Recently I had the misfortune or privilege to travel by Greyhound from Dallas TX to Area 52, which is located somewhere north of the Mason-Dixon Line and south of Detroit. Bear in mind that I have never traveled by bus before, but because of circumstances of low financial resources at the time, it seemed like a good idea.
Well, I arrived at the Dallas Greyhound bus station an hour before departure as instructed. I expected that my luggage would be scanned or something since it seemed so important to be there early. WRONG! They weighed my suitcase. That's all. Then I was told to go stand in line at gate 1. So off we went. Oh, did I mention that my brother was standing beside me all this time? We got in a line, that wasn't marked, but after asking someone ahead of us who could actually see what gate it was, we determined that we were in the right line at the right gate.
When they called my bus, big brother and I slowly progressed towards gate 1. Then across the tarmac to where the big blue and white chariot was parked. After a few hugs and well wishes, and tears, I must admit, I boarded the bus. No assigned seats! After all this wasn't American Airways, so I progressed down the aisle looking for an empty seat. Finally, about midway back, I found an empty one. I asked the guy in the seat by the window if "this seat was taken." He said,"it is now." So I sat. Soon we started rolling. The first thing I noticed was that the seats on a bus are "one size fits most." The thing was just as wide as I was. No wiggle room. The armrest between passengers cut into my left side, but it was lightly padded, so I could live with that if I didn't put the armrest towards the aisle in place. Well, I settled in and tried to relax. It was interesting to look around and see the diverse cultural backgrounds of the people on board. No small children except for the cute little girl (whom I found out later was only 2) and a great deal of women traveling alone. There didn't seem to be many people traveling together. I tried talking to the guy next to me, but got a lot of "yeps" and "nopes" so I finally gave up. He spent most of his time on the bus talking on his cell phone.
We stopped in every little berg and town in the northern part of Texas. Sometimes we weren't allowed to get off, sometimes we were. I didn't move out of my seat until we made a 45 minute stop at a convenience store/gas station. I had to use the facilities, and from what I had heard about the bathroom on the bus, I opted to go inside the station. That wasn't too much better, but I had to go!
At one stop, this young gal, about 7 months pregnant and toting the little gal mentioned above, got on . Now this gal had all their worldly goods in Target bags. No luggage to stash under the bus. My heart went out to her, traveling alone, but she had everything she seemed to need to make their trip comfortable. I only heard that little gal cry one time clear to Memphis. I commented to the mom on how well behaved the little one was. That's when I learned she was only 2.
Memphis! Bright lights, bars and lots of ads for Graceland. We pulled in on time. Were told to collect a boarding pass as we got off the bus so we could retain our seats. We had a 30 minute stop there. I made my way into the station and headed for the head. Then I bought a candy bar and found a seat near the right gate for reentry. I didn't want to get left behind. Here, let me let you in on a secret. Greyhound buses are kept pretty clean. This is surprising seeing how every bus I was on was filled to the total capacity of 57 passengers. BUT, the bus stations in every location are in the seediest, most run down parts of town. They are filthy, and their restrooms are the dirtiest I have ever been in. Men definately have the advantage of standing up. We were called back to board, and then we waited, and waited, and waited. The gal with the 2 year old finally got back on the bus, and griped and complained about how she was treated by the new driver when she tried to board. Then we waited and waited some more. After about 35 minutes, a gentleman in a shirt and tie boarded and asked the gal and her 2 year old to bring their belongings and come with him. They did as asked, and we never saw them again. The new driver, a little gal, I swear I wonder how she saw over the steering wheel, got on with another Greyhound employee. I think he was her bodyguard!! Monique was our new driver. She announced that since we were about 40 minutes behind schedule, that our trip from Memphis to Nashville would be "expressed" and there would be no stops. That gal really put the pedal to the metal and we booked it right down the Interstate. Only thing wrong was that Monique and her bodyguard (who turned out to be a luggage handler riding home to Nashville) never shut up. They carried on about the gal who got put off the bus. It seems that, from what I could gather from the conversation, that she had gotten hold of a boarding pass and had no ticket and had "freeloaded" from somewhere in Texas to Memphis. When she tried to get back on in Memphis, the driver, Monique asked to see her ticket. She said she lost it. Then proceded to cuss and rant and rave at the driver. The driver refused to let her board, and when she called for help, gal slipped by and boarded anyway. What a mess. But, did we have to hear a replay for 4 friggin' hours? By this time, the guy beside me had gotten off, and another guy was sitting there. He happened to be going the same way I was, so we sorta teamed up and became friends. His name was Pete, and he was headed to Area 52 to visit his daughters, who lived there with an ex wife. He had never traveled Greyhound either, and was a bit nervous about transfers and so on. I assured him that we could make it if we worked at it together, so he relaxed and we visited some. He said that the express trip to Nashville was the fastest that we had traveled all day. He had been on there all day, too. We arrived in Nashville 4 minutes ahead of schedule, thanks to Monique's heavy but safe foot on the gas.
In Nashville, another seedy station like in Memphis, (who designs these things, anyway). This time we had to transfer to another bus. So, we disembarked and grabbed our luggage as it was set out of the bowels of the underbus. At least, I did. Pete's suitcase was nowhere to be found. We looked all over, but it wasn't there. He seemed to take it in stride, said it would surely show up eventually, so we reboarded, this time after all the other people who had already been on this bus had boarded. New seats. Two rows from the back. Right outside the restroom door. How convenient! Now I could be privvy to the privvy. The seats we were in previously had lots of leg room because we were in the middle of the bus right across the aisle from the emergency door. Just for the record, if you can sit there, there's lots of leg room. Otherwise, just hope that the person in front of you is careful when lowering his seat back, or you will have no kneecaps left. Next stop: Louisville, KY. There were some truckers across the aisle from me who were riding to pick up new "rigs" and they talked non stop for hours. Loudly! Not really being rude, but to be heard over the tire noise and exhaust of the bus. Pete and I had now been in transit for about 16 hours and were trying to get some sleep. Not going to happen!
Louisville is another seedy station in another seedy part of town. Do you see a theme erupting here? A 45 minute layover and then off again. Nothing of any consequence happened there, but I was really tired and still wishing that the motor mouths across the aisle would just "shut the f--k up." Only 3 hours to Area 52 and then I would board another bus for the last 50 miles home. We arrived at the next seedy station at 6:45 am, only 23 hours since boarding in Dallas. I staggered into the station, luggage in tow, only to find that I had a 2 and 3/4 hour layover. I coffeed up, grabbed a seat in front of a big screen t.v. tuned to "Hour of Power." How fitting, after all it was Sunday morning.
Finally, they called our bus and Pete and I once again boarded the dreaded beast. We had our pick of seats, there were only 20 people going our way. It was a beautiful morning and watching the sun rise in the east was great. I was almost home. Do you know that it takes over 2 hours for Greyhound to travel 55 miles? Of course, we had to stop in another town before my stop, and the passengers had 15 minutes to smoke. No rest rooms, but a place to smoke outside the bus.
At long last, we arrived at my stop. When we stopped, I shook hands with Pete, wished him well, and grabbed my carry-on and began to head down the steps of the bus. I was looking to see if Lil Bro and Sistah were there to pick me up and low and behold, I missed the last step of the bus and dumped my ass onto the tarmac. My carry-on went flying, I went ass over appetite, and skinned my left knee, wrenched my shoulder, and severely bruised my ego. Not one soul came to my rescue, not even the driver of the bus. I grabbed my luggage, and hobbled to a picnic table where I proceded to pick the stones out of my knee cap and salve my ego a bit. In about 5 minutes, my kids arrived. I hugged them both, threw my suitcases in the trunk of their car and we booked it out of there. They treated me to a meal at Cracker Barrel on the way home. What a treat. Good food, good company. At last, my feet on Area 52 soil! Next time, Amtrak...here I come!