Wednesday, April 13, 2011
For much of my life riding a bus meant either a road tour across some stretch of Europe or "goin' down Grandma's" to visit family in Virginia. It was a particular thrill as a child to ride on one of the biggest things on the road with those narrow but interestingly patterned seats and the scented interiors of the buses. The windows were huge and the scenery ever changing, from towns and cities, to hills and mountains with the occasional lake or river thrown in for good measure. It was exciting beyond measure to "race" a train that happened to be thundering alongside in the same direction. As a child there was no stigma attached to riding the bus. I was too young to worry about the collected mix of passengers on any given trip. As at least some of the trip was at night it was my job to sleep as best I could, anyway, and not worry about whoever else might be on board. Mom and Dad paid the fares so all I had to do was stay close by, stay on board and stay out of trouble. Easy enough. On a bus there was a whole aisle to wander if I got bored or annoyed with my younger sister as opposed to being trapped in the back seat of the car for hours on end. As best I can recall I was well-enough behaved to not be a nuisance to my fellow travelers and certainly no one to my recollection made any untoward advances in my direction. For many today the blue and silver silhouette of Greyhound is the only bus line they have ever known. There once was a time when the red liners of (Continental) Trailways competed for fares across the nation's expanding network of interstate and national highways. We typically rode with Greyhound as they had a stronger presence along the east coast but even at a young age I remember a distinct difference in their service. For some reason I felt the Greyhound's were faster but the Trailways coaches were larger, cleaner and more powerful thanks to many of them having manual transmissions as opposed to Greyhound's preference for automatics. Trailways is gone, having been absorbed by Greyhound who now faces a crazy quilt world of competitors from surviving Trailways franchises as well as the likes of Peter Pan and Coach USA for scheduled and chartered service across the country. I've been driving for thirty years now and enjoy the freedom of long drives up to 10 hours in any one direction. Going "down home" now is a three-hour flight back to the Maryland/Virginia area followed by up to a five hour drive in to the country to Gramma's. That in itself is a long day but put all of that in terms of a Greyhound schedule? One day, five hours and 10 minutes, according to their website with one transfer in Atlanta for a web fare of $167.56 up to the fully refundable fare of $208 one way. Oh, and that includes 16 stops between Dallas and Atlanta where the bus arrives at 3:30 in the morning before waiting an hour to catch the 2nd bus with nine more stops to my Grandmother's home town. Come on along! Gotta go.