Saturday, January 02, 2010

Go Greyhound!

I have grown impatient with airline travel because of the increasing costs, the delays, the extra fees for baggage, the cancelled flights and endless searches. I'm not all that fond of long distance auto trips, either, so on a recent trip back home from New York, I opted for Greyhound.

This year, we celebrated Christmas at my daughter's home in Cincinnati. Joe was planning to drive home afterwards, and I arranged to visit my Great Aunt Hilda, who lives in the New York area, on my own. I purchased a Greyhound ticket.

My children, who have grown very protective of late, were not too on keen this choice. In what can best be described as an intervention, Ben, Mike, Emily, and Steve predicted my death by specially trained marauders who execute senior citizens foolish enough to travel by Greyhound. So concerned was my son Michael that he drove me as far as Philadelphia where he lives and personally placed me on a train to New York. Always glad of additional time with my Michael, I agreed to this.

For the return trip, I did take the Greyhound and have lived to tell the tale. The buses are clean, and the drivers keep things orderly. There is twice as much leg room as one has on an airplane; things ran on time; and the mountain scenery was gorgeous. I got to nap now and then. But the trip was eighteen hours long. By car, it might have taken 10 1/2 hours; a little longer with rest stops. With security checks, the plane might have taken almost as long, because there is no direct flight from New York to our regional airport.

Buses make rest stops every few hours. The rest rooms are clean, but terminals are poorly lit in places, and in the largest cities like Washington D.C., a bit scary. The problem isn't the passengers. Bus terminals, especially in winter, serve to shelter the homeless. Panhandling is not permited, but one must vigilantly guard belongings, as one would on the New York Subway.

I wanted to take pictures, but did not want to call attention to myself. All sorts of people ride on the Greyhound-- senior citizens like me, college students, military people, people down on their luck. One seldom sees business travelers-- most people seemed to be visiting friends and family or returning home. People pull out their laptops, but this is more of a rarity than on planes. While one must attend to security, it is actually far more comfortable than air travel, though longer. Obviously, I cannot ride the Greyhound to China next summer, but for domestic travel, I will use it again.

What does tomorrow mean? It is 5:30 pm here, but at home it’s 5:00 in the morning. I leave Weihai tomorrow and make a stop in Beijing. ...