last leg of the trip, there will be significant time delays and a two-to-three mile walk to a place to stay.
- This post is for entertainment purposes only; I am not a travel agent and this is not travel advice.
My biggest regret (besides it not being something I would actually try nowadays) is that I cannot guarantee this trip is accessible. While I’d bet that, because of the bus-only nature of this trip plan, it is likely that all vehicles are accessible, we cannot be sure of accessible transfers between vehicles or the presence of accessible restaurants, lodging, or toilet facilities; that a particular trip will have an unoccupied wheelchair space; or that you will have enough time to get between transfers and facilities and toilets.
If you decide to do this trip for real, I strongly urge you to do your own planning, confirm every leg of the trip, be prepared for it to take an extra week or two beyond the 19 days I’ve plotted out, and make sure you have a smartphone with adequate power backup. I’ve weighted this toward getting as far geographically as possible each day earlier in the voyage while we’re fresh, and attempting less on days with marathon single rides. But you know you and can plan for your ideal trip, be it fastest possible or, conversely, the most spread out to leave time to visit each place you touch down in. Just be aware many agencies don’t have weekend service.
And you might seriously consider hiring the services of an actual travel agent who specializes in quirky trips. I can imagine one would embrace such a challenge.
Before you depart
Before we even get started, I’ll note the following from the brochure for the a late leg of our trip, the Blythe Wellness Express (not accessible, alas, which seems odd for a medical-oriented transit service):
“To ride the Blythe Wellness Express, you must have a reservation and pay your fare in advance. Before you use the service the first time, you will be asked to fill out a on form and will be assigned a Rider ID Number.”
I’d suggest doing the registration process and mailing them a check for your travels with them before you even start this voyage. It’s not clear from the brochure whether this service can only be used for medical trips, or whether it is simply optimized or prioritized for medical trips, so you might want to find that out before you set your heart on making it all the way to the final stop planned in this post. I’ll be providing an alternative endpoint just in case.
And, provided you can ride the Blyth Wellness Express for non-medical trips, if you don’t want to spend two to three weeks in the desert on the way to Arizona, you’ll want to start your trip the Friday before a month that begins on Thursday, earlier if you’re allowing for more stopovers or want to allow more for possible delays enroute. Transit Month 2022 (September 2022) was such a Thursday-starting month, and December 2022, June 2023, and February 2024 are the next three upcoming months that have this mystical quality. I’ll explain:
Spoiler alert: The second- and third-to-last trips are a 2nd or 4th Wednesday followed by a 1st or 3rd Thursday. So, by traveling in a month beginning on Thursday, the 2nd Wednesday will be followed the next day by a 3rd Thursday, and we get to do this segment in two days instead of two to three weeks.
And that said, December 2022 might not be so great, as you’d have to start on the day after Thanksgiving (while it won’t be Thanksgiving in Canada, the last segment on that date is in the US). June 2023 might not be so great because it’ll be really hot in the desert. And February 2024 may not be so great because there may be snow issues up north. So you might resign yourself to some time in the desert. Just avoid months with five Thursdays to avoid being stuck with an extra week. Again, unless you like to spend time in the desert, in which case go for it.
This will take more than a week, quite a bit more, so I’ll start with:
Week 1: British Columbia to Washington State
Week 1, day 1, Friday:
There’s actually plenty of transit on Saturday and Sunday from here to the Canadian border, but once you get into the U.S., there’s no Sunday service and little Saturday service. Even then, we’ll need the full day for travel, and we would lose three hours by starting on a Saturday or four by starting on a Sunday because of our first leg’s schedule.
In fact, as we’ll see later, we need this extra lead time to make a later connection. So much so that, if we have any delays along the way, the trip could take an extra six days of wait time. So if you don’t like having to deal with an unexpected extra week, you might start your trip one to four days early, and accept that you will spend some extra nights here and there.
Let’s go. Actually, let’s start the night before.
Stay over Thursday night at the Horseshoe Bay Motel, Horseshoe Bay, British Columbia. Again, not recommending for or against, we’re just verifying do-ability, and if you can find a nice bed and breakfast in Brunswick Beach (I adore alliteration), go for it. It’s your (Canadian) dime.
Get to the starting point the next morning, our day 1.
Buy a day pass for $11 at the vending machine at the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal.
Logging of distance and fares begins here.
Leave Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal, Friday, at the disgusting hour of 6:34 am on TransLink Route 262.
Arrive Brunswick Beach, Monday, at 6:48 am.
And we start counting the miles. Well, sort of. I’m lazy and am going to skip this step. See you at the other end, wherever that is.
Leave Brunswick Beach at 6:48 am on TransLink Route 262.
Arrive Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal at 7:05 am.
I’ve actually ridden this one, several years ago, although in the evening, after taking the ferry to Nanaimo and back. Alas, I didn’t have time to go into Nanaimo so I didn’t get to discover the joy that I’m told are Nanaimo bars.
Notice I’m assuming here this is the same bus in both directions and that they don’t kick me off at the end of the line. If I’m wrong, that’s going to cost us an hour, we’ll board at 7:43 am and I’ll get to Horseshoe Bay at 8:00 am. I couldn’t find a place at Brunswick Beach to eat, but you could go to the beach and enjoy a view of the clean Canadian waterways.
The next leg is pretty safe, with most service every 15 minutes and an odd 25-minute gap being the worst we’ll face.
Leave Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal at 7:13, 8:05, or 8:20 am, depending, on TransLink 257, still on the day pass.
Arrive downtown Vancouver, Dunsmuir at Canbie, at 7:47, 8:41, or 8:56 am respectively.
Reference for the above: TransLink North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Bowen Island, and Lions Bay.
Okay, here’s where the bus-only starts costing us in terms of time. Avoiding SkyTrain for us will cost us at half an hour to an hour. But we may get to take a potty break and grab a snack at this particular transfer.
Walk to West Hastings and Abbott, about a 4-minute walk, well within our limit.
Leave downtown Vancouver via the TransLink R5 toward Simon Fraser University (SFU) at 9:04 am, still on the day pass. Alight at Hastings and Kensington at 9:32 am. If we miss this one, not to worry as it runs every 7 or 8 minutes.
Reference for the above: TransLink Vancouver book 2.
Board the TransLink 134 toward Lake City Station on Kensington at Hastings at 9:49 or 10:19 am (times from their trip planner), still on the day pass. Alight at Sperling Station at 9:59 or 10:29 am.
Board the TransLink 110 at 10:35 or 11:05 am, still on the day pass. Arrive at Lougheed Station at 10:55 or 11:25 am.
Reference for the above: TransLink Burnaby New Westminster.
Either way we arrive, there’s a BC Transit Chilliwack route 66 Fraser Valley Express from Lougheed at 11:48 am and they run about hourly on weekdays.
Of course, we could take a proper lunch break at Lougheed as we’ve been doing a lot of sitting and could use time to walk about a bit. We are not robots, or at least I’m not; I don’t know about you. So let’s see if we can do the 12:48 pm one and see what that does to our timings. Do check hours, as not every place in the area is open on Mondays, and choose convenience over taste, as frequencies going forward are not great.
Let’s assume we’ve eaten lunch. Route 66 leaves Lougheed at 12:48 pm and arrives at Highstreet Mall at 1:31 pm, where we alight. Your day pass is no good on this route, nor is mine, alas. Fare is $5. No transfers offered or accepted. Total so far $16.
Reference for the above: BC Transit Chilliwack route 66 (Be sure to view the Lougheed-to-Chilliwack direction).
Transfer to the BC Transit Central Fraser Valley route 1 or 2.
The 1 is scheduled to leave at 1:44 pm to University of Fraser Valley (UFV) and the 2 to Abbotsford Recreation Center at 1:52 pm, arriving at the Downtown Abbotsford Exchange at 2:14 and 2:23 pm respectively, where we alight. Fare is $2.25. We need to ask for a transfer when we pay our fares. Total so far, $18.25.
The 3 leaves the Downtown Abbotsford Exchange for Huntingdon at 2:31 pm. Only alternating trips serve Huntington, so don’t miss this one or resign yourself to waiting until 3:31 pm. Total so far still $18.25. We arrive at Huntingdon, transit willing, at 2:49 or 3:49 pm, respectively. The timetable is timed to B and 6th, but let’s get off at B and 4th. Excuse me, B and 6, B and 4. That’s how they roll in Huntingdon.
Reference for the above: BC Transit Central Fraser Valley.
Now let’s get our passports ready and hoof it across the Canada-U.S. border. Might want to allow an hour for that, two if they’re busy. Seriously, I have no idea how long crossing will take.
¡Welcome to the United States!
We make our way to Cherry and 1st in Sumas, Washington, where we can get the Whatcom Transportation Authority 71X at 5:10 or 7:20 pm, fare $1, arriving in downtown Bellingham at 6:02 or 8:02 pm respectively. Alternatively, there appear to be a few places to stay or eat in Sumas, but you’ll be on your own for scheduling as this blog post would be leaving you behind. I have my limits.
Reference for the above: Whatcom 71X schedule.
Find a place to stay in downtown Bellingham for the night, then grab some dinner. Looks like you’ll be in a hotel rather than a motel, unless you want to venture outside the downtown area, but that would give you less time to rest and return.
Let’s allow for bedtime by 11 pm, just so we can have a relaxing dinner.
Distance traveled, 95 miles. Fare for today $19.25, for a fare-to-date total of $19.25; I’m not going to do currency conversions because I’m lazy and this is armchair travel anyway.
Week 1, day 2, Saturday.
This entire day will be spent in Washington State.
As noted, these times are for Saturday. If you decide to start the trip earlier to avoid a surprise extra week later, you’ll need to check the weekday schedules. Of course, as the disclaimer proclaims, you’ll need to re-check these schedules anyway, so no great loss.
Up by 7 am, breakfast and out by 8:30 am. On Saturdays, Whatcom Transportation Authority 80X bus, operated by Skagit Transit for this trip, leaves at 9:00 am, arriving in Mount Vernon – ¡wait! ¿How’d we get to Virginia? – at Skagit Station at 9:45 am. Fare is $2.
Okay, so Mount Vernon, Virginia, probably doesn’t have a Skagit Station. Their loss.
Reference for the above: Whatcom 80X Skagit-Whatcom Connector schedule.
Time for a bathroom break. Take the 10:00 pm Skagit Transit 90X bus, arriving at Everett, Washington at 10:55 am. Fare also $2, for a total so far today of $4.
Reference for the above: Skagit Transit 90X Skagit-Snohomish Connector.
Let’s allow until 2:15 pm for lunch, ¿shall we?
Again, our bus-only plan is going to cost us time. Express service to Seattle from Everett only runs in the morning, and the fastest trips would involve light rail or commuter rail. But no, we’re going to stick to our original quest and take buses.
So, we need to decide, do we purchase an ORCA card for $3 and a day pass for $8, for a total of $11? Let’s start tracking and see if it’s worth it. Of course, we could opt for flexibility and just go for it. But we’re going to track this anyway. (Spoiler/voice from the future: not worth it.)
The Community Transit Swift Blue runs every 15 minutes on Saturdays. It leaves Everett Station at 2:15 pm toward Aurora Village, arriving there at 3:11 pm. Fare is $2.50, for a total so far today of $6.50. ORCA-day-pass-eligible fare so far is $2.50.
Reference for the above: Community Transit Swift Blue
Our next leg, the King County Metro E Line rapid bus runs every 10 minutes on Saturday, so this might be a good time for a pee break, although it may be a short schlep away from the terminal.
Let’s say we get the E Line bus by 3:30 pm, arriving in downtown Seattle at 3rd and Seneca at 4:23 pm. Fare is $2.75, day so far is $9.25, and day-pass-eligible so far is $5.25.
Reference for the above: King County Metro Rapid E Line.
Make our way to 2nd and Seneca (actually, the stop appears to be south of Seneca, partway to Spring). Take a Sound Transit 594 at 4:53 or 5:23 pm to Lakewood Station, arriving at 6:09 or 6:39. Hmmm, that’s a long ride. We might want to take a pee break in downtown Seattle and catch that 5:23 pm ride. Fare $3.25, day so far is $12.50, and day-pass-eligible so far is $8.50.
And, as that’s the last day-pass-eligible travel we’ll be doing, so it looks like it won’t be worth it unless we want hop-on-hop-off flexibility – and that 594 doesn’t really have many places you can hop on and off.
Reference for the above: Sound Transit Route 594 Lakewood-Seattle https://www.soundtransit.org/ride-with-us/routes-schedules/594
We leave Lakewood Station on Intercity Transit 620 at 6:54 or 8:10 pm (last trip), arriving at the Olympia Transit Center at 7:56 or 9:01 pm. Fare is free at present, so day so far is still $12.50.
Reference for the above: Intercity Transit 620 Olympia/512 P&R Express https://www.intercitytransit.com/plan-your-trip/routes/620
And time to get dinner and bunk down for the night. It appears there are choices of hotels and restaurants in downtown Olympia. Again, no recs for or against. Let’s go to bed early, because travel choices are farther and sparser.
Distance traveled: 153 miles today and 248 miles overall. Fare spent: $12.50 today and $31.75 total.
Week 2: Washington State to California
Week 2, day 1, Sunday:
Up by 7 am, breakfast done by 8:15 am.
Return to the Olympia [Washington] Transit Center and catch the Grays Harbor Transit route 40 at 9:15 am, alighting at the Aberdeen – also Washington, not Scotland, that would be pretty amazing – Transit Center at 10:45 am. Fare is $2.00, for a total of $2.00 so far today. Don’t miss this one; the next one isn’t until 1:15 pm. “Don’t miss this one” might as well be our catch phrase for quite some time for the next many trips in this voyage, as we’re heading into sparse-transit territory for the foreseeable future.
Reference for the above: Grays Harbor Transit route 40 weekend schedule
However, now we’re done for the day, as the next leg is weekdays-only, which is also going to become a familiar refrain. Fortunately, it appears there is plenty to see in Aberdeen, as well as places to eat and stay. It’s also probably good for us to have a day off from traveling. Go to bed early Sunday night, as we’ll want to get up around 5:30 or 6 am and plan for breakfast after our first leg.
Road distance traveled: 49 miles today and 291 miles overall. Fare spent: $2.00 today and $33.75 total.
Week 2, day 2, Monday:
On Monday, return to Aberdeen Transit Center aka Aberdeen Station for the Pacific Transit route 14 trip at 7:00 am. Have a snack before boarding, as it’s going to be a while. Google Maps says to stay on the bus at South Bend to continue through to route 32 then to route 50, alighting at Astoria [Oregon] Transit Center at 9:05 am. Not sure about the fare; could be anywhere from $1.50 (if it’s free to through-ride) to $4.00 (if they charge per route). We’ll log it as $4.00, just to be safe.
Reference for the above: Pacific Transit schedules but it doesn’t make it clear about the ride-through, so if you want to be sure, you might want to give them a call-ahead to verify.
The next couple of trips operate multiple times a day, and our snack has worn off by this point, so let’s have a bathroom break and lunch, then head back to the Astoria Transit Center for the Northwest ConnectOR/Sunset Empire Transportation District route 101 toward Seaside, leaving at 10:45 am. Alight at the Seaside Cinema at 11:30 am. Fare $1.00, for a total of $5.00 so far today.
Reference for the above: Sunset Empire route 101.
Walk around Seaside if you wish, then return to the Seaside Cinema to catch Northwest ConnectOR/Sunset Empire Transportation District route 20 toward Cannon Beach at 12:32 pm. Alight at the Cannon Beach Family Market at 12:58 pm. Fare $1.00, for a total of $6.00 so far today.
Reference for the above: Sunset Empire route 20.
Actually, it looks like stop, labeled “Midtown” for the next leg, is across the street from the market. We might want to verify the exact stop location with the bus company. There is also a public restroom nearby, so time for a pee break.
Okay, now we’re back to sparse service again, so let’s grab lunch as well. Also, be sure to take this time to call for a reservation to Coos County Area Transit to make a reservation for the southbound Florence Express for tomorrow.
Take Northwest ConnectOR/Tillamook County Transportation District route 3, scheduled for 3:24 pm and scheduled to arrive at the Tillamook Transit Center at 4:48 pm. Don’t miss it, as it’s 4 hours to the next trip. Fare $4.50, for a total of $10.50 so far today. And we get another pee break and snack.
At the Tillamook Transit Center, take Northwest ConnectOR/Tillamook County Transportation District route 4 at 6:05 pm, arriving at Lincoln City at 7:25 pm. Fare $4.50, for a total of $14.50 so far today.
Reference for the above: Tillamook route 3 and Tillamook route 4.
Let’s eat and get a room for the night. The transfer point is the Chinook Winds Casino, so if you’re into that, now’s your chance. On the other hand, if we want to be absolutely sure of making all your connections tomorrow, we might want to go to bed super-early and get up super-early, because a later transfer has a 10-minute gap and no follow-up until the following day.
Distance traveled: 181 miles today, 472 miles to date. Fare: $14.50 today, $48.25 to date.
Week 2, day 3, Tuesday.
This entire day will be spent in Oregon:
Get up at 5 am if you went to bed early and get breakfast at the Casino (those are 24-hours, ¿right? I hope) or 9 am if you stayed up late.
From the Chinook Winds Casino, board the Northwest ConnectOR/Lincoln County Transit North County route going south toward Newport. There’s only a few trips a day. Get the 6:51 am (¡ouch!) if you want to be absolutely certain of making the Coos Bay connection in Florence, or the 11:20 am if you’re willing to live with risk, which I’m guessing you are if you stayed up gambling. Arrive at Newport City Hall and 7:57 am or 12:40 pm respectively. Fare: I couldn’t find the fare for this one, but the South County fare for the full-length trip is $4, and the North route is only one mile further than the South, so I’m guessing this is as well. Likely fare: $4.00, for a total of $4.00 so far today, but you might want to keep an extra dollar on hand just in case.
However, this will cast uncertainty on the total fare for the remainder of the trip, so I hope you can live with that. I’ll take my chances. It is an adventure, after all.
Reference for the above: Lincoln County North County route.
Take a pee break, and be back at Newport City Hall a few minutes early for the 8:20 or 10:20 am or 2:45 pm Northwest ConnectOR/Lincoln County Transit South County route to Yachats, arriving at 3rd & Pontiac in Yachats at 9:10 or 11:10 am or at 3:35 pm respectively. Fare: $4.00, for (I’m going to drop the “likely” for space reasons) a total today so far of $8.00.
Reference for the above: Lincoln County South County route.
If you had took the 2:45 pm trip, then it’s lunch in Newport.
Be back at 3rd & Pontiac by 11:30 am or 3:45 pm (there’s your 10-minute transfer) for the LinkLane Florence-Yachats Connector, arriving at the Florence Grocery Outlet (sing the jingle if you wish) at 12:20 or 4:35 pm. Fare: $2.50, for a day total so far of $10.50. If you miss the 3:45 pm, you might want to call Coos County Area Transit and re-schedule your reservation until Wednesday, and, again you’re on your own.
Reference for the above: LinkLane Florence-Yachats Connector.
If you took the 11:30 am trip, then it’s lunch in Yachats.
And finally for today, board the Coos County Area Transit Florence Express at 5:35 pm to North Bend, arriving at the VA Clinic and Safeway (presumably two different facilities) in North Bend at 7:17 pm. Fare is $12.00, for a day total of $20.00. Admire the system’s very energetic cat logo as you board.
Reference for the above: Coos County Florence Express.
Find a place to eat and a place to stay for the night.
Road distance traveled: 124 miles today, 596 miles to date. Fare: $20.00 today, $68.25 to date.
Week 2, day 4, Wednesday:
Starting in North Bend, Oregon, we make our way back to the VA Clinic and Safeway, and board the Curry Public Transit Coastal Express at 7:25 or 11:25 am if we want to plan for a break (I know I do) or at 2:30 pm if you’re okay with a four-hour bus ride (I’m not). They suggest you call them for confirmation, actually a good idea for most of the above and below if you’re actually considering making this trip in real life and not just your armchair. I recommend a break at the halfway point, Port Orford, Oregon, at 9:15 am or 1:05 pm; not doable if we take the 2:30 pm. Re-board the same route at the same stop at 1:05 or 4:40 pm.
If we take the 1:05 pm from Port Orford, then we’ll arrive at Brookings at 5th Street and Bankus Park at 2:40 pm. We’ll join up at the same place with any stragglers who took the 2:30 pm from North Bend, and arrive at Route 101 and Indian Road, the Rancheria in Smith River, California, at 6:30 pm.
North Bend to Port Orford is $12, Port Orford to Brookings is $8, Brookings to Smith River is $4, and riding through from North Bend to Smith River is $24. So it’s $24 whatever we do. Fare: $24.00 for 1 to 3 trip segments, $24.00 so far today.
Reference for the above: Curry Coastal Express.
There’s a timed connection at the Lucky 7 store to the Redwood Coast Transit route 20 at 6:35 pm. Both agencies’ schedules show the connection, so hopefully the 20 will wait if the Coastal Express is late. The 6:35 pm trip terminates at Klamath at the Pem-May fuel mart, at 7:48 pm, ending our travel day. Fare: $4.00 now, $28.00 so far today.
Reference for the above: Redwood Coast Transit.
Pick the one restaurant that’s still open and either of the two motels within a couple blocks of the stop.
Distance traveled: 158 miles today, 754 miles to date. Fare: $28.00 today, $96.25 to date.
Full disclosure: You could have made it all the way to Arcata today by taking the 7:25 am from North Bend, the 1:45 pm from Brookings, and connecting to the 20 at 2:15 pm at Smith River. The catch is that you would arrive in Arcata at 5:14 pm, after 3.5 hours on the bus with possibly no bathroom break. No fun. And we have an obligatory 4-hour trip coming up next week. So let’s not try to be the superhero now; spend that extra night in the middle of nowhere.
Week 2, day 5, Thursday:
The entire day will be spent in California:
Let’s be up by 6:30 am, to re-board Redwood Coast Transit route 20 for Arcata at 8:05 am, arriving at the Arcata Transit Center at 9:26 am. Fare is $6.00 now and $6.00 so far today. The transit center is a short walk from downtown, where there are likely multiple places to grab breakfast.
Actually, we’re going to have lunch here as well, as travel is going to be really sparse for a while. And you might check out the delightful and relaxing Arcata Marsh, knowing it’s composting your poop break. It’s well worth a visit, no joke. Been there.
Alas, there are a number of north-south gaps from here on in, so our travels are going to take a wild turn. ¡Hang on! ¡We’re headed east to Nevada!
This would be a good time to make a reservation for the Sage Stage trip from Redding to Alturas. When we call, we’ll find out that the Redding route only runs on Tuesdays, which is why we needed to originally start this odyssey on a Friday.
And, since we’ve built in some padding to ensure we make it to Redding by Monday of next week, let’s spend the night in Arcata.
Distance traveled: 57 miles today, 811 miles to date. Fare: $6.00 today, $102.25 to date. And we’ve now made the milestone of over $100 in fares.
Week 2, day 6, Friday:
The entire day will be spent in California:
Be back at the Arcata Transit Center the next morning before 8:25 am. Take the Humboldt Transit Authority Willow Creek-Arcata route to Willow Creek, arriving at Willow Creek at 9:15 am. Fare: $5.00 now, $5.00 today.
Reference for the above: Humboldt Transit Authority Willow Creek-Arcata route.
Rather than hurriedly hopping on the possible but un-promised timed transfer, let’s have an unhurried poo, an even less hurried breakfast and lunch, and a relaxing morning and afternoon in Willow Creek This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Leave Willow Creek at 4:45 pm via Trinity Transit, arriving at Weaverville Library at 6:07 pm.
Reference for the above: Trinity Transit Willow Creek line.
Find a place to stay for the weekend, since there’s no more transit until Monday. Enjoy the relatively few sights and places to eat for the weekend, or get some food at the market and make your own picnic for a change of pace.
Distance traveled: 96 miles today, 907 miles to date. Fare: $11.00 today, $107.25 to date.
Week 3: California, Nevada, California
Week 3, day 1, Monday:
The entire day will be spent in California.
Leave Weaverville from the Weaverville Library on Trinity Transit’s Redding line to Redding at 7:15 am (to be extra-safe) or 11:00 am, arriving at the Redding Area Bus Authority (RABA) Transit Center in Redding at 8:24 am or 12:09 pm respectively. Fare: $10.00 now, $10.00 so far today.
Reference for the above: Trinity Transit Redding line.
Find a place to stay and places to eat. You might want to confirm your trip for tomorrow. If you’ve had any delays this far, you could do this segment on Tuesday, but it would be cutting things close and you could wind up spending an extra week in Redding if anything went wrong.
Distance traveled: 44 miles today, 951 miles to date. Fare: $10.00 today, $117.25 to date.
Week 3, day 2, Tuesday:
The entire day will be spent in California.
Be sure to poop before you travel, as Sage Stage’s rules expressly forbid pooping on the bus “voluntarily or involuntarily”. Not saying you would poop on the bus, but it is their rule, just so you know. Be at the RABA Transit Center well before 1:30 pm, because Sage says they won’t wait. While you’re waiting, call and make a reservation on their Reno line for Wednesday. If it’s too late for Wednesday, there’s another on Friday, but for the sake of this post, we’ll guess you can do Wednesday. If you really have to do Wednesday, you might not want to do this odyssey.
You could also do your reservation earlier, but make sure they understand you want both the Redding-Alturas and the Alturas-Reno reservations. You will also probably want to make your reservation for Reno-Lone Pine and Lone Pine-Lancaster at this time, as they both require advance reservations and that you receive your confirmation and, likely, pre-purchase your ticket.
Leave RABA Transit Center on Sage Stage Redding route to Alturas at 1:30 pm Tuesday – this route only runs on Tuesdays – arriving in Alturas at the Rite Aid at North Main and West 5th at 4:20 pm. That’s nearly three hours, so hopefully they have a rest stop, but call and ask if you really need to know. Fare: $26.00 for this trip, $26.00 so far today.
Reference for the above: Sage Stage Redding route.
Distance traveled: 145 miles today, 1,096 miles to date; a milestone of having traveled over 1,000 miles. Fare: $26.00 today, $143.25 to date.
Week 3, day 3, Wednesday:
Be at the Rite Aid at North Main and West 5th before 8:00 am. There are only three trips a week for this one, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Leave Alturas, California, via the Sage Stage Reno route at 8:00 am, arriving at either Reno Amtrak at 11:30 am or at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, Nevada, at 11:50 am. Fare: $32.00 now, $32.00 today. That’s three-and-a-half hours, and again, hopefully there’s a rest stop and verify in advance if needed.
Reference for the above: Sage Stage Reno route.
While we could continue on to somewhere between Mammoth Lakes and Lone Pine, both California, you’ve already traveled 3.5 hours and this would be 3.75 to 7 hours more, completely brutal, so let’s spend a night in Reno.
Whether we choose to alight at Amtrak or at the airport depends on whether its more important to make a direct connection to our next leg (which would mean use the airport stop, and have to get a place to stay and places to eat near the airport) or to have fun downtown (which would mean having to go across town to get to the stop where our next leg begins). Your call; ¿are you feeling lucky? It is Nevada, after all. That said, I’d prefer downtown, so let’s do that.
Distance traveled: 191 miles today, 1,289 miles to date. Fare: $32.00 today, $175.25 to date.
Week 3, day 4, Thursday:
If we have chosen to alight in downtown Reno, Nevada, we can take the RTC Lincoln Rapid from the Reno Transit Center at 4th and Evans. It runs every 10 minutes all morning and takes 13 minutes to get to the Centennial Transit Center in Sparks next to Greyhound. The fare is $2.00 and, again, this one was a voluntary choice and I’m not including this in mileage.
As mentioned earlier, we already need to have made a reservation and perhaps pre-purchased our tickets.
We need to be at the Centennial Transit Center Greyhound before 1:30 pm or at Reno’s airport before 1:40 pm to catch the Eastern Sierra Transit 395 North route.
We have the following choices, which we will presumably need to have made when we made our reservations, so if you were actually going to do this trip, you might want to contact the bus company and find out where the rest stops are.
Today we can go to any of the following, all in California, and find places to eat and to stay for the night:
Mammoth Lakes, 5:15 pm, 481 Old Mammoth Road, just west of Vons, fare $46.00.
Bishop, 6:20 pm, Vons, 1190 N. Main Street, fare $53.00. Probably the sweet spot in terms of timing with regard to tomorrow’s continuing trip or getting dinner tonight.
Big Pine, 6:45 pm, bus shelter, 391 S. Main Street, fare $56.00.
Independence, 7:25 pm, Post Office, 101 S. Edwards Street, fare $58.00.
Lone Pine, 7:40 pm, McD’s, 601 S. Main Street, fare $59.00.
Reference for the above: Eastern Sierra Transit 395 North route.
Distance traveled: 167 to 266 miles today, 1,456 to 1,555 miles to date. Fare: $46.00 to $61.00 today, $221.25 to $236.25 to date. $200 fare milestone reached.
Week 3, day 5, Friday:
This entire day is spent in California:
All of the following are for the Eastern Sierra Transit 395 South route.
Mammoth Lakes, 7:50 am, 481 Old Mammoth Road, just west of Vons, fare $39.00.
Bishop, 8:45 am, Vons, 1190 N. Main Street, fare $32.00.
Big Pine, 9:05 am, bus shelter, 391 S. Main Street, fare $31.00.
Independence, 9:35 am, Post Office, 101 S. Edwards Street, fare $27.00.
Lone Pine, 10:00 am, McD’s, 601 S. Main Street, fare $25.00.
All of the above arrive in Lancaster at the Metrolink station at 12:45 pm.
Reference for the above: Eastern Sierra Transit 395 South.
Lancaster Metrolink Station is listed as having restrooms.
We’re tired and our butts are sore from all that sitting, but just a couple more legs will bring us to weekend bus service, so let’s press on. (That said, staying the weekend in the Eastern Sierras would totally have been a valid choice.)
We hop on the Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) 1 Lancaster/Palmdale toward Palmdale at 12:55 or 1:10 pm. Find someplace to eat along the way along West 10th, then re-board and alight at the Palmdale Transit Center (which seems to be in the middle of nowhere, food-wise). Buses run every 15 minutes and take about 41 minutes for the journey, so try not to take more than 40 minutes for lunch and a bathroom break. This likely means fast food or fast casual, which seem to be the main choices along this route anyway. Don’t dilly-dally. There’s no mention of free transfers, and you can’t pay in cash for a 4-hour pass, so it’s likely to be $3.00 for the two rides. Day so far is $42.00 to $28.00.
Reference for the above: AVTA Route 1 Lancaster/Palmdale.
Be sure to contact the Palo Verde Valley Transit Agency for a Monday reservation on the Wellness Express before they close at 4:00 pm. Your registration and payment must have already reached them.
Palmdale Metrolink Station is listed as having restrooms.
Leave the Palmdale Transit Center at 3:00 pm on the AVTA 790 Transporter to Newhall Metrolink Station, arriving at 3:50 am. Fare: $5.00, day so far is $5.00 to $8.00.
Reference for the above: AVTA Route 790 Transporter.
Newhall Metrolink Station is listed as having restrooms.
Distance traveled: 294 to 195 miles today, 1,750 miles to date. Fare: $42.00 to $28.00 today; $87.00 to $92.00 for the last two days, depending on where we overnighted and our Reno and Lancaster to Palmdale choices; $260.75 to $267.25 to date.
Find a place to have dinner and stay for the night. You might want to download the Tap LA app to your smartphone; it will save you some on transfers, although I was to lazy to calculate this and have stuck to the cash fare.
Week 3, day 6, Saturday:
This entire day is spent in California. All of the routes for todays trip plan run on Sundays as well, so if it’s too much rushing around for your taste, especially after yesterday’s marathon ride, feel free to split it into two days. Schedules may vary.
Again, we’re going to pay a time price for not taking rail. Multiple times.
Get up and get breakfast.
Walk to the bus bays at Railroad & 8th streets, near the Newhall Metrolink station. If we were traveling on a weekday, we could take the Santa Clarita 757 from Railroad & Market streets, but it doesn’t serve this stop on weekends, so we take the Santa Clarita 12 from the bus bays instead, alighting at the McBean Regional Transit Center (MRTC). It runs about every half hour, but just so we’re not rushing to get the 757 later on, let’s take the 9:01 am trip for Metrolink, arriving at MRTC at 9:16 am. Fare $1.00, for $1.00 so far today.
Transfer to the Santa Clarita 757 NoHo Express, leaving MRTC at 9:50 am, arriving at North Hollywood Station at 10:20 am, infamous Los Angeles traffic willing. Fare $3.00, for $4.00 so far today.
Reference for the above: Santa Clarita local schedule book.
Hopefully, you can take a bathroom break here.
From the North Hollywood Station, we continue at 10:39 or 11:17 am on the LA Metro 501 North Hollywood-Pasadena Express. Alight at Raymond and Holly in Pasadena, hopefully not too much later than the suggested 11:23 am or 12:03 pm. Fare $1.75, for $5.75 so far today.
Reference for the above: LA Metro 501 North Hollywood-Pasadena Express.
Get a relaxed lunch and take a bathroom break. Walk north to Raymond and Walnut, a couple blocks away.
From Raymond and Walnut, catch the Foothill Transit 187 Pasadena/Azusa at 1:13 or 1:43 pm, arriving at the Azusa Intermodal Transit Center at 2:28 or 2:58 pm. Fare $1.75, for $7.50 so far today.
Reference for the above: Foothill Transit 187 Pasadena/Azusa.
Full disclosure: It’s potentially faster to take LA Metro 256 to Cal State Los Angeles to connect to the very fast Foothill Transit 707 aka Silver Streak, but the 256 runs about once an hour, so is less forgiving if we miss it. I decided to go with the slightly pokier Foothill 187 and 188 as their half-hourly frequency is more forgiving.
From the Azusa Intermodal Transit Center, catch the Foothill Transit 188 Azusa/Montclair at 2:37 or 3:07 pm, alighting at at Montclair 3:53 or 4:23 pm. Fare $1.75, for $9.25 so far today.
Reference for the above: Foothill Transit 188 Azusa/Montclair.
Montclair Metrolink Station is not listed as having restrooms, but is listed as having a child care center, which seems like an odd combination. Maybe only the children can use the restroom so we might need to hold it.
Alas, the express service from Montclair to San Bernardino is suspended because there aren’t enough bus drivers. So we’ll have to go local.
The Omnitrans 66 will take us from the Montclair Transit Center at 4:00, 4:30, or 5:00 pm to the Fontana Transit Center, arriving at 5:13, 5:42, or 6:12 pm, respectively. Fare: $2.00, for $11.25 so far today.
Fontana Metrolink Station is listed as not having restrooms. Fortunately, it’s close to downtown Fontana, which has several restaurants where we can poop and refuel. We might want to pick ours in advance, as they are in all different directions from the station.
The Omnitrans 14 will take us from Fontana transit center, leaving at 6:25, 6:45, 7:25, or 8:25, arriving at the San Bernardino Transit Center at 7:08, 7:28, 8:08, or 9:08 pm, respectively. Fare: $2.00, for $13.25 so far today.
Reference for the above: Omnitrans Bus Book.
If we’re not too tired at this point, we might want to locate the Sunline 10 route stop, since it only runs a few times a day and we don’t want to miss it.
Let’s bed down at a hotel or motel for Saturday and Sunday nights, as our next leg only runs on weekdays.
Distance traveled: 97 miles today, 1,847 miles to date. Fare: $13.25 today; $274.00 to $280.50 to date.
Week 4: California (and a decision)
Week 4, day 1, Monday:
This entire day is spent in California:
Get breakfast and return to the San Bernardino Transit Center before 8:45 am.
Catch the SunLine 10, leaving the transit center at 8:45 am and arriving in Indio at the SunLine Transfer Center at 11:00 am. This route runs weekdays only, and this is the only trip which will make our connection. Fare: $6.00, for $6.00 so far today.
Reference for the above: SunLine Route 10.
If you are going to go all the way to Yuma as described later in this post, you’ll need to contact There are several places to eat within a mile, so let’s have lunch.
And we get back to the SunLine Transfer Center. Maybe.
As I mentioned much earlier in this post, I don’t know which of the following is true:
- The Wellness Express is only for medical trips.
- The Wellness Express is open to anyone for all trips, but medical trips are prioritized and if the vehicle is needed for a medical trip you will need to wait for a later trip on another day.
- The Wellness Express is open to anyone for all trips.
We’re going to allow for all three possibilities.
Scenario 1: The Wellness Express is only for medical trips.
We’ll lick our wounds that we can’t go the whole way that theory says we can, and take the following as a consolation:
First, Indio’s the southeasternmost place in our consolation journey with places to stay, so we’ll need to have a trip plan where we can make it to our endpoint and back on the same day.
Return to the SunLine Transfer Center. Board the eastbound Coachella-bound route 1 at 1:14 pm, arriving at 5th and Vine, Coachella, at 1:26 pm. Ask for a transfer when you pay your fare, which will get us through the next two hours. Fare: $1.25, for a total of $7.25 so far today.
Reference for the above: SunLine route 1.
A pee break is in order. Also, we’re in the middle of a desert. Drink lots of water.
At 5th and Vine, board the southbound, Mecca-bound, SunLine route 8 at 2:13 pm. Arrive at Avenue 66 and Date Palm in Mecca at 2:48 pm. Fare: Show your transfer for a free ride. Still at $7.25 for the day.
Reference for the above: SunLine Route 8.
¿Another pee break and more water, perhaps?
At Avenue 66 and Date Palm, board the eastbound, North Shore bound, SunLine Route 9 at 3:40 pm. Alight at Club View and Windlass, North Shore, at 4:03 pm. Touch down, and we are at our furthest point.
Reference for the above: SunLine Route 9.
Final distance traveled: 111 miles today, 1,958 miles as our consolation total. Fare: $7.25 today; $281.25 to $287.75 as our consolation total, winding up just shy of 2,000 miles traveled and $300.00 in fares.
Okay, but ¿what about the other two possibilities?
Scenarios 2 and 3:
- The Wellness Express is open to anyone for all trips, but medical trips are prioritized and if the vehicle is needed for a medical trip you will need to wait for a later trip on another day.
- The Wellness Express is open to anyone for all trips, our fervent hope.
These won’t make any difference as to what time you travel on a given day, but would make a difference as to how long you would spend in a hotel or motel room in Indio, and possibly in Blythe for the return trip.
If we’re giving up at Ripley (see below), call the PVVTA office before 4:00 pm to make a reservation for the return trip, which can be no earlier than Wednesday.
Board the Palo Verde Valley Transit Agency (PVVTA) route 6 Wellness Express at the Sunline Transfer Center. The Wellness Express brochure https://pvvta.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/BWE-Riders-Guide-12-18002-scaled.jpg says it leaves at 2:00 pm but the Wellness Express schedule page https://pvvta.com/routes/wellness_express/ says it leaves at 1:00 pm, so be there before 1:00 pm just in case. Assuming 1:00 pm is correct, we arrive in Blythe at the Main Street Park and Ride at 4:00 pm. If the brochure is correct, we arrive at 5:00 pm. Fare: $10.00, or $16.00 so far today. Trip runs Monday, Wednesday, and Friday according to the webpage.
Have dinner and stay overnight in downtown Blythe.
Distance traveled: 185 miles today, 2,032 miles to date. Fare: $16.00 today; $290.00 to $296.50 to date. And we have hit a 2,000 mile milestone.
Week 4, day 2, Tuesday (if we’re bailing):
If we’ve made it to Blythe, at this point I’m going to ask you to read through to the end of the article before we make a final decision. I can totally understand you saying “good enough” at this point and calling an end to the trip. If that’s where you’re at, here’s your second-place trip:
At 7:00, 9:00, or 11:00 am or at 1:00 pm, board the PVVTA route 4 and alight at Neighbors and Main, Ripley, at 7:15, 9:15, 11:15 am, or 1:15 pm. This is the end of our logged journey. Fare: $1.75, and $1.75 for the day.
Distance traveled: 10 miles today, 2,042 miles total for our ideal trip. Fare: $1.75 today; $291.75 to $298.25 total for our ideal trip.
Oh, yes, I don’t want to leave you in Ripley. Board at the same stop at 9:15 or 11:15 am or 1:15 or 3:15 pm and return to the Blythe Main Street Park and Ride. Then on Wednesday, Friday, or Monday, take the PVTA Wellness Express to return to Indio. From there, you’re on your own.
¡But wait! ¡There’s more! California to Arizona
After preparing the above itinerary, I discovered we can actually make it all the way to Wellton, Arizona. The catch is, there’s a lot of waiting and a two-to-three mile walk in the desert to places to stay midway. I would totally understand if you decided to end in Blythe. Or replan this trip in reverse, starting in Yuma; I thought about doing that, but given these parameters and that already I did all that work to plan in this direction, I decided to leave it for the extreme completist. Be sure to check you can use the Wellness Express for non-medical trips, without which this trip isn’t doable.
If we’re continuing to Arizona (ditto), and this coming Wednesday is the 2nd or 4th Wednesday, call the Quartzsite Camel Express office on Tuesday including a request for a dropoff at the motel area. Otherwise, plan to spend some time exploring Blythe.
Week unknown, day unknown, 2nd or 4th Wednesday of the month
So, it depends. If the next day, Wednesday, is the 2nd or 4th Wednesday, we can continue the next day. If not, we have to wait at least a week or, worst case, two weeks, before we can continue.
Make sure you made your reservations the day before (or earlier if you want to be safe), and be at the Blythe, California, Rite Aid on Hobsonway for the Quartzsite Camel Express Gold Route, leaving at 12:40 pm and arriving at Quartzsite, Arizona, City Hall at 1:15 pm. Fare $6.00, which will also do us for today.
Reference for the above: Quartzsite Camel Express schedule.
Hopefully, we remembered to ask for a route deviation for a dropoff near our motel and that it’s within the route deviation area. Otherwise walk or get a ride for the two or three miles to the motel area. Fortunately, there are restaurants nearby, as, depending on the calendar, we have another wait coming.
And I’m not counting this as a violation of the dial-a-ride provision, as it’s a scheduled trip. We’ll take a route deviation. Actually, if the connection with the Blue and Gold routes is a separate dial-a-ride ride, we’ll wink at that as it’s not part of our fares or mileage.
There are restaurants nearby, which is good because we might be here for a while.
If the quirks of the calendar are such that the 1st or 3rd Thursday is tomorrow, call Quartzsite Camel Express again for a seat and a route deviation on the Quartzsite Camel Express Blue Route.
Distance traveled: 22 miles today, 2,054 miles to date. Fare: $6.00 today; $296.00 to $302.50 to date. And we may have hit a $300 fare milestone.
Week unknown, day unknown, 1st or 3rd Thursday of the month
Get up super-early and have an early breakfast. We need to be back at the Quartzsite, Arizona, town hall two to three miles away unless we got a route deviation. Take the Quartzsite Camel Express Blue Route from town hall at 8:30 am, alighting at Yuma Sam’s Club at 11:00 am. Fare: $11.00, for $11.00 so far today.
Reference for the above: Quartzsite Camel Express schedule.
Let’s take a lunch and bathroom break, then walk to the Yuma County Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority (YCAT, and don’t ask me how they came up with that acronym) 2 stop on Pacific going southbound opposite East 14th. Take the YCAT 2 at about 1:30 pm to the Arizona Western College transit hub, arriving at 1:50 pm. Fare: $2.00, for $13.00 so far today.
Reference for the above: YCAT route 2.
Finally (¡finally!) catch the YCAT route 8 Fortuna Foothills Shuttle at 2:57 pm, the only trip of the day that goes to Wellton, and arriving at Arizona and William, Wellton, Arizona. Fare: $2.00, for $15.00 so far today.
Distance traveled: 113 miles today, 2,167 miles to date. Fare: $15.00 today; $311.00 to $317.50 to date. If we didn’t hit the $300 fare milestone our previous travel day, then we hit it today.
And there you have it. The longest possible bus-only trip in North America using only public transit.