I missed out on the Age of Exploration by a century or three. There is nothing left on this planet to explore. So in order to do something new and different, I choose to travel in an unorthodox manner. For example, I recently visited every inhabited island in the State of Hawaii, including the Forbidden Isle of Niihau. I am also trying to travel from the top of North America (Prudhoe Bay, Alaska) to the tip of South America (Ushuaia, Argentina) by only using public transportation. Recently, I attempted to visit all 44 BART stations as quickly as possible.
BART stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit. It is the San Francisco Bay Area’s heavy rail system. Ever since I moved here twenty years ago, I have wanted to try to visit every station. Here is what happened:
6:07 AM: I can’t find my hand sanitizer. How am I going to eat the pretzels and dry cereal I am bringing to snack on? Okay, I just won’t touch anything.
6:20: I absent-mindedly touch the escalator handrail with my right hand. Now it’s soiled.
6:30: The 6:30 train to Pittsburg/Bay Point is late.
6:34: I get on the Pittsburg/Bay Point train at the Lafayette station (1st of 44).
6:36: My dirty right hand just clasped with my left hand. Both hands are now contaminated. Ugh.
6:52: I am in the exurbs now. This area caused the worldwide financial crisis. At the peak of the housing bubble, houses here jumped from $125,000 to $500,000 plus. When the bubble burst and prices collapsed, it ruined those who borrowed to buy at the top of the market and homeowners who used the inflated equity as their personal ATM machines.
6:56: Arrive at Pittsburg (6th of 44), the end of the Yellow Line. The same train I just rode on will be taking me to the Millbrae station, so I won’t even have to get off. I notice that the disheveled guy in my train car is also staying on board. I come to the realization that he is homeless and is going to ride the train all day because he has nowhere else to go.
7:32: Rockridge station (8th of 44). The lady sitting next to me is reading a trashy novel with a half naked fireman on the cover.
7:35: MacArthur station (9th of 44). I’m getting motion sickness. Not good.
7:47: The train goes underground and underwater, into the Transbay Tube. It connects Oakland with San Francisco. I’m always afraid while riding in it that there is going to be an earthquake and we’re all going to drown.
7:51: Embarcadero station (13th of 44). This is the first of many San Francisco stations.
8:08: San Francisco sure is foggy.
8:24: San Francisco International Airport station (25th of 44).
8:29: Millbrae station (26th of 44), the other end of the Yellow Line. Wow, there is hardly any time to rest. This train is turning back towards the East Bay. I’ve got the bulk of the trip done. Now, it’s just the spurs.
8:54: I wonder if that homeless guy that has been sitting there since I got on-board at 6:34 is wondering why I’m not getting off the train either.
9:22: A gaggle of sorority pledges enters the train car. They are loud and look like they are ready to hit the clubs (except it’s 9:22 in the morning). For some reason, they are having a discussion about the Eurozone crisis. “Like, OMG, Italy is going to totally suffer the same fate as Greece and Spain, you guys.”
9:30: I make the dash across the platform at 12th Street Oakland to catch the Richmond-bound train.
9:56: Richmond station (32nd of 44), the end of another line. I gotta use the WC. But before I do that, I help an old lady with her suitcase down some stairs. The restroom is surprisingly clean.
10:15: I get on the Richmond to Fremont train. There is another homeless man sleeping in the train car.
11:07: My rear end is feeling numb again.
11:19: Arrive at Fremont station (41st of 44). This town is named after John C. Fremont, aka the Pathfinder. I wrote a report about him in elementary school. That homeless guy from Richmond is still sleeping.
11:28: Either I or the seat smell like wet dog.
11:35: Leave Fremont. I have to double back to Bay Fair and transfer.
11:39: I’m exhausted.
11:46: Why do people with headphones have to listen to their music so LOUDLY?
11:49: Why do people walk on railroad tracks while talking on their cell phone and wearing high heels?
11:52: Bay Fair transfer.
11:54: Just got on the Dublin train. My low back hurts.
11:58: Castro Valley station (42nd of 44).
11:59: The track runs parallel with a section of the 580 freeway that’s named after my buddy Dan, an Oakland Police sergeant who, along with three fellow cops, were killed by a lone gunman. Just know that whenever you see a memorial sign like that on the side of the road, the person being commemorated was someone’s child, parent, spouse, sibling, and friend.
12:09 PM: West Dublin station (43rd of 44).
12:11: Dublin/Pleasanton station (44th of 44). Mission accomplished. It took me 5 hours and 37 minutes to visit all 44 stations. Time to go home.
* I shall assume I hold the world record because I am not aware of anyone else attempting this before. This record is not recognized by Guiness because I needed to take a picture at every station and I needed someone at each station to certify that I visited said station. Not surprisingly, no one I knew wanted to attempt this with me.
Images source: All photographs by Maxichamp. BART map courtesy BART.