High Five for MTA’s Route #65 Bus to Fort Bragg
By Una Wirkebau, executive director, Greater Ukiah Business and Tourism Alliance
Having lived in Europe, I am a huge proponent of public transportation. Though I do have a car, I also live in downtown Ukiah and choose to walk as often as possible. Oddly enough, I also LOVE to drive. Long road trips are some of my fondest memories. When you can combine two favorite things however, and not have to worry about having a glass of wine, or being tired or even frustrated with not so courteous drivers….taking the bus, is a dream come true!
When I learned you can take a 90 minute ride from Ukiah to Fort Bragg – for only $10.50 return, I said “no way”! But sure enough, this dog and bike friendly option is available every day of the week. Saturday works best for my schedule, and though there are several trips heading both East and West, to take advantage of same day return service, I had to be ready to board at 9:25. The bus stop in Ukiah is located at Pear Tree Plaza, adjacent to the South entrance of JC Penney. Parking is free, another added bonus. My dog and I, along with a handful of friends and another dog as well, all met up last Saturday morning, to begin our adventure.
Our driver was delightful and informative, we shared the bus with a mom and her son. Departing promptly at 9:25, we headed North; stopping in Redwood Valley and at a couple of locations in Willits as well. Though the bus was much noisier than I had anticipated, it was very comfortable, with about 20 seats and a large space in the back for wheelchair access or overflow bikes. We had been warned that the curvy road to the coast would possibly bring on motion sickness, more so than being in a regular sized vehicle, but none of us had any challenges, including the dogs.
Upon arriving into Fort Bragg, close to 11 am, our first stop was at the Boat Yard Shopping Center, which is about two miles from the historic center of town. Not being that familiar with locations in Fort Bragg outside of the shopping core, I asked if there was a stop near Glass Beach, as we wanted to let the dogs run around and play before going to lunch. “Absolutely” said our driver, “we have a regular stop at Denny’s, but I can also simply take you directly to where you would like to be dropped off, as long as it is a safe location.” How fabulous! One of our riders has a bad ankle, so long walks would not be suggested. Sure enough, he took us to the parking lot adjacent to the beach.
After frolicking next to the surf, we wandered 2 blocks to Overtime Brewing, as they have a lovely dog friendly deck, wonderful brews and a fantastic menu. We were met up by some locals for lunch, enjoyed comradery, then walked 4 blocks South, to the center of town. Separating out to window shop, browse adorable stores, purchase gifts, chat with merchants, take photos, and enjoy the sunny afternoon.
As 3 p.m. grew near, we stayed along Franklin Street as it had been recommended by the driver earlier that day. He said we could be picked up anywhere, to just flag the bus down. We hadn’t realized this could potentially be confusing, and though we had downloaded the app “RouteShout 2.0,” this was not helping us figure out where to be for the only bus returning to Ukiah that day. A bus we thought was ours, headed towards us, but he did not stop and did not seem to have any information he could provide us. We literally stumbled upon an actual bus stop, not on N Franklin, but on E Laurel, across from the back side of City Hall, where our bus pulled up, moments later. He had actually been looking for us, as the earlier driver had informed him we would be looking to return that afternoon. This time the bus was empty for the ride, which was just as lovely on the way home.
Arriving back into Ukiah close to 4:30 that afternoon, everyone agreeing they had an excellent time. One rider even lamenting on about how this was one of the nicest public transportation options she had experienced in the USA or in Europe. Perfectly fun and for a family to take bikes and enjoy educating one another on how to get around, even when you live in what is considered a remote location. Great for those who would like to have a few drinks with friends, but not the time to spend the night. Super for events when you don’t want the hassle of driving, can spend the night and come back the next day. Just as easy to go from Fort Bragg to Ukiah.
I know I will be taking this trip again and hope to see you on board!