It was a day of free bus rides last Friday, so Tom Cooksey kept his wallet in his pocket for the ride from Dunsmuir to Mount Shasta. He and his wife have birthdays close to each other, and he was going to pick up a German chocolate cake at Ray's for the celebration.

As Cooksey got off, Bill Counts and Emil Heisel got on. They were headed to Yreka. Heisel works there at Goodwill Industries, and Counts is his “life coach,” helping Heisel work toward greater independence as he goes through his daily routine. Counts was hoping the free bus ride would give Heisel enough confidence to start taking the bus to work on his own.

When I transferred, in Yreka, to the Scott Valley bus, Joshua and Kimmy (they didn't want to give last names) were already seated, on the last leg of their jaunt from Hornbrook to the WalMart store. They'd been waiting all week for the free ride, normally a five-dollar round trip, and they were looking forward to spending a few hours roaming the aisles.

The bus made a quick stop near the store before heading out on Highway 3 to Etna. I was the only passenger, and the driver cranked up the volume on the rock ‘n’ roll station as we climbed over the Forest Mountain summit and rolled through the sprawling ranchlands of the valley.

It wasn't all grasslands and cattle. We passed the Three Birds Café in Fort Jones (“where the mayor is your personal chef”) and the site of J.J. Mule Stud Service (“Purveyors of Fine Ass”), among other notable sights along the way.

I was surprised there weren't more folks riding along with me, letting the STAGE company do the driving while getting in a little free sightseeing.

Another opportunity for a free bus ride will be coming up on June 21. Meanwhile, you can get bus schedules and fare information at or by calling 842-8220, ext. 7.