Cruising

Riding the Big Grey Dog

Our dilemma was how to get back to Michigan without spending a months worth of Social Security.

We check flights from Paducah, out of the question.

The train was a possibility, however, the closest train station was almost 2 hours away by car, and we don’t have a car.

I checked into a driver to just drive us up in a personal vehicle and had someone who would do it for a couple of hundred dollars, but that didn’t work out either.

So!

Do the Google search for cheap travel. It brought up rental cars, only 30 dollars a day, but the one way drop off fee made the rental almost as much as an airline ticket.

Then I looked at Greyhound. Midweek, one way, only $57.00 each.

It had been a long time since I’ve ridden a bus any distance and Cynthia never. I hesitated to even bring it up to her. I offered to ride up by myself and bring her car back, but she wanted to see people in Michigan as much as myself.

It was a done deal.

Two tickets leaving Paducah Tuesday evni ng at 6:30 and arrive in Holland, MI the next day around 3:00 in the afternoon.

We booked the marina courtesy car for our trip into Paducah and asked friends on another boat to go along and return the car. We packed lightly with only 2 carry on cases and one suitcase that would ride below the passengers.

We arrived early enough in Paducah to have a late lunch at a brew pub downtown. It just happened to be located in the old bus station. They left some of the decor of the station that gave the place a retro look. Paducah Beer Werks (paducahbeerwerk.com) offers a limited “pub food” menu with the usual Stouts and IPAs. Not interested. I did find a brew called “the Dude” that satisfied my taste.

After a light diner, not knowing how it would set for the ride, we headed to the current bus station to wait for our ride.

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At the station waiting for our ride

We arrived about 5:45 and the office did not open until 6:00. The only bench outside was taken by an older gentleman that proceeded to change clothes along side of the building. He must have been waiting a while. Another person waiting was a younger man late 20’s or 30’s. He was on the phone and stayed there all the time until I lost track of him in St. Louis.

The bus arrived just a little early, passengers and drivers got off and promptly lit up. This made a haze that had to be passed through to board. Tickets in hand and the bag marked that it was heading to Holland MI we headed toward one of the drivers to board. It was hard to get either one to talk, but finally I showed one our tickets and was told to put the suitcase underneath and that “We would be on this bus all the way to Chicago”. We found a seat and tried to get comfortable.

 

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Our bus to Chicago and one of the drivers to St. Louis.

We were now on our way. Out of Paducah and headed toward St. Louis, with stops in between.

 

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Still excited about our adventure.

There was a sign in the front of the bus that basically said, don’t talk to the driver unless necessary. We passengers didn’t talk to the drivers, I don’t know why there were two but, the lady drivers kept up a running conversation that included passing phones back and forth while moving down 2 lane roads.

At our second stop quite a few people left the bus. A rider across the aisle commented, “The population of this town just doubled.” it lightened the moment.

I noticed that one of the departing passengers was moving around like he was looking for something, checking all the compartments underneath the bus. Seems that his suitcase was missing. Undaunted, the drivers pointed toward the door of the bus station, U haul, and pay by the week/month motel. “There’s an 800 number to call in there to let the company know.” Then got back onto the bus and we headed out again.

Onward toward St. Louis. After 2 or 3 more stops we crossed the Mississippi River, saw the Arch, the baseball field, and the arena for the Blue’s. The bus station was just across the street and included local train service and Amtrak. It was about 10:30P.M. And our bus was scheduled to leave shortly after 12:00 midnight.

While leaving the bus I asked if we should take our suitcase with us into the station and was told it would stay on the bus. Cynthia would have liked it better if I had brought it with us. She was now worried that our suitcase would not be with us when we arrived in Chicago.

The bus waiting area was away from the Amtrak waiting area down a corridor wing. Our first requirements were a restroom, some water and then someplace to rest while waiting for the bus to begin our next leg of the journey.

It was uneventful just sitting or trying to sit on some of the most uncomfortable benches ever. Comfortable benches make a good place for homeless to sleep. Announcements broadcast that security people would be moving through checking for tickets. I noticed a pretty female traveler had plenty of security making sure she was safe. I, on the other hand was asked,”you good?”, I was.

Our bus was announced and we queued to reboard. Our driver on this leg, “Captain Jeff”. Jeff was younger maybe 30’s and in full uniform complete with hat. He took his job seriously, and he looked good doing it.

Upon boarding Captain Jeff checked our tickets and said that he would get us to Chicago in plenty of time for our connection. He was a 180 degree turn around from the last section of the ride. I started for the bus, Cynthia was alongside the bus making sure our suitcase was still in its designated area. It was.

Well before our adventure began I had checked the travel tips on the Greyhound website. One I noticed was that the buses would be air-conditioned and they hoped that everyone would be comfortable.

I, being known to get cold, dressed in long pants, socks, and a fleece pullover. Cynthia had brought a lap blanket.

Not long into our trip from St. Louis to Chicago, Cynthia spotted a pair of open seats and headed off to be more comfortable. I rested my neck pillow against the window and tried to rest. I woke shivering and spotted Cynthia all snuggled under her blanket. Sliding in next to her, “I’m FREEZING”. She unenthusiastically offered some of her blanket. To me it was snuggling, but Cynthia thought I was crowding her. I tried to not lean on her, but the seats are not made for someone with a “mature” body frame.

I don’t know how long we had been riding when I told Cynthia “I smell something”. At about the same time “Captain Jeff” pulled the bus over to the side of the road. I thought “Oh no something is wrong with the bus and we are going to stuck in the middle of Illinois”. Jeff stopped the bus, straightened his tie, put on his bus driver hat, got out of his seat and proceeded to march to the back of the bus.

BANG! BANG! BANG! On the restroom door.

ARE YOU SMOKING ON MY BUS?

DON’T LIE TO ME!

IT IS A FEDERAL LAW.  THERE IS NO SMOKING ON THIS BUS.

I CAN CALL THE POLICE AND HAVE YOU ARRESTED RIGHT NOW!

BUT THAT WOULD MAKE ALL THESE PEOPLE LATE FOR THEIR ARRIVAL. OR

I COULD PUT YOU OFF THE BUS IN THE MIDDLE OF ILLINOIS, ALL BECAUSE YOU HAD TO SMOKE ON MY BUS.

Now put that out and get back to your seat and behave yourself.

Captain Jeff made his way back to his driver’s seat and pulled the bus back onto the highway heading toward Chicago. Jeff used the intercom to apologize to the rest of the riders for his actions. Then explained, again, the rules about smoking on any bus. The rest of the trip to Chicago was uneventful. We arrived about 5:00A.M. As we exited the bus both Cynthia and myself thanked Captain Jeff for getting us from St. Louis to Chicago safely. Then made our way into the waiting area for a 4 hour layover.

 

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Queuing for tickets to America.

Again, the benches in the waiting area are the most god awful uncomfortable things ever. After a while we moved from our “iron throne” to the cafeteria aluminum freezer seats to spend the rest of our wait in frozen bliss.

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Charging station and Cafe

The bus station waiting areas hold a real cross-section of America. There were, young families, new Americans, singles heading to a job and a new life, Grand parents holding newborns, workers traveling to job sites, students, and us.

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Three generations waiting for their ride.

 

The next leg of our trip was with a partner line, Indian Trails bus line. Cynthia was immediately impressed with the newer, cleaner, more comfortable buses. Our driver was not as structured as Captain Jeff, but she knew her job and did it well. She and a helper loaded our suitcase into the carrying area and told us to get comfortable. We had only 5 more stops to make till the end of our bus adventure.

Two stops down and on Interstate 94 headed for Michigan, the sun shining, we were making time and right on schedule.

I had dozed off….KA BOOM!

I mean KAABOOM!

HOLY SHIT WHAT WAS THAT! First thing we thought we blew a tire but our driver had it under control and moved the bus to the side of the road at Mile Marker 16 in Michigan. There we sat. For some reason the air conditioner would not work and was now blowing hot air. It got uncomfortable very fast. The driver let us know that she had called in to the office and they were working on a solution right away. The driver also had checked the tires and found them all OK. She figured that one of the air suspension bags had ruptured. This let the bus settle down on the tires and also made it so there was no way to air up the brake system. We were stuck on the side of the road until another bus came to get us.

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Sitting on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

We were close to an exit ramp and could see the “golden arches” from where we sat, but, company policy would not let us get off the bus. Driver did what she could to get some air moving inside. Opened emergency hatches and windows and doors. It was better but not very comfortable.

Word came that there was a bus in Kalamazoo, about an hour and a half away that was being dispatched. But they said they may have another solution. Sure enough there was a bus in Benton Harbor only 15 minutes away that was rerouted and sent our way. Within a half hour of the rupture we were on another bus and heading to the next stop.

Our driver was obviously more than a little geeked about what had happened and was doing a lot of talking with one of the passengers that happened to be a driver also. Cynthia, tired and ready to get off the bus was sitting with her head down behind the seat in front of her. I asked what was the matter. Through gritted teeth came “I want quiet and to get off this bus.” Only a little while to go, just a few more short stops and we arrived on schedule or very close to it in Holland.

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New bus dropping us off in Holland, MI.

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Cynthia trying to smile after 20+ hours of travel by bus.

We were tired and vowed this was our last bus adventure. We waited for our ride on into Grand Haven to rest and prepare for the next part of our weekend adventure.

 

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3 thoughts on “Riding the Big Grey Dog

  1. Patti-Jo Morris says:

    I’ve done the Greyhound from Calgary to Toronto… I had a blast. It’s something you only do once though.

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