This LA to San Francisco bus let’s you sleep overnight in a narrow bed
On an overnight bus from San Francisco to Los Angeles, I asked a woman dressed in comfort clothes – a loose black tank top and pants – for advice on surviving the night.
“Double up on sleeping pills,” she suggested, before drawing the curtain to her bunk.
A man removing his shoes a la Mister Rogers seconded her suggestion. He then disappeared into his slot for the night.
I had brought only nonprescription aids, a meditation app and East Coast jet lag, but I wasn’t too concerned: I have slept on buses before, upright, head swinging like a pendulum. Cabin was an upgrade, with horizontal mattresses and bedding that doesn’t work a day job as a coat. I was hoping for full-on R.E.M. sleep but would happily settle for a seriously deep doze.
Cabin, a new start-up begun by two Stanford alumni, began service in mid-July as a third way to bounce between the NorCal and SoCal cities. The self-proclaimed “moving hotel” is an alternative to the 75-minute flight or 612-kilometre (380-mile) drive. (Amtrak does not depart directly from San Francisco.) A one-way ticket starts at US$85, a budget option, especially if you factor in lodging.
I booked a bunk for September and chose a Sunday because, well, all the popular nights were sold out. Boarding begins at 10:30 p.m., half an hour before the doors close. The bus, which is painted gentleman’s-club black with a crescent moon graphic, departs from a dimly lit parking lot near the Bay Bridge. Travellers dragging bags on wheels materialized from the darkness. A car pulled up, dropped off three people and peeled away. Halfway down the coast, passengers in a parallel universe were stepping into an identical double-decker bus.
Accommodations are first-come, first-snooze. Guests can choose from 20 single-person private bunks stacked like freight containers on the second floor. The ground level contains two diner-style booths, an airline-size bathroom and two sleeping pods ideal for passengers with mobility issues, including navigating narrow stairs at highway speed.
A chipper guy with a flashbulb smile stood outside the bus checking off names on a clipboard, no ID requested. I asked Michael, our attendant for the first half of the trip, for suggestions on selecting a bed. He said the back of the bus is more stable but slightly louder and the front section is quieter but wiggles more. I selected a top bunk in the middle: moderate noise and movement, better window views, no feet near my face.
The sleeping chambers measure 190 to 196 centimetres (75 to 77 inches) in length, 64 centimetres (25 inches) in height and 66 to 79 centimetres (26 to 31 inches) in width. For context, the average size of a casket is 213-by-58-by-71 (84-by-23-by-28). Fortunately, Michael said we could stash our carry-on bags in the pod without the mattress. Many of us also piled our belongings in a seating area by the stairs.