Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.
One man's trip across the entire system from end to end to end in one shot.
It's 6:07 a.m. on a Saturday. You're most likely asleep, or at least not very far from your bed. You might be up drinking coffee or looking at a computer or maybe even walking the dog. You are not an adventurer.
Jim Yu is.
In a recent exercise of modern-day exploration, he was up and out in the world at 6:07 a.m. on a Saturday, setting out to do what perhaps no one had done before: ride the entire length of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District's rail system, BART, in one go.
Luckily, like the best-known adventurers in history, Yu succeeded. From end to end to end to end, he passed through every one of the system's 44 stations in a single day – a feat that took 5 hours and 37 minutes.
He's neatly documented his trip in a humorous play-by-play timeline on the website Crasstalk, and has posted plenty of pictures on his own blog. We caught up with him to try to understand how a mild-mannered Bay Area lawyer became an adventurer.
Why would you do such a thing?
I did it because I'm a geography buff and I like to complete lists. When I sit there on BART and I look at that map, I think "I need to see every station."
Your post also mentions other trips you've taken, like hitting every inhabited island of Hawaii and a planned trip from the top of North America to the bottom of South America only using transit. You seem to have a bit of an affinity for stunt travel.
I like to travel and I'm more of a "check things off a list"-type of traveler than sitting at a café for an entire afternoon just enjoying myself. In a different time and under different circumstances I would be on Captain Cook's ship going around the world. But everything's been discovered already. There's no adventure anymore. So I figured let me do something that nobody else has done, not because I feel special or anything, but it's a new experience that kind of captures the spirit of explorers, seeing something for the first time. I find it interesting to be able to see everything because the Bay Area's so diverse. And just from this adventure, I got to see all different sides and all different parts of the Bay Area. You’ve got your rich, your poor, immigrants, people who've lived here for generations. I got to see everything in less than half a day.
Did it change the way you think about the Bay Area?
I think I've always known how diverse the Bay Area is, but it's really neat to see it in the microcosm of a BART train car, where you've got so many different kinds of people mixed in a little compartment.
So you were more interested in what was happening in the train rather than what was going on outside the window?
It was definitely more of what was inside the car than the scenery.
In terms of adventuring, this is pretty tame. You're just kinda sitting there.
Right, it's not dangerous at all. But it's still neat to just be a witness. Not necessarily interacting with anybody, but just sitting there and witnessing things. I've taken a Greyhound bus from Oakland all the way up to the Yukon in three days. The scenery was nice, but again the people that are on Greyhound, I would have never met some of these people if I'd have flown or taken a road trip by driving.
Did your BART adventure change the way you see your fellow Bay Area residents?
What I've learned from this trip is that people are very uninhibited on the train. Before I did this I always thought everybody just went on the train and kept to themselves, checked their phones or read the newspaper. But when I paid more attention to everybody, everybody was doing the same things as they would at home with their closest family members or friends. I had three young Russians laughing and talking in Russian like they were in a bar or at home. There was this group of guys who were going to a Giants game and they had a few drinks already – and this was still morning – and they were loud. They weren’t obnoxious, they were fun loving. It was like everybody felt at home in the BART train.
I've been on some long BART rides, but 5 hours and 37 minutes is a long BART ride. Any plans on doing it again, maybe trying to beat your time?
I don't think I'm going to try to beat my time. I'm really pleasantly surprised that anybody cares about this. But I'm now thinking about doing something else. I'm not trying to break a record like having the longest fingernails or something, but these are all very doable records. And if I can find something else that interests me that’s local and relatively inexpensive, then I'd probably give it a shot.
Anything in the works?
No, but I'm open to suggestions.
Photos courtesy Jim Yu. Top image credit: Charles Haynes/Flickr