3010 Wilshire Blvd. #362, Los Angeles, CA 90010

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Owl Service Study Tour

-- Dana Gabbard

For the past few years our summer study tour has been an exploration of late night/owl service. One idea proposed has been Charles Powell's idea for a trip that would explore Foothill service during these hours plus a unique timed transfer in the wee hours. For 2004 we decided to do the Powell trip; sadly a family obligation precluded his participation.

Woody Rosner and I rendezvoused at the Wilshire/Western Denny's to share a repast before embarking on our adventure. Quickly we discovered our choice of date fortuitously meant there would be a full moon to ride by. We also ogled a yummy looking slice of lemon pie a nearby patron was indulging in. And we discovered yet another sign of the times: one now needed to request a token to use the restroom in the restaurant.

After our meal we crossed Wilshire and caught a Red Line train (car #513) at 9:20pm which brought us to Union Station by 9:40pm. We then made our way to the Gold Line and met up with the others joining us for the late evening/early morning jaunt: Ken Ruben, Chaffee Yiu and Chaffee's cousin plus bus fan Danny Elliott. Ruben informed me he had spotted several private cars on the Surfliner standing at the platform including Tioga Pass, Scottish Thistle and Colonial Craft. The Gold Line at night runs single car consists (we were on #235) and left Union Station with a standing load. Deboarding didn't begin until we reached Mission/South Pasadena station. There was more deboarding at Del Mar. Then a mass exodus at Memorial Park and we ran virtually empty for the remainder of the trip along the median of the 210 freeway.

We got off at Sierra Madre Villa where Charles Hobbs joined our party. We crossed over to the adjacent parking structure and took an elevator to the ground floor to catch the last eastbound trip on Foothill Transit line 187, which came at 11:04pm (#F1039) driven by Tim L. per the nameplate above the front windshield. We departed with four passengers (all ride counts do not include trip participants). Hobbs explained he had come from La Verne via an inbound line 187. He was in La Verne visiting family and was riding with us only that far. At the intersection of Foothill and Rosemead we spotted the last line 266 (#1128) of the night. We also paused a while at this location since we were running ahead of schedule (aka "running hot").

While running on Colorado we had two boarding at Rosemead and two more boarding at Michillinda. The pair at Rosemead were real characters -- they had taken a bus to buy dinner to go at an eatery yet boarded pleading poverty and claiming they had no money. Yeah, right. At Baldwin we spotted a 187 on the way to Pasadena carrying five or six passengers.

Soon we passed Santa Anita Racetrack and turned onto Huntington Drive, which in Arcadia is lined with auto dealers and some bars. But generally the city closes up after dark. At this point we passed our second Starbucks and a lot of upscale eateries in a cluster of the kind I have taken to dubbing a 'fast food gulch' from spotting same during past bus trips (the purveyors of fine dining included Mimi's, Outback, Black Angus and Claimjumper). We also passed some slumbering shopping centers. The only activity happening was property owners taking advantage of the cool night to water the grass with sprinklers. Some deboarding happened during this part of the trip.

In Monrovia even the liquor stores were closed. After running thru a business district the route passed thru a residential area. In Duarte we were down to three passengers and upon entering Irwindale found the surroundings emptied into wide open spaces and darkness. We were now on Foothill Blvd. and soon were once again in a business district and even spotted a rail track overpass.

In Azusa we turned on Citrus while passing Azusa Pacific University and Citrus College. A Jack in the Box outlet was even spotted with the drive up window still open. And the last westbound line 187 bus passed carrying three passengers. Soon we passed another Starbucks plus an outlet of The Hat, famed for its pastrami.

In Glendora we were now on Route 66 passing thru a business district with the usual complement of car dealers. Some shops were actually still open! Spotted was a place called Gameroom Goodies, and anther that proclaimed itself Cigarette Depot. Plus an outlet of the Pinnacle Peak steakhouse chain. Continuing into San Dimas we spotted a Denny's "Classic", an In N Out burger plus yet another Starbucks. YEOW!

We had now reached La Verne. Charles Hobbs deboarded where he had parked his car so he could continue visiting his family after his sojourn with us. We bid him a fond farewell and continued through yet another auto mall. At Foothill and Garey we actually had someone board. Also spotted was an open liquor store and some actual night life.

We reached the end of the route at the Montclair Transcenter at 12:24 am. At that time of night drifters hang around. We were none too pleased to join the six passengers boarding Foothill line 480 (#F1151) at 12:34am. The following week we would have had to wait an hour in Montclair to make this connection due to changes in the schedule Foothill was about to undertake. But thankfully we didn't have to wait an hour at this dismal place.

We passed Montclair Plaza and its environs, then made our way along the deserted streets of Claremont. I spotted a BC Cafe (closed for the night), famed for their massive breakfasts. There was even an open liquor store/market spotted in a strip mall. We had one boarding, then another while running along Indian Hill. At Indian Hill/Holt we passed the moribund mall. At the Pomona Transcenter we had three boardings, giving us a total of 11 passengers. We continued through a residential area and passed Cal Poly Pomona.

Now we started freeway running. At Via Verde one deboarded. We blazed past Eastland Center and West Covina Parkway until we reached the El Monte station at 1:58am and deboarded. After a short wait in the mostly deserted facility we boarded at 2:11am MTA line 70 (#7363), a NABI low floor with two passengers. Soon we had two boardings at Santa Anita/Garvey as we went along the Garvey business corridor with many Chinese and Vietnamese characters decorating the front windows. From time to time we passed thru a more industrial area before retuning to the land of auto malls, car auctions, etc. (and a boarded up McDonald's). Monterey Park is well known for its Chinese expatriate community (with some of the best restaurants this side of Hong Kong).

The route became serpentine as we crawled thru City Terrace. We deboarded at Marengo/Soto, at 2:42 am and walked a short distance to the bus stop for our connecting service. We were on an overpass above the San Bernardino Freeway (which even at that hour had traffic roaring along it) near a 24 hour Mobil station. At about 2:48am MTA line 251 turned off Marengo onto Soto and picked us up. We were the only passengers until someone boarded at Cesar Chavez (and got off at Whittier to catch MTA line 18). The area was residential but as we continued we spotted some open businesses selling gas and food.

We passed the old eastside Sears and had one boarding at Washington and another at Vernon as we ran thru an industrial area. Now we were in Huntington Park on the famed commercial district along Pacific. At Florence our headsign changed to line 111 and we turned westward on Florence, which was mostly lined with small businesses. At Vermont one boarded and one deboarded. Also spotted was a 24 hour drive up window open at a Jack in the Box along with some running thru residential districts before we got off at Florence/Crenshaw, the end of the line, at 3:30am.

We crossed Crenshaw and in a few minutes at 3:37am caught MTA line 40 (#6359) a Neoplan with eight passengers. We made our way thru the Crenshaw district, past Crenshaw Plaza and had two boards/two deboardings at MLK Blvd. Soon we were streaking past the Coliseum and into downtown where we dispersed.