Thursday, 30 July 2015

Looking Out The Greyhound Window

Travelling in the United States, the all American dream road trip where one just drops everything and hit the road being free. I had dreams of it, wishing I was driving a car, a motorbike, or even hitchhiking down the famous route 66 with nothing other than good jeans, t-shirt and a small backpack and a straw in my mouth like a cowboy. Unfortunately reality is not as perfect as television shows and dreams.

Coming from outside of the states, the great road trip I wanted to do so much was just too expensive to consider. I needed a ride and a ride cost money to buy or rent. Being an alien means I only have a limited amount of time before my visa expire and I have to leave or be branded an illegal. The movies always show these grand road trip by people with no money but the hard fact is that you need quite a lot of money for a road trip in America if you are from the outside.
I remember sad endings in movies where someone on the run always board a bus in the end of the show. A bus to anywhere and the screens go blacks as the bus departs showing a guy or girl looking out the sad window, yet also a start of a new beginning.

That was my journey in the states, always looking out the greyhound bus window at towns, cities, countryside as they roll by, for not every place in the states were travel friendly. Hotels or Motels would have whip back my journey’s budget for months and without a set of free wheels (Car or bike) I would be stranded at the bus stop as soon as I reach these remote towns. Only places with some form of public transportation, subway or if small enough within walking distance would be the places I go to. I could go anywhere I wanted America, but I was restricted and bonded by chains called money.
I first visited United States back in Jan 2012 on my very first backpacking adventure around the world. I quickly realized that hostels were limited to big cities or very popular places and were not everywhere as it was in Europe. I was content then travelling the big cities route for everything was a new experience anyway. Today Apr 2015 not much have changed in the hostel scene other than the steep hike in prices but I ran out of big cities to explore.

Even back in 2012 I quickly realized that I was stuck on the bus route. Cross states trains were available but too expensive and have lesser flexibility in terms of places to go to. Not every city in America is serve by a train station and trains don’t always run regularly. A set of free ‘Wheels’ was not possible money wise so all that was left was the bus.
I soon discovered after desperate research that there was a bus pass for the Greyhound. The ‘ greyhound discovery pass’ was a lifesaver for I could buy a monthly pass for USD 450 and travel unlimited times on any Greyhound bus to anywhere in the states. Today 2015 this bus pass is no longer on sale and I had to book from stop to stop making it even more expensive to travel the states.

For some reason certain route was cheaper than the others although it is the same amount of distance. For example a bus ride from Knoxville to Richmond cost USD 80 for 11 hours journey but a bus ride from Knoxville to Washington D.C cost USD 37 for 11 hours journey. You can of course guess which city I choose to go from Knoxville.
A friend I met in the USA told me that the Greyhound was the most lousy bus system and only the scum of the earth takes the Greyhound bus. He was adherent to persuade me to take Megabus or Chinatown bus but cost wise it was nowhere a cheap as the Greyhound. The novelty of getting a bus tickey for USD 1 on the Megabus was utter bullshit to a traveller. I have only ever got a 0 dollar air ticket from Airasia by stalking the website every day and even that was a 1 year ahead booking. I knew I would never get such amazing deals. Not unless you are willing to tie down plans and forgo free will.

How bad is the Greyhound Bus Service ?
I remember back in 2012 I could be sitting next to the homeless on the greyhound bus for the whole journey. The smell was horrible but when the bus is full, all you can do is try to sleep with you head facing the other way.

The Greyhound bus was always cold. Back then and even now. For some reason the air-conditioning is always set to freezing and if it in winter the bus driver would normally be oblivious to how to turn on the heating. There were times when I thought I would freeze to death in a greyhound bus regardless of how much cloths I was wearing. Nowadays I learn to layer up or at lease bring all the layers up the bus regardless of the weather. Much better than dreaming of that warm clothes at the undercarriage.
You meet so many people on the greyhound bus station. The kindest, weirdest, dangerous, creepy people that you can think off. No wonder my friend call it the scum of the earth.

I am in Knoxville now and going just outside the station to smoke people will approach you for a cig. Normally I roll my own and once they see it and know that the rolled cig is not weed they would leave you alone. One guy thou really wanted a cig and was willing to roll his own so I let him.

This guy was a welder, looked like a short hippy that could not stop talking to himself. You could never know with these people if they were talking to you or just talking to themselves.

Don’t engage too much … I always thought.

Soon another guy came up and asked if he could roll a cig as well …. This guy looked like a typical nice white boy. Nice simple conversation and always the standard question of how many hours have you been on the greyhound and how long more you have to go. Some people travel for 4 days on the bus to get where they were going. All was still weird normal to me but then a pretty girl came out and light a smoke next to us. The welder asked how she was doing and her reply was “Great – first day out of prison”.
Yep I know I am travelling the cheapest way possible, on the Greyhound bus.

In Baltimore while waiting for the bus to Philadelphia I was smoking as usual at the smoking area and observing the weird Americans as usual. A nice young black chap who just wanted conversation but always ended the sentence with a punchline of “You know what I’m saying”. A Mother and very young son (about 4 I think) which was worrisome for when the boy being playful wondered too far away the mom would drag him back to the smoking corner and threaten the hell out of the boy.
I think her words were, If you fucking leave 20 ft away from me again I will fucking smack you so hard in the face you be crying on the floor. Do you fucking hear me?

Poor kid. But another old lady took the cake and made me shuffle back inside the bus station. She was talking to the young chap and topics were flying everywhere until they mention about how dangerous it is in Baltimore. The old lady said that she did not feel safe too but she ain’t scared for she has her 22 right there in her pocket. (22 as in a Gun) ….
What I think about the Greyhound Bus

I have to say that I am thankful that there is at lease one system of bus that run all over USA. Else I would be stranded in the city that I landed. Thou not for the week hearted traveller it shows a glimpse of True Americans of how diverse the people really is and not just what Hollywood portrays. As dangerous as it sounds .... I stills survived it and they do have security guards that although at times seams forceful does instil as sense of security around the stations.

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