Train + rails-to-trails to Sebastopol


Today was another multimodal travel day. After a leisurely morning, lounging around the house and then meandering over to the worker-owned local grocery store, I packed up my rig once again, said goodbye to my host, and headed to the Cotati SMART train station. I love local trains and transit systems almost as much as long-distance trains, so even though I only “needed” the train for two stops—to downtown Santa Rosa—I chose to take it, rather than cycling that distance.

I’m so glad I did. In that very brief time, I interacted with three interesting fellow passengers on this commuter line:

A young man (if you’re reading this, hi, Humberto!) who was intrigued by my rig, and who told me about a friend of his with a degenerative disease, who, along with others with the same condition, recently undertook a cycle-across-America trip of their own. From what I gathered, this ride served several purposes: for the participants to enjoy the physicality they still had access to (some of them rode modified bikes to make it more accessible for them); to raise awareness about their condition; and to raise funds to help people with their condition.

Another passenger appeared to be a young-teenaged boy who was a regular rider. Immediately upon boarding, he asked Humberto if he would be willing to give up his seat, because that seat is his favorite on the train. (Humberto graciously complied, seemingly both puzzled and bemused by the request.) This young fellow proved to be a font of knowledge about the transit system and the history of Santa Rosa, reeling off dates of when certain local buildings had been constructed, and when the train platform at the downtown station had been replaced.

The third passenger noticed my rig as we exited the train, and expressed interest in buying a Brompton for herself. She was a professor at Washington State University (I wanted to ask about this, but she walked away quickly after our brief exchange about the bike) and admiringly proclaimed the Brompton “slick as shit,” marveling that it would make her travels much easier.

I love traveling with this rig. And taking transit. And meeting people.

When I disembarked, I quickly found the Joe Rodata Trail, just a couple of blocks away: six car-free miles of pavement connecting downtown Santa Rosa to downtown Sebastopol, adjacent to the highway. The wine-country views of fields and trees were beautiful, as the light began to fade.

I met my hosts for tonight—longtime friends of my Portland friend Marc, from when they did a peace march across the country together in the 1980s—at their mom-and-pop optometry shop in downtown Sebastopol. They treated me to a home-cooked meal in their cozy house outside of town, while their two enthusiastic puppies and three snuggly cats kept us company.

Tomorrow I’m looking forward to exploring Sebastopol!

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