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To see California in a new way, a journalist took a 38-hour trip on public transport

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco is a trip that can happen in a lot of different ways. You can obviously fly - that's my preference - which takes a little over an hour. You can drive, which takes roughly six hours - I mean, not when I drive because I'm really slow. You can also take the bus with private companies like Greyhound, which takes even longer. But, you know, our next guest - he made the trek way, way longer. He hopped on public transportation. That's right. It took journalist Jeong Park 38 hours to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco. And he wrote all about this feat for SFGATE and joins us now. Welcome, Jeong.

JEONG PARK: Hi.

CHANG: Hi. Oh, my God. I guess my first question is why? This sounds so brutally painful to me.

PARK: (Laughter).

CHANG: Why did you do this?

PARK: It really it was. But having said that, I wanted to find a different way to explore California and all the different parts of California. I made that drive between San Francisco and Los Angeles dozens of times, as many Californians have done.

CHANG: Yeah.

PARK: And I think my most striking memory when I'm driving is just trying to slap myself awake when I'm on Interstate 5...

CHANG: Totally.

PARK: ...And nothing to see.

CHANG: Yeah. It gets numbing.

PARK: And I felt - oh, really, it was. It really is. And as I prepared to move out of state for this new job in Seattle, I thought about, you know, writing my final love letter to California...

CHANG: (Laughter).

PARK: ...And doing this trip to learn more about the state that I had called home for nearly 20 years.

CHANG: Right. You are now an editor at the Seattle Times, right?

PARK: Yes.

CHANG: Right. OK, so you wanted to get in touch with your love for California, writing this so-called love letter by making this epic pilgrimage from Los Angeles to San Francisco by public transportation. But did you really connect with that love? - because relying on public trains and buses, I'm sure, took a lot of meticulous, painstaking planning. There are so many different systems you have to link up, which is a reflection of the state of public transit in California. How intricate or frustrating was it to plan getting from LA to SF by public transportation?

PARK: Yeah. I mean, it was 13 rides. I had to download, I believe, four, five or six apps...

CHANG: Oh, my God.

PARK: ...Because each public transit system had its own app that you can pay...

CHANG: (Laughter).

PARK: ...Your fare through. I had to spend a few days before making this trip, planning out, OK, which bus can I take? Which train can I take and make sure that I don't miss any bus? There was some really tight layover - layover as short as, you know, 20, 30 minutes. And if you miss that layover, you're done.

CHANG: Ah, that bus cannot be late.

PARK: Yeah, that bus cannot be late.

CHANG: So what was one of your absolute favorite moments on this epic journey?

PARK: I think the views are amazing - right? - when you are taking a bus from Ventura to Santa Barbara and you're seeing...

CHANG: Oh, yeah.

PARK: ...Pacific Ocean on Highway 101 on your left. And being on the bus means you don't have to worry about staying on the road. You don't have to worry about potentially getting into an accident with a car. You can just relax and watch the scene play out...

CHANG: Yeah.

PARK: ...And take a lot of photos. I think that view was one of my favorite. But also, I rode into San Luis Obispo for weekly farmer's market and rode into two football players having a barbecue eating contest.

CHANG: (Laughter).

PARK: Central Coast is really big for barbecue, actually...

CHANG: Oh.

PARK: ...Some really...

CHANG: OK.

PARK: ...Good barbecue.

CHANG: Nice.

PARK: So getting to see that - that's a fun experience. And I would not have had that experience if I was just driving through Interstate 5, trying to get to San Francisco as quickly as I can.

CHANG: That's so true. What a cool way to rediscover California.

PARK: Yeah. And, I mean, I don't, you know, recommend everybody to make the journey because it's a 38-hour-long journey.

CHANG: At least.

PARK: But I do think it's worth doing at least once in your life...

CHANG: Yeah.

PARK: ...Especially if you have time and if you can go on vacation for a week or two.

CHANG: Well, I'm off for a few days in June, so maybe I will make this epic journey or maybe not. That is journalist Jeong Park. Thank you so much for joining us, Jeong.

PARK: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Alejandra Marquez Janse
Alejandra Marquez Janse is a producer for NPR's evening news program All Things Considered. She was part of a team that traveled to Uvalde, Texas, months after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary to cover its impact on the community. She also helped script and produce NPR's first bilingual special coverage of the State of the Union – broadcast in Spanish and English.
Katia Riddle
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
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