Shawn Engleman's six-hour commute was made easier by the visiting Stanford University professor from Australia who rode shotgun.
"We talked about economics," Engleman said of the conversation that lasted the majority of the trip.
Engleman, 32, encountered the scholar through his third "job": operating a weekend ride-share between his work in Santa Clara County, Calif., and his home in Ashland.
During the week, Engleman holds down jobs as a real estate manager and at a transportation firm. But every Friday at 6 p.m., he gets in his rental car and hits the road, pacing his way up the 400-mile Interstate 5 corridor that leads him to his wife and two children in Southern Oregon.
"To fly is unreasonable, and with Greyhound or Amtrak there's a time restraint," Engleman said.
Looking for a solution and hoping to help others who are in a similar situation, he came up with the idea of the interstate ride-share.
Engleman began posting his plans on Craigslist, looking for companions for the long trip on I-5. He departs from California every Friday evening and leaves Ashland every Sunday at the same time.
"My boss said, 'This is absurd, you can't make a business out of this,' " Engleman said. "And it's not. I'm breaking even."
Engleman charges $70 for a round trip or $40 one way. It's usually enough to cover the cost to rent a car, about $65 a day, and gas, which is about $100 each way. He goes door-to-door picking up his riders, and drops them off at the front door of their destination. Engleman takes reservations, and he uses phone calls or e-mails to screen everyone he hauls. He has a Web site (www.shawnsrideshare.com) currently under construction.
"It's always a mixed bag," he said of his passengers. "It makes for great conversation."
Engleman, who doesn't have a car in California, tackles a 30-mile round trip to and from work each day on his bicycle. Each Friday afternoon, he heads to Toyota Sunnyvale to rent a new ride for his weekend commute.
The number of seats reserved for a trip dictate his vehicle selection, which is most often a Highlander sports utility vehicle, which seats seven, or a Sienna van, which can seat up to eight.
"If you can do Greyhound, you can do this," passenger Scott Caswell said. Caswell rode from Ashland to Vallejo, Calif., with Engleman on Sunday. "Look at this car."
The Highlander is equipped with leather seats, climate control for all passengers and a energy monitor that calculates miles to the gallon, not to mention the water bottles and portable DVD player Engleman has stocked in the SUV.
He doesn't specifically ask to rent the Highlander, which is a hybrid. The SUV gets great gas mileage in the city when driving under 40 mph, but he said he rarely comes close to that mark on I-5, which makes up most of his trip.
"I'm not a diehard as far as my carbon footprint," Engleman said. Though he's concerned about the environment and recognizes the benefits of ride-sharing, he said he's just looking for a good conversation for his six-hour weekend commute.
A trip can draw a mix of people. Some riders work one week in Ashland and the next in the Bay Area, some are regular riders, some are visiting family and some just need a vacation. On Sunday, the Highlander's passengers included Caswell (a self-proclaimed semi-amateur skateboarder), a self-employed businessman, a transportation planner and an insurance broker.
Bathroom breaks and gas fill ups are taken as needed, and Engleman said he doesn't mind stopping to give riders a chance to stretch their legs. Usually, he stops at the same businesses.
"Those people don't know me yet, but they will," he said.
Engleman plans to continue the ride-share through the winter, though he may have to upgrade to a larger vehicle that can handle snow.
"So long as the pass is open, I'll be able to get through it," he said.
Reach reporting intern Stacey Barchenger at 776-4464 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.