Greetings from the Midpines, CA (MDP) Amtrak Thruway Bus (operated by YARTS) Stop!
Yes I am spending the night directly at this stop since it is located at the entrance to the driveway of the Yosemitti Bug Youth Hostel whose stop location is described as being at the Hostel on Amtrak’s website (with the ridiculous no’s to all amenities, it claims an accessible platform but I guess that means all the buses just are) and there is an Amtrak California Bus Stop sign posted. I arrived here from Sacramento at about 7pm this evening after a long day of traveling, visiting all 4 cities served by the San Joaquin in between plus 3 former Southern Pacific (now UP) stations on their competing line. In total I rode 3 San Joaquin Trains, a MAX (Modesto Area Express), a BLaST (Bus Line Service of Turlock), and a StaRT (Stanislaus Regional Transit) CNG Transit Buses, a random white chartered bus (operating as an Amtrak Thruway Connection Bus) and YARTS (Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System) coach buses, plus a BLaST cutaway van.That is a lot of trains and I used an $18.90 Amtrak multi-stop ticket (less than 24 hour layovers are free remember!) plus $4.50 in change for the city buses (could have been $3 had I realized and asked for the right transfer), and $6 for YARTS up to Midpines. I would have bought my thruway ticket through Amtrak but it jacked up the price of my entire itinerary by a lot more than $6 including negating my entire NARP discount for the trip so I just paid cash.
The trip worked itself together beginning with me checking out of my hostel in Sacramento after being the only one in a ten bed dorm room for the night (I had one or two roommates the other two nights) and walking to the Amtrak station where I arrived at 6:30 for a 6:40 train and had my bag refused being checked (it had closed for the actual departing train) even when I said I did not care when it actually arrived in Merced. The train left Sacramento going in the same direction as I arrived on the Zephyr before curving south on SP (now UP) tracks going beneath the gold light rail line but not taking any of the ROW the light rail lines use or the set of tracks I notice going along one side of downtown at a grade. I am alone in the first car of the train, a cab car that was mostly taped off with a sign say Reserved for Special Group (guess one was getting on farther along), I do like the California Fleets Automatic doors since they let you sit in any car you choose since most doors open at most stations. It is an uneventful ride to the first stop of the day Lodi at 7:18 after dawn has broken and the sun has come up
Lodi has a wonderful restored yellow SP depot now home to Gape Line, its transit system. I go for a bit of a walk in the dowontown whose large size I am surprised by and find nothing for breakfast, I finish my photo essay and take Thruway Bus #3832 down Route 99 to Stockton-Amtrak/San Joaquin Station (not to be confused with the Downtown/ACE station used by the trains to and from Sacramento, I am planning to return and finish both depots in Stockton). There I have just enough time to wait in line for the ticket counter in the crowded depot (a train to the Bay Area was supposed to arrive just before mine, connecting to the bus I just got off of but is late and comes in after instead) for an agent who after a slight hesitation checks my backpack for the day down to Merced. Many people in the station are waiting just to take the train to San Francisco.
A bit crowded train #712 comes in early at 9:07 and I get on immediately and am joined by an odd lady since there plenty (albeit most facing backwards) still empty sets of two seats. The train sits for 10 minutes (a bit too much recovery time so early in a route if you ask me) and I watch my green backpack being driven to the baggage compartment in the lower-level of one of the cars. We leave on time at 9:17, passing late northbound #701 at 9:22. It is a short ride down to Modesto where I get off at 9:43 at the station on the edge of the suburbs along some agricultural fields, there is a farmer and his dog just beyond the platform. At 9:58 my MAX bus #25 arrives that I take downtown. It’s a long slow ride with two wheelchairs (the capacity of the bus) making it slower to the former SP depot in downtown Mondesto is now a transit center and the hub of MAX and Greyhound. I had a ticket for the one-stop to Turlock on the next train (#714) but after more research I decided not to use it. After a far too large breakfast at the Mill Café and the requisite photo essay I got on intercity Express StaRT Bus #10 to its opposite terminus in Central Park. There I got some photos of the former SP depot that has been turned into Wellington Station, a British Pub.
Next comes the reason I had not planned for (and ticketed this idea all along). Denair, (the Santa Fe town) a sister small town of much bigger Turlock (the SP city) doesn’t have direct bus service to its Amtrak Station. I did though find that the nearest BLaST stop is only 2.3 miles away so I took loop B (the mini-bus) and transferred to loop C (the full size bus) to the closest stop to Denair. Next it was a fascinating walk, first along a sidewalk on a wide four lane boulevard with sound walls along each side to block noise out from sprawling subdivisions. At the edge of these subdivisions the road (including its name) changed and became a two lane highway passing some houses, fields and a crematory before coming into the northern side of the small town of Denair. I got to denair at about 2:30 giving me a little over an hour to poke around the small town which I did including enjoying an authentic quesadilla from a Mexican place for lunch. I also sat on one of two benches beneath the stations simple and small canopy along the simple short platform and noticed that next train information comes on a half-hour before the train is scheduled to arrive. A man who was definitely not disabled arrived at the station for the train as well on the call-a-ride bus. My final train of the train of the day came in 2 minutes late and we arrived in Merced for the crew change stop ten minutes early.
I got to Merced and started doing my photo essay (I’ll be returning there when I leave Yosemite on Thursday) photographing my train leaving and then Northbound train #715 that arrived immediately afterward. Next I tried to claim my bag as the northbound was still in the station (two Amtrak cops also stepped off the train and tried to get a bum to leave the station) but the ticket office was closed doing baggage duty with a sign telling passengers to use Quik-Trak. I then noticed a man claiming his bag directly from the luggage cart and looked. To my astonishment my green backpack was sitting there on the small electric cart! It must have been riding around doing station work all day since it got their at 10:30 in the morning! The other times I’ve checked a bag onto an earlier train (albeit sent to larger stations) it was sent ahead and I found it sitting in the baggage room (in the case of Portland, OR and in Penn Station) and saw it just sitting behind the ticket counter (in the case of Milwaukee).
At that point I had almost an hour and a half before my YARTs bus up to Midpines and knew that the Merced Transit Center (home to The Bus, Merced Regional Transit) was along the SP tracks. YARTS stops at both places including the Amtrak Station. I walked over there and found out that the transit center is a replica station now home to what else but Greyhound and a Visitors Information Center that I walked into just before they closed and got the touristy brochures for Yosemite. The actual historic station is next-door and vacant, formerly home to the Merced Department of Parks and Recreation that has moved. I then sat on a bench, reading my brochures waiting for YARTS. The YARTS ride was on my second coach bus of the day and it took me an hour and ten minutes on a ride that I could tell was quite a bit uphill to reach the opposite terminus of this run at the entrance to the Driveway of the Bug Hostel in Midpines (MDP). When I was the last passenger (I was getting off at the last stop) and had an interesting chat with the driver who said he had heard people talk about how much they love the Bug Hostel
By the way, yesterday was a busy day getting every stop of the Sacramento Light Rail photographed including a questioning by a cop who told me I was allowed to take my pictures as long as I didn’t violate the complicated loitering law of Regional Transit (posted at every non downtown sidewalk station) which is letting a train on the same go by in each direction and not boarding either of them. Signs also informed me that your also aloud to wait with another passenger boarding the next train in their direction of travel or for an arriving passenger as long as the wait does not exceed 15 minutes. Exceeding these limits in Sacramento apparently can result in a loitering ticket. I also got the usual don’t trespass and enter the Right-of-Ways and other non-public places, the common-sense I use on every trip