The CASUAL COMMUTER Riding With You On Your Way To Work

    by Vicky Semones

    Share a fascinating ride with The CASUAL COMMUTER and catch entertaining glimpses of San Francisco Bay Area commuters being themselves.

    Available through XLIBRIS PUBLICATIONS (click book cover)

    Also available at:


    September 2009
    M T W T F S S
  • Pages

Bookstores Carry ‘The Casual Commuter’

I’m thrilled that some wonderful bookstores, primarily in the East Bay, are now carrying my book:

A Great Good Place ~ 6120 LaSalle Ave., Oakland (Montclair Village). We had a wonderful book launch with a wine and cheese repast. .  Thank you so much, Kathleen!

Books, Inc ~ 1344 Park Street, Alameda. Near the casual carpool at the corner of Park and Encinal. Thank you, Josette!

Compass Books ~ North Terminal / Terminal 3, SFO. A hub of commuters. Thank you, Andy!

Diesel, A Book Store  ~ 5433 College Ave., Oakland (Rockridge District). Near casual carpools at Claremont & College and Claremont & Hudson. Thank you, Margaret!

Mrs. Dalloway’s, Literary & Garden Arts ~ 2904 College Ave., Berkeley.  Near casual carpools at Claremont & College and Claremont & Hudson. Thank you, Marion!

Spectator Books ~ 4163 Piedmont Ave, Oakland (across from Fentons and the Piedmont Theatre).  Near casual carpools at Oakland Ave & Monte Vista; and Oakland Ave & Hillside. Thank you, Tim!



If you don’t already know about the wonderful local website http://montclairoak.com, please check it out. The dedicated blogger, Debbie Richman, is a former reporter and has a keen eye and brisk delivery about all things happening in Montclair and the hills of Oakland. 

Debbie discusses the casual carpool phenomenon in the article, “Why Casual Commuting Works’.  You can find it under Recent Posts in Today in Montclair, 94611.

Debbie believes in a ‘sense of place’, and thinks I’ve captured an amusing slice of our East Bay community in my book.  Thanks so much, Debbie!

Jackson Park ~ Alameda

Jackson Park, Alameda  01Jackson Park, Alameda  02

This lovely park is directly across from the Encinal Casual Carpool on Park Ave., Alameda.  Apparently, this bandstand is the oldest building in Alameda.  What a shame it’s not being used ~ but the water fountain is…

Jackson Park, Alameda 03

Encinal and Park Ave ~ Alameda

Encinal and Park - Carpool Location
Encinal and Park – Carpool Location

The September sun is bright and low. The air holds a hint of Autumn’s  delicious coolness.  Mature trees have splayed upward around telephone wires,  and have filled  out in a bounty that seems to have obsorbed their creosoted   intruders.   Cars roll up along Encinal while riders form a right  angle along Park Avenue.  Fully loaded, the cars either turn right onto Park or u-turn back down Encinal.  We hand out 200 flyers during a delightful morning of smiles and kind greetings from  7:15AM to 8:50AM, near Books, Inc.  The final car waits for one more rider while the  last S.F. bound bus boards three passengers. We breakfast at Jim’s Coffee Shop.

Under the Overpass ~ Oakland

Under Hgwy 24 and BART

Under Hgwy 24 and BART


The Claremont & Hudson Carpool is located directly under the steely screeching of the  BART overpass and the constant rumble of  Hgwy24. Great protection for a hot or rainy day. But forget about  talking when the trains roll overhead and  join the din of freeway cars in a perfect ‘urban echo’ that caroms off the concrete.

Claremont and Hudson ~ Oakland

Claremont & Hudson

Claremont & Hudson

Spare the Air Day ~ a good day to carpool.  But it seems everyone is in such a rush here. The cars, like horses chomping at the bit, quickly assemble as passengers hurry to board.  Drivers glance repeatedly at the intersection to ‘catch the light’ across busy Claremont to the 24 on-ramp. Lots of  ‘blue tooths’ are in place; more than the usual lack of attention between both riders and drivers and toward the undaunted  marketeers.  A short drive down College to Diesel ~ A Book Store, and Mrs. Dalloway’s.  From 7:30AM-9:30AM, 291 flyers.

Claremont and College Avenues ~ Oakland

Claremont & College Avenues

Claremont & College Avenues

The width of Claremont Avenue seems to even out the rush of cars in front of the Safeway at this intersection where five streets meet as we enter the Rockridge District. A brisk morning breeze is softened by the view of this pink building. Our flyers are accepted with interest and pleasant smiles.  Our entreaties are met with very few, yet polite refusals.  Lots of casual chatter and openness. Drivers easily accept third riders as the morning grows late. Media contacts from this stop! Near Diesel and Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstores.  A Claremont Diner breakfast after our 7:15A – 9:00A stint and 172 flyers handed out.

Moraga Casual Carpool

Yesterday, we met Linda J., a former Mayor of Moraga, at the Lafayette Casual Carpool.  She mentioned that, thanks primarily to Dwynne F.,  Moraga  just obtained and posted its carpool sign – at the bus stop on the north side of Moraga Way, just west of School Street.  Linda has asked media to come to the Moraga stop tomorrow, and thought my book would be good publicity for the carpool.  Yes, as it happens, Moraga is the only other Contra Costa stop we plan to go to.  Sounds like a plan!

This morning, I pick up a late-night voicemail from Linda with no return phone number, that media will be arriving at 7AM and she’ll try to keep them there until our normal start time of  7:30AM.   Well, okay, we don’t want to miss an opportunity for media exposure!  So, Cindie and I make it out the door at 6:45AM, with no breakfast. 

When we arrive at the barren corner lot behind the bus stop/carpool, at 7:10AM, four people milling about, including two riders (one from Australia, carrying a tennis racket); and Linda and Dwynne.  No one looks like a reporter. This isn’t looking so good!

Lots of hopeful conversation and several unanswered voicemails from Linda to the reporter; and no carpoolers in sight.  As the last morning bus from Moraga heads out to S.F. at 7:30AM, Linda tells us that the best time to catch the 50 or so carpoolers from Moraga is 6:00AM -7:30AM.  Bummer!

Well, this just confirms that we’ll catch other Contra Costa carpoolers as they pick up rides at Beale Street in San Francisco for the commute home.  Sounds like a plan!  

We make our way through the busy back roads of Moraga for a much-needed hearty breakfast at Mimi’s in Lafayette. Yum!

Lafayette Casual Carpool

Lafayette BART - Casual Carpool

Lafayette BART - Casual Carpool

A current of pedestrians on their way to the Lafayette BART station stream through the packed parking lots as we arrive at 7:30AM. But, along Deer Hill Rd between Happy Valley Rd and Oak Hill Rd, it’s stop and go (much like the sign) for a slow trickle of cars and would-be passengers that arrive sporadically until  9:00AM. We hand out just 126 flyers to folks heading for the convenient 24 West on-ramp to The City.  One rider, Robert asks, ‘What’s in it for me?’ as I hand him a flyer. ‘A fascinating read’, I reply.  And it seems, a memory, as he relates that he met his wife in the Casual Carpool!  Another rider, Gail  asks about ‘urban legends’.  Well, there is one about a guy who bypassed  Fremont and Howard on his way to SFO, but no one seems to know the ending to that story…do you?

Crosses of Lafayette

Crosses of Lafayette

Crosses of Lafayette

We stand in the muggy, partially overcast morning air at the Casual Carpool lane: our backs to the Lafayette BART parking lot – full of steel; we face the bucolic hillside where the wooden ‘Crosses of Lafayette’ have taken root.  No matter our feelings or opinions about the hill – and the war – it is  striking to be held in the dichotomy of this place,  realizing that we are all Casual Commuters in this life.  The sky darkened and briefly, gently rained as I took this photo…