What does a CABIN bus look like? I understand it isn't a normal bus, but an overnight sleeper bus full of beds that runs between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The route is pretty simple. Two overnight CABIN buses depart at 11pm; one is heading South from San Francisco and another heading North out of Los Angeles. Both arrive at 7am at their destinations.
When I arrived at 10:45pm the CABIN coach was right were it should be in an empty parking lot just below the Oakland Bay Bridge. An attendant confirmed my reservation and showed me around the lower level of the bus. It included a restroom and some booths for those who can't or do not want to sleep. Upstairs are the sleeping berths. If I had luggage, it would have been stored by the attendant and not accessible during the trip.
Up a narrow stairway you find each side of the bus has lower and upper beds. With the lower ones you get on your knees and easily slide in. The uppers are at about waist height, and you just roll in and out. Either way the space is tight. I'm 5ft 11 inches and 185lbs. I would suspect a person 6ft 2 inches and 220 lbs would easily max out the space. Each berth had an air vent, an AC power outlet, and two USB outlets. They provided a USB powered reading light. Other than that, no internal lighting was available during the night. Opening your curtain would allow some light to enter from the hall. The bus has WiFi.
As the 11pm departure time neared, I headed downstairs to change in the washroom. It would be almost impossible for a person my size to do it in the small berth. I returned to my bed wearing some light weight bottoms and a t-shirt and pulled closed my curtain. CABIN provides: Pillow, comforter, large bottle of water, ear plugs, a small bag for shoes and personal items. They also provide a 2.5 ounce bottle of "Dream Water" which is a mixture of Melatonin and other sleep aid ingredients. (You can buy Dream Water on Amazon) 11pm, departure time, but we didn't move...then we heard a voice in the hallway; it was our attendant for the trip. She welcomed us aboard and encouraged us to relax, get a good night rest, and assured us that she would be available if we needed anything. We would be leaving in 20 minutes. At 11:20 the bus began to move.
And move we did. When you are alone in a small darkened space, your senses have only one thing to focus on, and that is the movement. The sway of the big bus was expected as we made wide turns on the first few city streets, then onto the highway. The signature feeling of bridge decking was obvious as we crossed the Oakland Bay Bridge just minutes after departure. But the bumpy roads that continued for the first 30 minutes or so made it difficult to fall asleep. A GPS app, Geo Tracker, tracked the route and speed on my cell phone.
After getting used to the movement, I was dreaming sweet dreams, waking only occasionally and falling immediately back to sleep. Then the bus slowed dramatically and began making turns. Is this Santa Monica? No, we were moving to the other side of the 5 Freeway so that our Southbound CABIN bus could meet the Northbound CABIN bus and swap crews. This stop makes sense - it allows the crews to return to their respective homes. Even before we came to a complete stop at the Coalinga/Arenal Rest Area, I was fast asleep.
You could call it Mother Nature, or maybe physics that caused the next short sleep interruptions. The images above are the stats from the Geo Tracker cell phone app covering the ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. See the spike on one of the graphs? Yes, a large elevation bump happens when you approach LA from the North on the 5 Freeway because you pass through a mountainous area known as the Grapevine. This section of freeway shouldn't be a problem, but the elevation made my ears pop on the way up and on the way down, something I wasn't expecting to interrupt my sleep.
The last few turns and stops on the streets of Santa Monica, a city on the coastal side of Los Angeles, woke me up and signaled the end of the ride. The bus pauses here for a few minutes while passengers disembark. One passenger was still fast asleep and had to be awakened by the attendant.
A million dollar view awaits you as you step off the bus in Santa Monica. Now that we have some light, I can give you some better photos of the inside spaces of the CABIN bus.
The 2nd story passageway has an upper and lower berths on both side. The area has a low ceiling, so watch your head. At night there is just enough light to see your way to the steps down if you need to visit the washroom or see the attendant.
This is a very small area, but you don't need much space to sleep. Note that several of the cabins have unblocked windows for safety reasons. Those passengers are given an eye/sleeping mask to block the light. My berth had an insert covering the window. I suggest you bring into your space only what you will need overnight. I slipped several loose items like my wallet and iPad between the bed and the wall, and piled up my street clothes beside my feet. The mattress was very comfortable, as was the pillow and bedding. A single adjustable air conditioning vent kept the temperature just right while I was under the soft comforter.
TIPS: Bring only what you need into your sleeping space. If you have too much stuff, ask the attendant if she can store it in a nearby empty berth or downstairs. Don't expect this to silky smooth ride. Even on the smoothest road, you will feel some bumps. I couldn't sleep on my side. Any slight motion was amplified and I rolled around. I was much more comfortable on my back or stomach.
The attendant informed me that if I didn't want to go to sleep right away or if I awoke early, I was welcome to come downstairs and use this seating area. During my trip, I don't think anyone used this space. I would suggest CABIN remove one of the tables and create a changing room.
Was the overnight CABIN sleeper bus worth it? That depends on a variety of factors. If I lived in LA and needed to be in SFO for a 9am meeting, I would consider it. Much nicer than getting up at 4am and heading to LAX, or flying in the night before and paying for a hotel. Or if I dislike flying and didn't want to take the train or regular bus. For current pricing, check the RideCabin.com website.
NOTE: On this ride I was a guest of the CABIN service and didn't pay for my transportation. I was not compensated in any other way. If circumstances were right I would use this service again and pay for it out of my own pocket.
I enjoyed my trip and see the value in an overnight sleeper bus on this route. Like many things in life, the staff told me the second trip is much more comfortable.