Tim Clark SFO SJC San Francisco Bay Area Travel

OK, so I was doing one of my periodic “check old topics for comments I might have missed” and found one that might actually be useful for a lot of folks:


On an off-topic side conservation……I’m flying out to Pleasanton, CA the middle of November. What are the mechanics of airport usage, i.e. cheaper small ones…closer to Pleasanton….. supersonic availability ;o)….sights to see (outside of San Fran-I don’t care to fight crowds of Californians) …etc. I need to book a flight, from Wichita. You have my e-mail address. Sorry for this intrusion, but I hate to travel without advance knowledge.

I responded with some points in a comment just below that one (though a week and a half later). Still some time though. So my general take on it (somewhat edited from my comment) are:

San Francisco / San Jose / Bay Area airports and rail

Airports: I assume “commercial” flights. SFO San Francisco is usually cheapest, but on the wrong side of the bay, yet BART will take you to Dublin / Pleasanton:


Bart stations and map here: http://bart.gov/stations/

so It’s nearly nothing to get there (an hour or two, BART is INSIDE the SFO complex / station) just watch out for arriving at midnight… Comfortable cars, reasonably safe service and stations.

BART System Map

BART System Map

Note that on the other side of the bay from SFO is OAK Oakland. Looks like they have bus service to the Oakland Colosseum BART station:


AirBART operates between OAK and the BART Coliseum/Oakland Airport station daily, approximately every 10 minutes, until midnight. Service begins at 5 a.m., Monday through Saturday, and at 8 a.m. on Sundays and holidays. There is a single shuttle stop for both terminals, conveniently located between Terminal 1 and 2 at OAK’s third curbside.

One-way regular fare is $3.00; One-way fare for Seniors (age 65+), Children (age 12 and under) and Disabled passengers with I.D is $1.00.

Fares can be paid on-board bus with exact change only or with a $1.00 or $3.00 BART ticket (available for purchase at the Coliseum station). NOTE: Bus ticket machines do not make change.

Bart has machines that take most any kind of US bills (and credit cards in select machines). It’s a ‘few bucks’ to get around. $4 or $5 last I did it.

After that, you have SJC San Jose which is ‘close’ if you rent a car; and has both light rail ‘nearby’ and an Amtrak line within taxi / light rail range.

This page lets you find train schedules, but in my playing with it, it did not want to give me a route from San Jose to Pleasanton:


AMTRAK can be a pain, so I’d only use them if all else fails, or if you want a train ride to Los Angeles or Chicago ;-)

The “best bet” is likely the bus connection to Fremont, then pick up BART there.

Though CalTrain has regular “commuter service” up the peninsula to SF (with a major hub at Millbrae) from which you can pick up BART and proceed on around the whole bay back down the other side to Pleasanton. Yeah, long way around the mountain… But you DID say you wanted to sight see!

CalTain map from here: http://www.caltrain.com/stations/systemmap.html

Doesn’t run in the dead of night…

CalTrain System Map

CalTrain System Map

Schedule more limited than BART, so check it…
Note that the dotted blue line at the top is BART.

There’s easy taxi / bus service from SJC to the CalTrain / AMTRAK station and there’s a bus to light rail in San Jose (that also connects to CalTrain at selected stations. Such as that Tamien station in south San Jose and up the peninsula near Mountain View. Though ‘walking distance’ between the two at the San Jose downtown station).

More maps of the San Jose Transit system than I care to think about here:


It connects to some other local Transit Authorities so in theory you can get anywhere… if you have enough time and can work the connections right. Their site also has a map of ‘interesting things’ they go to ( including Malls and Hospitals… ) so the others might have that kind of thing too.

This link shows the route from VTA / Light Rail to Fremont Bart:


While this one has the whole system map in giant form. Has a detailed inset for downtown San Jose including the Greyhound connection. Also some alternate routes to get to Fremont also show up on it and “route 10” at San Jose airport that connects to CalTrain at the Santa Clara University station (called “Santa Clara Transit Center” on the map.). That is walking distance (across the street) to one of the California Missions. Mission Santa Clara.

WELL worth the time if you have never seen a mission. There are several in the area.




One is even ‘close’ to the Fremont BART station (as it is technically in Fremont now). Mission San Jose:



On the “120 and 140” bus lines here:


So two missions easy to reach by mass transit (not counting the San Franciso or Marin missions as Tim said he wanted to avoid San Francisco).


So depending on stations and interest, you can land at SJC, take a bus to light rail, swap to that 180 line, then at Fremont take BART to Pleasanton. ( I think OAK has it easier ;-)

Oakland and Hayward are not too different from SJC in distance, but don’t know what mass transit options (ie. BART / Amtrack) are at Hayward, so best to check on them or buses. Both are OK airports ( I’ve done Oakland to other parts of the country) and sometimes it has lower fairs (why I’ve done it ;-) Hayward is a Biz Jet class and former military site. So if you have a personal Jet, just fly on in ;-)

Some of it depends a bit on what part of Pleasanton and why. (House of a friend in the ‘burbs, or downtown convention center?) And do you need a rental car. Just flying into any of them with a rental car is fairly easy (though I’d likely do Oakland then).

Sights to see depends on what you like. In San Jose we have the Woz tech museum and the Winchester Mystery House (mostly just a strangely built old house, despite the hype) along with more stuff reachable by light rail than I can list. (Even things like getting off near Moffett field and seeing Hangar One being (torn down / remodeled depending on the week / politics du jour) or or you can hit up Castro Street in Mountain View for more restaurants than I care to think about.

Doing a south run on CalTrain puts you in Farm Country…

There is usually some kind of sports or shows going on at the Oakland Colosseum. San Jose has one too: Shark Tank / HP Pavilion I’m fond of “Egyptian Stuff” so like the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose (Real Mummies!). Lots of parks, libraries, strip clubs, fine dining, … Heck you can even take light rail to a ‘connector’ bus over to Santa Cruz and do the Beach Board Walk / Pier with your choice of dining, fishing, swimming (cold water!), surfing, and a large wooden roller coaster. Oh, and a “tops optional” beach last time I was there (a decade? back) but probably a bit cold for that right now ;-) Oh, and the “Chili Cookoff” happens Oct 27, so you will miss that too…

There’s a steam train in Scott’s Valley and a connector to it from Santa Cruz.

This says they have a “Beach train” so you could go over to the beach, and pick up that train into the hills:


which would run you through some of the smaller redwoods along the way (not the preserved giants in the parks, though). Which reminds me: Lots of camping in the Santa Cruz mountains including in those large old redwoods..

So “what to see” sort of depends on “what you like”. More shore, forests, city and such than any person can see in a lifetime ( I’ve been trying… they build new stuff faster than I can get to it ;-)

Finally, Pleasanton is part of the Livermore Valley Transit system:


They have some kind of fancy generated map (that gave me an error message about some plug-ins being ‘out of date’ so YMMV) of the system here:


That’s the ‘weekday’ map. Saturday and Sunday have their own maps. So you might want to start from that map and see if it goes where you want as your destination, then work back to ‘places to see’ or land a plane…

If it were me, I’d just take a flight into SFO and get on BART inside the terminal… see the whole Bay Area ‘en passant’ from a nice seat in a decent car, and get off in Pleasanton… then figure out what to do after parking the luggage…

BTW, there’s a nice connection via Transit Authority into Marin County from BART and from San Francisco local mass transit. So if you want to go ‘up there’ to look around, that’s possible too. A search on any particular area (such as “Oakland”) and the words “Transit” or “Transit Authority” will likely pull up the local bus / light rail system. It all connects “somewhere” and “some times”, so mostly it’s just an exercise in schedule planning.

So “where do you want to go” and “what do you want to see”, then work the details from there.

Some ideas:

There are about 22 museums in Livermore alone. ONE example:


If you like ships, there’s the USS Hornet.

Not too far from CalTrain is the Palo Alto Hiller aviation museum:


To which I’ve never quite made it…

And so much more… things like ‘walking tours’ of the salt marsh near San Jose and a less rugged one up in San Mateo and dirt bikes at a track out in the boonies near Livermore / Pleasanton and a couple of drag race places and…

So folks with other favorites, post a link! And Tim can tell us what kind of things he likes.

UPDATE: 14 Oct 2012 to add ACE Map

As I was looking around, found out That ACE stops in Pleasanton, so adding that map:

ACE route map

ACE route map Altamont Commuter Express

Image from their web site: http://www.acerail.com/Home.aspx

So at some times of day, ACE lets you skip BART and the long path between Fremont and Pleasanton while also connecting to the ‘inland cow country’ ;-) As it connects on through to San Jose / Caltrain that means you can go around the entire south bay entirely by train (and via Amtrak connect to the rest of the nation…)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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16 Responses to Tim Clark SFO SJC San Francisco Bay Area Travel

  1. BobN says:

    @EM – a very good tour. I lived in the Bay for 20 years and visited most of these places. One of my favorites was to take the CalTrain trip from South San Jose to the Horse Track in Redwood City. It was a fast ride and I could have a few beers at the track and not worry about the drive home. Didn’t realize how much stuff there was to do until I left. A lot of things about the Bay that is very good.

  2. E.M.Smith says:

    Wiki has a list of local airports, only three are listed as commercial:


    Oddly missing is the Glider Port where I took glider lessons… Guess it “doesn’t count” as it was a grass field near Fremont… next to a drag strip that had a REALLY nice paved runway ;-) and we were sternly warned “Do NOT try to land on the really nice runway as it’s NOT a runway… look for the barely noticed strip of dirt just to the side of it a ways…”

    Now it’s buildings and parking lots…

    I remembered Hayward as being “bigger” than it is now described, and it seems that it was:

    Includes a list of conversions of land to manufacturing and outright sales. 1000 ish acres. Sad that. In the ’70s there had been talk of making it a 4th commercial location IIRC. Now it’s just in decline.

    Since the 1970s the general aviation industry has steadily declined. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Hayward airport was the sixth busiest airport in the nation (!), with over 420,000 “operations” (take-offs and landings) annually and 600 aircraft based at the airport. By 1995 annual aircraft operations had decreased to about 154,000, and the number of aircraft based at the airport fell to 356. However, since 1995 annual operations have increased.

    So looks like commercial options are just the three I covered. Next nearest looks like Sacramento (a 20 minute ‘hop and pop’ over the hills) but not a lot of surface transport this way from there… I think you could likely make Greydog (Greyhound bus) or Amtrak work… if desperate ;-)

    So looks like “closest” is just OAK, ‘easiest’ is likely SFO, and most ground transit connections that take you anywhere but don’t actually go TO the airport is SJC.. (But ‘we have a shuttle / bus to transit’…)


    I forgot the race track! How could I!
    BTW, getting a bit “stewed” at a Raiders game at the OAK Colosseum and taking Bart back is a nice feature too… though the swaying can be a bit, er, ‘bothersome’ if too far along…


    Suppose I ought to add that the bottom of the CalTrain map says distance to Gilroy ‘not to scale’. It’s about 20 miles… Why go to Gilroy? Well, other than seeing where Tech meets Farm Country, it has a large “outlet mall” and The Gilroy Garlic Festival. (Over for the year in July…). Yes, when the garlic is being harvested, the driers can put out an aroma… but more garlic than you can imagine and fun stuff like Garlic Ice Cream… Honest!


    So if you get tired of “city”, then “country” is just a train ride away. For folks wanting even more remote, swap over to Amtrak on the same rails and continue on down to 1/2 way to L.A. and get off at one of the “whistle stops”… but check the schedule… some of them have no hotels and only one or two stops a day last I looked… so depending on what direction you start from and when you get off, next ‘pick up’ the other way can be 1/2 day or more away. Or just go on down to L.A. and Hollywood ;-)

    I also added some notes about Missions near the airport and reachable by bus to the article above. Their are also missions in San Francisco and up in Wine Country and then further down along the Caltrain / other routes south.

    Speaking of which, there’s “wine country” both north and south of the Bay Area proper and there is the wine train:


    But Livermore Valley has it’s own ‘wine country’ and you can even get a limo tour (hey, they even pick up at the airports! Get a limo AND sozzled on the way to the hotel!)


    These folks do it on bikes (but it ends in mid November depending on weather):


    And dozens more choices

    So if you like wine, we’ve got wine…

    Or you can head south to Santa Clara county wineries:


    A packaged tour of a winery, flower seed producer, and downtown Gilroy:


    Though I’d rather just rent a car and explore… though if you have the bucks, these guys look like they will build a tour of whatever you like:


    Basically, get outside of the city bubble in any direction and you are in ‘wine country’ and there are wineries to tour and sample… Personally, I’ve done the north (Napa / Sonoma) and South (Santa Clara) but not the “middle coast” down 1/2 way to L.A. (looked but didn’t stop) nor the Livermore Vally. What I remember of it, and the soils and climate, it is well suited to good strong yet soft reds. Might be a touch warm for German style whites (but maybe on the north slope of a hill… cooler with less sun).

    I’d seriously consider finding a way to do a Livermore Valley wine tour…

  3. Pascvaks says:

    O/T – Back in ’83 I had to take my care from Monterey to the Port of SF to have it shipped to Germany. Since opening and reading this entry and the comments, I’ve been trying to remember that trip… I can’t. I know I made the drive, dropped off the car, and I think I got back OK — but I can’t remember that trip for nothing! It’s all washed or buried under a ton or two of other ‘stuff’ (as Biden says).

    PS: FWIW – Back in those days I wasn’t ‘medicated’ for a little problem that tended to short out some ‘stuff’ in my head. When I get up “There” I’m going to have to watch the Reruns of my life and see what happened; wonder what else I’ve done? ;-)

  4. bruce says:

    reminds me of the glider port next to I-90 . The landing route had you cross the freeway fairly low. I enjoyed seeing gliders as I was riding in Issaquah Wa.. Its a shopping mall now, then, it was surrounded by marsh and cows. I got four twenty minute flights for a birthday one year.
    Which leads me to the realization that youth doesn’t seem to take full account for the magnitude of some experiences. Experience may not be wasted on youth but it is under appreciated. Oh and I bought myself a parachute jump there. Back when the shoots looked like domes.
    sorry for the OT/ thanks for the memory

  5. PPugliano says:

    “Oakland and Hayward are not too different from SJC in distance, but don’t know what mass transit options (ie. BART / Amtrack) are at Hayward”
    Hayward does have BART (2 stations)
    SFO to Pleasanton by BART is 1h 25 minutes
    Hayward to Pleasanton is about 22 minutes
    Landscape wise, to me the most beautiful area around there is Marin county: the Marin Headlands, Mount Tam, Stinson Beach, the Point Reyes area, etc. Can’t do it on public transportation, though. Rent a car and the quickest way from Pleasanton is through the Richmond-San Rafael bridge. If you like good wine, drive up to the Sonoma valley (less croweded than the Napa valley)

  6. E.M.Smith says:


    OH, but you can do it on mass transit…


    “stagecoach” line 61 visits Stinson Beach and another goes on up to Point Reyes. ( I lived in Bolinas for a while… where the “Raccoon in the bed” story happened ;-)

    That Marin bus system does go ‘over the bridge’ into San Francisco, but frankly I’d take the ferry ride to Larkspur Landing (I worked across from it with a view of it for a couple of years).


    Whole bunch of maps here:


    So one could take Bart to the Embarcadero stop (pumpkin color rectangle at the top of the map in the link), do a very short walk (or take the trolly 2 blocks) to the SF Ferry Building:

    Click to access Map_SFFerry.pdf

    Get on a nice big fast ship, and land in Marin (seeing all the interesting islands and stuff in the bay in the process) then get on a “stagecoach” and go to the beach via those headlands…

    Frankly, it sounds like a fun thing to try… (despite my familiarity with the public transit systems, I rarely use them as I really like my car… Mercedes have nice seats… but the ferry is one I did use some times as it was walking distance from the office and dumped us out in SF with clients right there. It is a very interesting ride with good scenery and low wait times.)

    I agree that it’s some of the most beautiful views around.

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    The Oakland Ferry is a bit further from the Oakland Bart Transbay Terminal than is Embarcadero from the SF Ferry Building (looks like an OK walk, but not if the weather is off… about 4 or 5 blocks. Probably a shuttle bus in service at normal hours).

    They also have an “Angel Island” stop. So you could do a walking tour of Angel Island (well worth it… I’ve done it a few times) and then go on to SF and from there to Marin / Larkspur. As Angel Island is only reachable by Ferry, it never gets overrun with tourists. Rate limited at the docks…
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angel_Island_State_Park with a map:

    and some nice pictures.

    Even on heavy tourist summer weekends I’d taken my boat (God I miss my boat… 27 foot shallow draft motor and sail… with 27 inches of draft I could go anywhere in the bay, that has a 10 foot average depth and lots of it under 4 foot…) to Angel Island and it was an uncrowded place. Even once when there were a couple of weddings going on.

    Heck, I’m tempted to drive to Oakland just to try the “boat to Angel Island” and on to SF / Larkspur Stinson Beach thing just because it would be a heck of a day… (Probably better done over two days, though. Angel Island can be a full day all by itself, as can Stinson Beach).

    Alameda / Contra Costa (AC or Oakland) transit site: http://www.actransit.org/

    Their maps are nearly useless (either such a far away view you can’t read it or single line close ups that don’t let you see how that line connects to anything else. FINE if you already know you want THAT line… but if you want to see ‘what line goes from the Transbay Terminal to the Ferry Terminal’… well, it’s a pain.) So here’s a list of their lines:

    It looks like lots of stuff goes to the transbay terminal (though they call it ‘temporary transbay terminal’) including a lot of buses over the bridge into SF. So looks like one could “pop up” in Oakland and do some kind of bus tour over the Bay Bridge if you wanted to see things (instead of doing the BART Tube under the water – that’s an interesting experience but not a lot of ‘view’… doing 60 mph in a dark tube under the bay for 20 minutes? is an interesting experience… but one some folks might prefer to skip. Faster than the bus, and easy if you are not queasy about a lot of water over your head in earthquake country… but they assure us it’s not a problem and when the 7,1 shook it up, they were only stuck in the tube for a few hours ;-) Then again, folks on the bridge had a panel drop out and crashed into the hole… Personally, I’d take the ferry ;-)

    Needless to say there are a lot of things to see in Oakland and up in Berkeley. Frankly, one of my favored things to do would be to spend time wandering the Berkeley campus and visiting the library. After coffee on Telegraph Avenue ;-) And the “people watching” of the street people ;-)

    If you think of Bart as the “spine” of the system, and the local Transit Authorities as distribution from those spots, it’s a fairly complete system. Yes, some “odd bits”, like San Jose, where we waited a few decades for Bart to come, then gave up and did Light Rail and Caltrain.. so you get to swap systems… Though I’m told Bart will be coming to San Jose Real Soon Now… as it always has been…


    San Jose subway extension

    The original plan was for the extension to continue into downtown San Jose via subway. However, in February 2009, projections of lower-than-expected sales-tax receipts from the funding measures forced the VTA to scale back the extension, ending it at the Berryessa station and delaying tunneling under downtown San Jose to a future phase of construction. The originally-planned extension from Fremont to Santa Clara would cost $6.1 billion, but the VTA estimates an extension to Berryessa would only cost $2.1 billion.

    The plans for the downtown subway start with a portal before crossing under US 101. The Alum Rock subway station would be on North 28th Street between Julian Street and Santa Clara Street. The Downtown San Jose station would be underneath Santa Clara Street spanning the block from 3rd Street to Market Street. (The Downtown San Jose station was combined in 2005 from earlier plans for separate subway stations at Civic Plaza/San Jose State University and Market Street.) The Diridon/Arena station would be between HP Pavilion at San Jose and Diridon Station, which currently serves Amtrak, Caltrain, ACE and VTA Light Rail. The BART subway would then turn north, following the Caltrain route, and exit to the surface at another portal after crossing under I-880. The Santa Clara BART station would be co-located at the existing Santa Clara Caltrain station. Separate construction plans by San Jose International Airport would bring a people-mover train to the Santa Clara BART/Caltrain/ACE/Amtrak station.

    For the subway segment in San Jose, VTA plans to use a tunnel boring machine for most of the length in order to reduce disruptions to downtown during construction. Only the station locations would have cut and cover construction. This is different from how BART subways and stations were built in San Francisco and Oakland, which used the cut and cover method. The construction of the cut and cover stations in downtown San Jose would still cause major albeit temporary disruption, including closing several blocks of Santa Clara Street and severing the VTA light rail line at that street. The extension to downtown San Jose may open in 2025

    So looks like MAYBE 2025 “This time for sure”, but with the VTA Light Rail broken for a while before that… Sigh… It’s been like this since at least 1978 that I know of… always just a couple of decades away…

    The original BART proposal was for a ‘ring’ with trains constantly in motion. They had to compromise and go with ‘shuttle end to end’ due to San Jose not willing to pay buckets of money to ‘join’. Now with extensions added the “ring” would never be run that way even if it were built. Oh Well… Maybe in 2050 it will be up and running….

    Wonder who pissed of whom that the $Trillion of “Stimulus money” for “shovel ready projects” didn’t end up with just a couple of $Billion in Bart?…

    But I digress… (as does the San Jose Bart… or is that regress?…)

    At any rate, the whole area is covered with surface transit in various mixes of trollies, trains, BART, buses, and ferries (including ‘taxi ferries’ and special purpose lines such as to Alcatraz). Oh, and there are often segments of flights that shuttle between SFO, OAK, and SJC airports. So a flight from, say, Chicago to OAK may continue on to SFO and load up with a bunch of folks for the return leg (depending on what needs the most volume). It’s an interesting “hop and pop” to do SFO to OAK… barely off the runway and back down again. Don’t know how much is still done (as airport congestion argues for fewer small distance T.O & Landings) but at one time it was cheap to ‘fill seats’ on those repositioning end segments. So in theory one could do BART to SFO or OAK and then hop a flight to SJC… sometimes…

    IMHO, it’s more a matter of figuring out what you want to do, and working the schedules, than a question of “can I get there”. It was the long time it took to work out a schedule and the limited options that caused me to stay in the car. (If with a client and they ask you to work another 4 hours on the project at billable time… well… it’s not a comfortable feeling to think “the last bus is at 9 pm and I don’t think, I can make it”… and blowing off $Hundreds for a $20 Parking fee is just not all that bright…

    Oh, and one other “trick”…. Parking at some of the BART stations is a fee, at others it is free. So I’d run up to the last Free parking on the peninsula (that Milbrae station) and then take Bart in to SFO. Best combination of speed and cheap. And BART ran (though infrequently) even into the late hours. Down here, most (all?) of the Light Rail have free parking. So I can do a 2 mile drive or walk to light rail, then park free, and connect to ‘anywhere’ … if I have enough time and the schedules worked out and…

  8. malanlewis says:

    If you want to get out of the heat, madness, traffic, urban crush of the Bay Area and San Jose, take the Highway 17 Express bus from Diridon Station in San Jose to Santa Cruz. It’s cool here, lots of beaches, mostly empty this time of year, there’s the Boardwalk, good restaurants and fantastic music venues. All kinds of accommodations from nouveau chic to funky auto courts. The train the Chiefio talked about, ride a Segue around town, walk through the redwoods.

    Santa Cruz is what laid back California is all about.

    Oh yeah, they surf here, too.

  9. Tim Clark says:

    Well I’ll be. Didn’t expect a write-up. My wife is a research director for Cargill and has to schmooze the bigwigs at Safeway, which has the corp. headquarters in Pleasanton. Something about the specs on the holiday season turkeys. I don’t know at this time whether they are picking the motel or Cargill is. I’ve been checking the air service and right now sfo is quite a bit cheaper than oak, but I just have to pay for me, but on the same flight back as we both want to be on the same plane home. We’ll get a car eventually, but my god you have good public transit. Looks like the slow ride around the bay would be about as much of the city I’d need to see. The wife HAS to see the bridge. Then the wine country is appealing, followed by the redwoods and country. I’m an old countryboy who can have a good time looking at dirt. ;<D I'm going to get the map out and trace these things out. We're staying in Pleasanton. Thanks for all the good info and links!!! Saved a lot of research.

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    @Tim Clark:

    Glad to be of help. Figured it would be useful for all sorts of folks coming to the SF / Silicon Valley bay area, so might as well make a posting of it.

    SFO is usually cheapest, but not always. Sometimes OAK is under loaded and rates drop for it. Varies with economic status and if the “cheap seats” in Oakland are flying a lot, or not.

    SJC is usually a bit more expensive, but if your destination is “Silicon Valley” it’s easiest as you don’t need to deal with the SFO (typically horrid) car traffic. Frankly, if doing “car pick up at SFO”, I’d recommend that your party get on BART inside the SFO terminal and be picked up by car at the first BART station (in the appropriate direction). It’s just a heck of a lot less crowded.

    Oh, and I’ve not filled in all the transits… as you had said you were not interested in SF so much…

    SAMtrans serves the middle peninsula:

    so you will notice it ranges from Palo Alto / Stanford all the way up to S.F. and includes the SFO airport. So one can “do Bart” to SAMtrans and then hit downtown Palo Alto (very nice restaurants, and an antique theatre that shows old movies and includes an organ and organ player that rises from below the stage at intermission) Very good picture of the interior here:

    Along with Stanford Shopping Center (high end stuff like a Tiffany & Co’s store):

    So “taking the spouse” to Palo Alto is pretty easy and a visit to the Mall, downtown, and Stanford (which often has very interesting lectures open to the public) can be a very nice day. The spouse and I hit the old theatre about every 2 weeks then have sushi at the little sushi shop on the corner (about 4 doors west toward the trains?) whose name escapes me but the sushi is good and not overpriced. As Caltrain stops at Stanford / Palo Alto, one can also just do “Bart to Milbrae to CalTrain” and not do SAMTrans, but there’s a lot of local detail stuff where the bus goes… It’s an easy walk from CalTrain to either Stanford or downtown. (About a block). Ought to add that CalTrain ends at a major Muni point in SF so it’s an easy connect to Muni / SF there and that has a run to BART at Embarcadro (inside the same station on different floors, so one elevator between them).

    If doing a ’round the bay tour’ by train, it’s pretty easy. Just avoid ‘work hours rush’ and it isn’t even crowded. Starting at Pleasanton, doing Bart to Milbrae and then CalTrain to Gilroy you would get to see just about everything but the GG Bridge, Angel Island, Marin. Do that set on a second day. For that one, doing Bart to Oakland, then a boat ride to Angel Island and walk around it, the spouse will get what is, IMHO, the most spectacular view of the GG Bridge. Fairly close, but far enough away to see the grandeur of it. On the other side of the island, you get a view of the Bay Bridge and I think you can even see the San Rafael bridge. Folks pay up a lot for a ‘three bridge view’ in S.F. ;-) I’m pretty sure the ferry to Tiburon has a connection to Marin mass transit should you want to put Marin on that trip without a stop in S.F. / Embarcadero. It would be an ‘easy but full’ day to do Bart, Oakland ferry, Angel Island (pack a lunch and picknick), Tiburon to a bus ride through the Marin Headlands (and another spectacular view of the GG Bridge if you go around the end instead of over Mt. Tamalpias). Then back to Tiburon area for a fancy dinner and boat ride home. After dinner, I’d likely do a ‘ferry to Embarcadero’ and just walk the one block to the Embarcadero Bart and take it to home. After about 6:30 / 7 pm the city is pretty well empty of commuters and the traffic is mostly inbound nightlife crowd, so it’s a nice time to be passing through to an exit… It would also let you see the Main Drag downtown SF with the absolute minimum of crowds to deal with. Tourists are heavy about noon, commuters 7-9 AM and 5-7 pm, outside those hours, transit is over capacity and under loaded. i.e. ‘nice’. ;-)


    On the Gilroy trip, you can have a ‘dirt fix’ and the spouse can have a stop at Stanford on the way home ;-)

    Personally, I’d pick a day (likely a weekend day as the tourist stuff will have longer open schedules) and take Bart to Fremont, bus to Light Rail to to bus to Santa Cruz and then do the Beach Boardwalk and train through the redwoods. IF or WHEN you get a rental car, you can cut a couple of hours off that bus / train time. Take the freeway to San Jose, then 880 / 17 “over the hill” to Santa Cruz. It’s about 1+ to 1.5 hours. The Bart, bus, train, bus thing is likely to take closer to 3 hours or 4 if the schedules don’t line up well. If driving, you can stop at Roaring Camp in Scott’s Valley on the way and avoid the ‘train to it’ from the beach (if you just want the steam engine bit and not the bigger Diesel through the woods).

    Yes, lots of mass transit. One small benefit of a Rabid Green / Looney Left dominated culture. Mostly empty so easy to get a seat too! ;-) (other than main commute time in downtown SF / CalTrain commuters… but even then I always got a seat…)

    In Hollister there are two things to see. You can visit downtown, famous for being where Brando filmed The Wild One. (I think some / many of the original buildings are still standing, though with different businesses. And the streets are paved… but still about the same ‘core’ shape.)

    AND the Mission San Juan Bautista:
    that was used in Vertigo and has a great preservation of the ‘old town’ parts including an old style hotel, blacksmith shop, livery with great old wagon collection, adobe home, etc.

    If you are at all interested in dirt, farming, and “old things”, it is a great way to spend a day.
    Express bus goes to it:
    has a caption claiming that Amtrak runs a small coach to Hollister and
    says the Hollister express bus runs to the Gilroy Station. (it’s about 20 something miles between them. Not a long ways.)

    So I could easily see just doing Bart / Caltrain / Hollister, then working your way back and dinner in Palo Alto… Or use the car, drive straight to Hollister (about 2 hours) and then decide what to do from there. I’d likely go “over the hill” to Monterey and the http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/ as it’s only an hour or two further on, but I really like fish and they have nice restaurants around there ;-)

    While they, too, have a Transit organization:

    And you could likely do some kind of Bart to Fremont, VTA to Gilroy / some Monterey / Salinas transit connection to the Aquarium, it would just be a lot faster to do it by car once you have one.

    The MST system map shows a long haul line that actually goes to Diridon Station (downtown San Jose next to HP stadium / Shark Tank) so interfaces directly with CalTrain / VTA.
    but I’d take the train to Gilroy, then swap (’cause I like trains and that SJ to Gilroy chunk of freeway clogs up at ‘rush hours’ while the train does not…)

    If you find somewhere of interest that I’ve not already got a link pointed toward, just holler… This link:
    also has a lot of ideas, good pictures, and ways to get to other places via mass transit.

    Is there public transit to Napa valley, Muir Wood , Marin headland, Monterey from SF?

    To go Napa Valley, from SF ferry building, take Baylink ferry to Vallejo( one hour, very beautiful bay view) and then transfer to VINE bus route
    #10( 2 hours from Valejo to Calistoga), you may consider stop over at Napa, Yountville, St Helena, Calistoga winery for some wine taste.

    To go Muir wood, there is only weekend services from memorial weekend ( last weekend of May)to labor day weekend ( first weekend of Sep)
    from Golden gate transit #66, you need take #70 or #80 from SF to Marin city and transfer #66

    To go Marin headland, there is Muni bus #76 ( Sunday only plus Holiday) from Caltrain 4th street.

    To go Monterey and Big Sur, Take Caltrain to San Jose( 1hr) there is express bus MST #55( 2 hr) to Monterey and you can take another bus to Big Sur.

    Big Sur is serious camping / woods.

    As this starts from SF, you can easily adapt it to starting from Pleasanton.

    VINE is Yet Another Transit Company serving the Napa Valley:

    The VINE, the Napa Valley fixed-route bus system, provides safe, affordable and accessible transportation for all residents and visitors.

    With its community shuttles, it’s easy to enjoy the best of what Napa Valley has to offer.

    To reach the best spas, restaurants and shops travel the VINE Route 10 up and down Napa Valley, and transfer to either the Yountville Shuttle, St. Helena VINE Shuttle, Calistoga HandyVan or American Canyon Transit. Or, if your itinerary includes a trip to San Francisco take VINE Route 10 to the Vallejo Ferry Terminal where you can board a Baylink Ferry to the City.

    Let us get you there!

    Calistoga has mineral spas / baths… and wine… and…

    Well, let’s just say you can spend the weekend in Napa Wine Country and not even start to see it all…

    Though being in Pleasanton, I’d likely do the Livermore Valley Wine Country first. They will be far less ‘snooty’, more generous with the pours, and have wine that is just as good (or sometimes better) IMHO. Heck, at many of the wineries, the guy / gal behind the counter doing the poor IS the owner / vintner / farmer. As a “dirt guy” that can be a great thing. You can actually “talk dirt” (the polite kind ;-) with the guy who runs it… In Napa, you mostly get hired folks at any place of size. Not the same experience.

    BTW, we have a “farm museum” surrounded by San Jose sprawl:

    what the place was like before ‘it just growed’…

    and we have a “heritage” trolly to a small preservation park that has interesting old houses and stores and old farm gear also from ‘when were farm country’:
    right next door to a tiny kids zoo:
    and Japanese garden.

    The San Francisco Zoo is a fun visit too, right across from the beach, and has a miniature train on site that you can ride. http://www.sfzoo.org/

    though you need to transit San Francisco to get to it… but likely just Bart to one Muni line.

    Bottom line is there’s way more than you can get done in a year, so need to “focus” ;-) and lots of ways to get around (so ‘schedule and search time’ needed with planning). And we’ve not even gotten close to listing all the options. Not a peep about freeways (that go everywhere) nor Greyhound (that goes between most major cities) nor ACE Train (that goes out into the central valley) nor …
    Goes through Pleasanton and into San Jose (so you could likely do ACE to CalTrain to Gilroy) or SJC to ACE to Pleasanton – but I’ve not done ACE so don’t know their schedules; or you could take it “inland” all the way to Stockton. A Farm Town that happens to have the Port Of Stockton. Cows and grain shipped from an inland port for generations. If you get a hankering for some views of farm country, just take ACE inland. Good fishing in the Delta from Stockton to Tracy and such. (Catfish on the bottom with sardines or stink bait…) Looks like it goes to LIvermore too, so an easy “hop” to Livermore and visit their downtown / museums. Schedule looks like it is VERY commuter oriented (west bound mornings, eastbound evenings) so not so good for random touring….
    Though they have a ‘getaways’ page saying they do more than that:
    so you get to explore that on your own ;-)


    I’ve added an “update” at the bottom of the posting to put in the ACE train map. That lets you, from Pleasanton, take a train directly to San Jose and completes the train ‘ring around the south bay’ (at least during scheduled hours). It also means you don’t need the indirect BART route between the two cities.

  11. E.M.Smith says:


    Every so often the spouse and I do dinner on the wharf. A bit pricey, but having really good chowder while sitting over the middle of the bay watching the sun set through picture windows… Sigh…

    Oh, and in California you can fish from most wharfs without a fishing license… So pack a hand line, sinker, and some hooks and you can spend the day fishing from the pier and listening to the seals honking as they bask on the beams below…

    As a “get away from the city” day, it’s hard to beat.

    Thanks for the pointer to “what bus”. That looks like a ‘fast connect’. Added to the ACE schedule above, one could likely do it as just ACE / Diridon Stn / Bus. Then back in the evening. Better routing than I’d thought of before.

    So a fairly easy “up early to go fishing” spend a day drinking beer on the pier and fishing, then chowder and home… Don’t know what you would do with the fish if you catch one, though ;-) Perhaps take a collapsible cooler to ice it ;-) (Or even take ‘beer inbound / fish out’ ;-)

    Don’t know if they allow beer from a cooler on the pier ( I get mine in the restaurants / bars) but there are this nice insulated can covers you can get that keep your drink cold and make it look uninteresting:


    or just put some wine in a thermos bottle…

    Can’t think of much more ‘laid back’ than waking the beach, fishing a bit, watching the ocean and sunset, dinner and home again…

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    Golly… Looks like you can go to Yosemite if you want:


    Visit Yosemite National Park

    It’s a trip you won’t soon forget: Catch the San Joaquin to Merced. There, board a luxury motorcoach for a scenic ride through Mariposa and El Portal, and then directly into Yosemite National Park. With spectacular waterfalls, giant sequoias, scenic overlooks and winding trails throughout 1,169 square miles of parkland, Yosemite National Park deserves its reputation as one of the crown jewels of the American national park system.
    Visit Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

    Ride the San Joaquin to Martinez and board the Thruway bus for a quick ride to the park’s main gate. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is open seasonally. Please call (707) 644-4000 to check days and hours of operation.
    Easy Connections

    Make the San Joaquin your connection to other destinations. At Bakersfield, you can connect to Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Palm Springs and more.

    Though running off to Las Vegas might be a bit much ;-)

    (“sorry dear, but I missed a connection so had to say overnight” wink wink ;-)


    runs up to Reno and through the Sierra Nevada Mountains / Skiing country.


    L.A. to Portland via San Jose and looks like “near” the east bay Bart stations a lot of the way (wonder if they share a station anywhere? Most “systems” here are conveniently located in facilities at least a few blocks away from ‘convenient’…)


    And from “Cal Poly SLO” down to San Diego all along the coast. Likely some spectacular views (wonder what times of day it runs… some of the Amtrak trains run at THE worst times for tourists and ‘viewing’… but nice if you like sleeping on a train as it drives though the best views on the planet in the dark…)

    Looks like about 6 am to midnight to go from SJC to San Diego Old Town… so a very long all day but scenic, then you are dumped at midnight on the streets of San Diego….. (or maybe just start back an hour later and sleep on the train all night… ) Probably not worth it…

    Checking the return schedule, it leaves at 6 am and gets to SJC at 4 pm… Wonder what you do between midnight and 6 am ?…

    At any rate, there’s a lot of places you can reach via Amtrak and get interesting touring / visiting in the process, but it’s not all that fast and has “odd” end and start times sometimes. One or two trains a day, it works well at some point along the run, other points not so much…

    While a bit ‘off topic’ as L.A. isn’t the Bay Area, they too have local light rail and it connects to Amtrak:

    So in theory you can get to a lot of places down in L.A. from the SF Bay Area doing it rail all the way (though on up to 4 different systems… sigh… or 5 if you try…)

  13. PPugliano says:

    What I meant when I said you can’t do Marin with public transit is that you are very limited in what you can see and do that way in one day, especially in Marin where the mass transit system is probably the least complete of the whole area. I mean, with a car you can do the Headlands, Mill Valley, walk around the east peak of Mount Tam (stunning views), then head down to Stinson Beach and come back through Muir Woods, see the redwoods and still make it back to the city for dinner. Or you can go up to Point Reyes past Inverness all the way up to Pierce Point Ranch, then walk up the trails for a while. There are some spectacular views from high cliffs up there.
    I agree the Bay Area does have a pretty decent public transport system, though. San Francisco in particular has the most complete system I have ever seen of any major city in North America (though I don’t know NYC). You pay once and they give you a stub that lasts several hours to take any buses or muni trains you want, including coming back to where you started.
    And San Francisco is the most pleasant city I know to walk around. I used to walk a lot when I lived there. I still go there once or twice a year, and do some very serious walking sometimes. This is a walk I did in early June this year (the longest I’ve ever done in one day): http://tinyurl.com/7ukda7n I left the Ferry Building shortly after 9 a.m. and completed the loop by about 4:30 p.m. I recommend it (or a somewhat shorter version).

  14. E.M.Smith says:


    I agree that doing it by car is vastly superior. Can do about twice as much in a day, and go to many more places (even a short shot up Hwy 1 ). More importantly, the schedule is 100% flexible… That’s why I almost universally take the car. Things like going to the Missions… easy by car, much harder by mass transit… (except in S.F. where you can easily GET to the Mission by car, then spend an hour driving in circles trying to find a place to park…)

    But IF someone is here without a car, then can still get around and see some decent bits of it…

    Per SF: Yeah. I typically park the car at the last “free parking” outside of SF. Those $20 and $30 parking fees downtown get old quick… The street trollies are a lot of fun and both frequent and reliable (they are different from the cable cars, for anyone outside the area… the cable cars are fun too, but usually loaded with tourists.)

    FWIW I first learned about “transfers” in Chicago (as a ’20 something’) traveling there with a friend. It’s a pretty complete system too. NYC works, but it’s a bit dingy in comparison to SF. Then there is Washington DC. Great system that goes limited places… but one I remember had an absolutely gigantic escalator going way deep into a huge station underground… But for all that, I do think SF has the most integrated and dense / effective system. Most interesting one I was ever on was in Calgary Canada. The city is laid out on a square grid and they have a grid of trollies on about ‘every fourth street’… so you are about 2 blocks max to a train in any direction and going the way you want to go (though doing a diagonal is a bit hard ;-)

    So I guess, bottom line, I wasn’t so much advocating for doing Marin by mass transit as just pointing out that folks without a rental car can still get to interesting places… even if not as easily, rapidly, or flexibly…

    Unfortunately for me, here in the South Bay, the bus service is sporadic. Basically you MUST be tied in to the schedule to have a clue. I once spent a few hours sitting at a bus stop under a bus line sign and never having a bus top. They had changed some schedule somewhere and not bothered to remove the signage nor add a note at the stop… (Santa Clara). Since then, I’ve had a half dozen times I’ve taken the light rail nearest my home (couple of miles). Only ONCE have I managed to get a bus connection to it (though once I managed to get a bus FROM it…). So I’ve made that 2 mile walk a few times, involuntarily. (After waiting 1/2 hour for the bus, you start to wonder if it will ever come… like that other bus that never came… then you end up walking and 20 minutes late the bus flies past, but the next stop is way down the road and the bus doesn’t stop there as nobody is waiting or wanting off… so you walk some more…)

    The bus management frequently bitches about “low ridership” but simply doesn’t “get it” that having a few routes with a bus every 15 minutes and NOT screwing around with it, will build a consistent ridership. Instead they have routes all over, but buses that only sometimea show up… and it’s YOUR job to memorize all the schedules… ONE example: Took the bus / light rail to a sharks game once. Game lets out at 10 pm or so. They have a light rail train assured for the game… Except it dumps you at the station 2 miles from home after bus service is shut down for the night… Consequently, as a many season season ticket holder, I took bus / light rail to the games exactly ONE time…. Walking 2 miles in the cold as midnight approaches with a kid in tow is not conducive to repeating…

    At any rate, IFF you don’t have a car AND work the schedules carefully, you can get all over the whole bay area by mass transit. For SELECTED things, it’s great (like CalTrain to Stanford or Bart to the Oakland Raiders games), but not for improvisational ‘evening out’ stuff… or you can end up with a LONG walk… (At one time Bart had several hours between trains after midnight. Don’t know about now, but it was something like shutdown at 1 pm and start up at 6 am. I think they have more night hours now.) As a ‘night person’ I find that very limiting…. but if you are a ‘day person’ who does a regular ‘9 to 5 and dinner at 6, bed by 9’ it’s great…

    One other example: I’ve pointed out I’m near Light Rail and it connects to CalTrain that goes to SF (and there connects to Muni to Embarcadero station). I worked at Schwab for a year or so. Couple of block walk from Embarcadero Stn. I tried every possible form of commute (other than the ferry ;-) to get there at 8 AM (ish). Ended up with 3 things that worked fairly well.

    1) Car to a parking lot in China Basin next to where CalTrain ends. Walk to Muni light rail, to near Embarcadero. (Parking lot was cheaper than further in. It’s now got a building built on it…)

    2) Car to Milbrae. Bart to Embarcadero.

    3) Car to Milbrae. Caltrain to China Basin end, Muni light rail in.

    Notice that none of these involves a bus and none of them involve the San Jose / Silicon Valley transit …

    Taking CalTrain from all the way down here turned a 1 hr 15 minute commute into a ‘couple of hours+’ each way. That nearly 3 hour daily add on was just too dear. Tacking a “light rail to CalTrain” link onto it was even worse by another hour+ Adding a bus to “anything” was another 1/2 hour to an hour (depending on what bus I just missed ;-) Figured out that if I tried to do it “door to door” it was about a 5 hour commute one way… ( 4 if I did everything Just Right…)

    So instead I’d just take the car as close to SF as the last free parking, then take one fast Bart most of the time, or if I had extra time, the Caltrain / Muni light rail set. (Sometimes it depended on which one was next to pull into Milbrae when I was at the gate…)

    So while I love trains and think it’s great fun to wander around via mass transit sometimes. IF I really have to be somewhere, or don’t know for certain what my schedule AND what the transit schedules might be, well, I take the car…

    OTOH, on at least one occasion I had a chance to hop an early flight home into SJC. Spouse was working and nobody else to pick me up at the airport mid-day… so a quick jitney bus to the light rail, and I was 2 miles from home… Then after waiting about 15 minutes, decided to just see if the wheels on my luggage would take 2 miles… (They did) and was home in about 45 minutes. I was happy to be home early afternoon and without blowing a fortune on a taxi. Didn’t notice any buses going past me either, so no idea if they take a siesta during non-commute hours or what the deal was…

    Basically: I’m glad we have it, but like my car better most of the time…



    After complaining about VTA buses I took a closer look at the CalTrain schedule / map… seems that the station next to Stanford, the Old Movie Theatre, and the Shopping Mall is marked “Stanford Games Only”
    …. they stop each side of it (Palo Alto and California Ave) every day, but THE place that’s most interesting to academics, students, and tourists… there they only stop on game days / times…


    It’s that kind of stuff that keeps me in the car… So we could take the train every week or two, except it doesn’t stop there for anything but Stanford Games. Maddening…

    I don’t know what it is about folks who run mass transit systems, but they simply can not think in terms of REGULAR and RELIABLE (not just going to work, going to BE THERE) service. They always have to screw around with the schedules and stops… If you want folks to use something, have it show up EVERY 15 minutes at EVERY stop… Maybe extend it to 1/2 hour between midnight and 6 am (but try standing in the rain for 1/2 hour at night and see if you think that will last long…) or maybe have every other train making every other stop (so things both move fast and every stop is serviced).

    But this stuff of “sometimes it stops and sometimes it’s running” is why folks use their car. It is ALWAYS going to be there…

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    In looking at the local (VTA) monthly passes, they have gone to a “Clipper Card”. Their website says many Bar Area Transit systems are now using it, too. So it looks like some kind of ‘pre-load’ of a card is possible for either single ride cash prices or whole monthly pass ‘buys’. Presently on the web site it is also saying that they are now used on (some of?) the ferries.



    Clipper is an all-in-one transit “smart” card that you can load transit passes and electronic cash value to use on the Bay Area transit systems.

    VTA has transitioned to Clipper. Monthly passes (adult, express, youth and RTC) are only available on Clipper. If you do not have a monthly pass on your clipper card then the system will charge you the cost of one single ride. If you are using an adult clipper card you will be charged the cost of an adult single ride. You must have a youth, RTC or senior clipper card in order to be charged the discounted single ride rate.
    Monthly Passes (Standard and Express)

    1) Get a Clipper card. They are available:
    * At Clipper retailers: A list of Clipper retailers in Santa
    Clara County can be
    found at http://www.clippercard.com
    * Online at clippercard.com
    * By phone at 899.878.8883

    2) Load the card. VTA monthly passes for your Clipper card can be purchased:
    * At Clipper retailers
    * Online at clippercard.com
    * By Phone at 877.878.8883
    * Using your transit benefits at work: For more information about using
    transit benefits to load your Clipper card, visit

    So on the one hand, easy to ticket in advance for some large part of the system (though worth checking the various Transit Agencies to make sure they take it).

    BART does:


    Using Clipper on BART

    Clipper is available to all BART customers. Whether you use a High Value Discount (HVD) ticket or pay as you go, Clipper can be used to pay your fare on BART. Clipper can also be used to pay for parking on BART. Sign up for a parking account or link your Clipper card to an EZ Rider parking account by visiting https://ezrider.bart.gov/ezrider/.

    All BART ticket vending machines can now add cash value to Clipper cards. BART’s ticket machines accept cash, credit and debit cards as payment. Please note that Clipper is not available on the BART Add Fare Machines which are located inside the paid area.

    So might be worth it if planing a lot of Mass Transit use. (BART usually uses a little paper card with magnetic stripe that’s vended in the machines at the station. Works well. So not a need for a ‘buy in advance’.)

  16. CompuGator says:

    E.M.Smith says (13 October 2012 at 8:17 pm):

    Yes, some “odd bits”, like San Jose, where we waited a few decades for Bart to come, then gave up and did Light Rail and Caltrain. [….] Though I’m told Bart will be coming to San Jose Real Soon Now … as it always has been …

    I remember a different reason/excuse: That the enlightened citizens of San Mateo County refused to pay for BART construction, or to allow passage of its rails, through their county, thus blocking connection not only to San Jose, but even to SFO.

    By contrast, one of the best features of the Washington Metro(politan) Area’s Metrorail is that it has a stop at Washington National Airport (‘DCA‘), so it’s quite practical for travellers to deplane, retrieve luggage, then take METRO to the outlying station closest to friends or family. And in reverse to catch a flight. Dulles Airport (‘IAD‘): the 1962 exemplar of modern architecture, is planned to get a Metrorail station in 5 more years (2018).

    Metrorail is a demonstration of mostly-federal tax dollars–yours–at work.

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