Sonoma County commuters share their traffic tales

(Kent Porter / Press Democrat )


Love your job or hate your job, we can all agree, getting there can be the worst part of the day. Especially in the Bay Area.

We asked readers about their daily commute in Sonoma County and they didn't hold back. Some share wonderful stories of bicycling to work, while most spend grueling hours in traffic wishing they were there already and their tricks for coping with it.

See short stories in the gallery above, and some of our longer favorite ones below:

Zac Overbay: I’ve been commuting from Santa Rosa to and from San Francisco most every day for 16 years. In total, it’s about three-and-a-half hours/day, on bad days (holidays, Fridays, etc.) can be up to four or five hours a day. Door to door, its about 144 miles round trip from Fountain Grove area in Santa Rosa, to the Financial District in San Francisco. Not really much “good about the commute,” but the tricks to make it manageable are:

1. Leave early (I’m on a bus by 5:15 a.m.) so you don’t have to manage the gridlock BOTH ways.
2. Take public transportation when possible. I ride Golden Gate Transit (72X bus) which is both a very effective and efficient means of transportation.

3. I tend to consider the ride into the office additional “rest” time (nobody really sleeps) and the way home as “work time.” The key is leveraging technology: a good MiFi for wireless connection and laptop (your phones are a no-no, unless it’s an emergency).
4. The biggest tip — be patient. If you get yourself all wound-up, you’ll stress yourself out and have more negative health consequences.
5. Buy a fun car if you have to drive — it ameliorates some of the commute pain.
It’s not for everybody. I’ve met many people over the years that said, I can’t do this and find a local job after a few months of commuting.
Interesting facts/tidbits: never been in an accident (knock on wood), the drivers are awesome. Had a few medical emergencies on the bus commute, and I've been stranded without moving for several HOURS on Hwy 101. Other interesting fact: no restroom on the buses!

Lindsay Peak: I commute from Ukiah to Santa Rosa almost daily. The housing market is flooded right now, and despite my husband and my efforts to relocate, we have yet to find a reasonably priced apartment in Sonoma County. I am currently background talent in a television show and a guest artist in "Fairyworlds!" with the Sixth Street Playhouse. Early morning calls and late night bows are taking a toll on this 30-something. What's a blessing is the reverse commute. It's rarely over an hour drive. A straight shot. The distance is the only downside. Two hours a day (at least) really gets in the way.

Three friends have made suggestions that worked for them, like printing "couple business cards" or making various religious-aimed resumes to put up in local places of worship describing why we would make good tenants. It's come to this? I pay my rent on time and don't have a waterbed. Having all this time in the car to think about how to not be in the car reminds me of a "Seinfeld" episode. I wonder if I'll be looking through obituaries to find an apartment like Elaine. I'll think more about it tomorrow in the commute.

Dan Van Heuklom: After moving to Rohnert Park from Minneapolis in 2014, I rode my bicycle to North Petaluma, 8.8 miles each way, to work and back every weekday for about two years. It was fine, and there was a path or a dedicated bike lane the entire route (we were planning ahead when we moved to this spot). I avoided commuting via 101 until I moved to Santa Rosa last year for cost of living reasons (two consecutive annual rent hikes of 9.9%). After a few times of commuting 16 miles each way from my new north Santa Rosa address via bicycle, I realized it was too far to do every day. Since my family shares one vehicle, I started using it to commute instead of the bike. I have never been so frustrated with the human race as I am when commuting in traffic on 101. Tailgaters are the worst, but also the motorcycles splitting lanes at 65 mph is extremely nerve wracking. Since California law neither allows or prohibits such recklessness, I simply want no part in it.

Every week I saw new accidents and ambulances, road rage and texting drivers, as well as actual gang violence playing out in front of me. Long story short, SMART train service started, and my new address is only a hundred yards from one of the train stops (yes I was thinking ahead again!). My office is less than three miles from the Petaluma train station, which is easily accessible on the bike. I purchased my 31-day pass today, and look forward to using my commute time on the train in a million ways. My wife will be using the car around Santa Rosa for college and work, and we will not put it on the freeway during rush hour ever again!

Amy Douglas: I have been commuting from Santa Rosa to San Mateo and/or South San Francisco since 2003. I am in clinical research, so the majority of the pharmaceutical clients/employers are in the South Bay, hence my commute choice.

Each week is different depending upon the needs of an active clinical trial. I usually have to get on the road early, no later than 5:45 a.m., to not get stuck in the endless traffic. As long as there are no weather constraints, traffic is fine until you get that one fender bender and then your morning takes a turn. I can make it to the office around 7:45-8 a.m. Going home always takes more than two hours. There is nothing I can do to change that time.Some people ask why do I do it, and how I do it. It's easy, most days. When you love what you do and do what you love, that drive is nothing. If I can contribute my skill set and knowledge to a team that can help get an investigational drug approved, what is a few hours? It's nothing compared to the bigger picture. Nothing, when it could be a friend or family member that can benefit from a clinical trial.
Do I wish I had a shorter commute? Some days, yes. Other days, it is OK as it is. I use that time to have my coffee and listen to the radio. Coming home, it's my "me time". I can blare the radio, sing away and call friends to catch up. It's my time to unwind. The give and take to live in Sonoma County — no complaints.

Shawn Langwell: I commute daily from Petaluma to San Rafael. Years ago I had to commute all the way to Emeryville. There are only two to three times during the year where traffic is very light: April, July and August — usually tied to times when school is out and people are in vacation. The other nine months, particularly the winter months, my commute can take over an hour; several times last year it took nearly two hours! That's a lot of down time. It caused me to be stressed and uptight. My wife suggested listening to podcasts. Years ago I used to listen to motivational tapes in the car — a rolling university, if you will — rather than showing up to work all uptight because of traffic. What a fantastic idea. Now at least one to two days a week, I listen to a podcast on business or personal development, writing or spiritual growth. I feed my mind instead of fuming about something I can't control. My days go better when I use commute time to feed my mind.

Sometimes I'll pray or prospect for new clients (using Siri as a secretary to log leads). Other times I'll use voice command for notes and thoughts about a current book. In a nutshell, I do my best to make my commute time productive. Over the course of a year at two hours a day, that is 1,000 hours of feeding and using my mind for good.

For more stories, see above in the gallery.

Have a story to add? Leave yours in the comments.