The plums are just ripe in the garden at the back of the house, and they hang low on the trees. We pull shut our backpacks and close the door behind us when we go. At the North Berkeley BART station there’s tape over the money slots and all the trains are free. There are posters with a self-congratulatory message about public transportation and keeping the earth clean. We are ready to leave California.
12th St/Oakland City Center is as close as BART gets to the entrance of the Port of Oakland. Bring sensible shoes. Head towards the water from Oakland City Center where everyone is Chinese for four blocks, and then everyone is black, and then there isn’t anyone. Walk down Adeline Street until it splits in two, one half spitting gravel for half a block until it runs into a fence and the other half rising into the air. Walk up.
The road is empty. On the left are the cranes and containers stacked four high and eight deep. On the right is the railroad, the tracks, engines and stacks of containers. The road slopes back to the ground and then turns right, staying parallel with the line of giant cranes. The sidewalk comes and goes. Now the left of the road is fences with truck entrances and six feet of rocks and gravel between the fences and the road. Every ten minutes there’s another leaning Portajohn, some with doors closed and others with doors open and stuffed full of brown paper towels. It’s only two miles from the BART station but the monotony of the gravel and the silence makes the walking last forever.
We reach the Hanjin terminal fence with relief, but it’s fifteen more minutes of walking between the endless fence and endless road before we reach the gate and can enter. We follow the sedans and compacts into the Hanjin parking lot where people greet each other as they change into or out of orange safety vests. In this parking lot between containers and the railroad and the cranes even the cars are vulnerable and small.
BAY AREA RAPID TRANSIT
ONE WAY TICKET $1.45 (USUALLY) FREE (OUR PRICE)
DEPARTS NORTH BERKELEY ABOUT EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES
ARRIVES 12TH ST. OAKLAND CITY CENTER THIRTEEN MINUTES LATER
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY: Oakland’s Jack London Square has last-ditch public bathrooms and a big chain bookstore for last-ditch travel planning and very little else. Pick up a spare meal or two from one of the Chinatown restaurants south and east of the Oakland City Center BART stop.