Bus links world to Markleeville

Theoretically, on any Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday, you could strap on a backpack, board the Alpine County Mountain Transit bus at 1:15 p.m. (ticket - $2), arrive at Carson Valley Inn at 2:35 p.m.; transfer without charge to Douglas Area Rural Transit bus at 3:40 p.m., arrive at Super Wal-Mart at 4:15 p.m.; transfer to Public Rural Ride from Reno at 5:49 p.m. (ticket - $3.25), arrive at Reno-Tahoe International Airport at 6:56 p.m.; and two hours later, board a jet bound for anywhere in the world for an undetermined amount of time and money.

For a less extravagant adventure, you simply could travel from Markleeville to Raley's to grocery shop. Tuesday morning, in the midst of a fierce blizzard, my husband and I did just that. We didn't have to put on chains or get our new vehicle dirty, and we saved about five dollars in gas.

We left the driving to ACMT bus driver Peter Duffy, who only charged us $1 each for the round trip, because we're senior citizens. We had phoned DART (775-783- 6456) the day before to ascertain the schedule and arrange to be picked up in front of our gate. When the bus arrived, we waded through foot-deep snow, with our cloth shopping bags in tow, and climbed into front row seats. Across the aisle and behind the driver, two plaques honor faithful riders Hazel Payne, who still rides the bus, and deceased Bob Jackson.

In winter, the Alpine bus has four studded tires and automatic drop-down chains for the back wheels. Slowly, but steadily, the bus made its way over the snow-packed "summit," bypassing the usual route through Diamond Valley to Hung-A-Lel-Ti because a "snow day" was declared for the preschool children who normally are transported to the Early Learning Center.

In Fredericksburg, Linda Bruns was picked up for her ceramics class at the Douglas County Senior Center.

"Pete's a good driver," Bruns said. "His only rules are 'no drinking or eating or dancing in the aisles.'"

As a member of the Fifty Plus Club, Bruns has traveled on the bus to Old Town Sacramento for a Mystery Cruise that included show and dinner on the Delta King; to Eldorado Reno to the 10 Tenors show; to the ghost town of Bodie; and to Apple Hill; activities sponsored by Alpine County Health and Human Services. Duffy added, "I also drove the club to the state capitol in Sacramento."

Wednesdays are special days, with the mid day route not functioning.

"The first Wednesday of the month is reserved to transport members of the Fifty Plus Club to the Douglas County Senior Center for lunch and bingo," Duffy said. "On the second Wednesday, I drive to Carson City, wherever they want to go. We go to South Lake Tahoe on the third Wednesday for doctor appointments or to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The fourth Wednesday is optional; often designated for excursions."

Since the bus necessarily had to make its way slowly through snowy and slushy roads, shopping at Raley's was curtailed to 20 minutes, but that was enough time to complete our short shopping list.

On the way home, we rode through Dresslerville and the Ranchos in search of possible riders. Duffy said that on his first run, he had driven a person from the bowling alley to the Alpine County Courthouse.

Nick Pomarius was waiting for the bus at the Mountain and Garden in Woodfords.

"I'm going to the library in Markleeville to access my e-mail, but first I'm going to the store to buy some orange juice," he said.

Duffy, who has driven the Alpine County Mountain Transit bus for one year, loves his job.

"Safety is number one with me," he said. "It gives me a good feeling to transport preschoolers, senior citizens, handicapped persons, residents and visitors. Sometimes Carson Valley residents like to ride the bus up to Markleeville just to walk around, have lunch or an ice cream. They say that it's like going on a little vacation with all of that beautiful scenery."

n Gina Gigli is a Markleeville resident. Reach her at (530) 694-2253.


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