Misadventures of the Big Grey Dog

I got on my first bus in a little terminal in Salt Lake City.  It was a shorter ride to Denver but as soon as I sat down I knew it would feel like an eternity.  There was no leg room and my knees started to hurt within minutes of boarding, but hey it only cost me $130 to get to Maine so whatever.

I was sitting next to the one thing I wasn’t looking forward to: a talker.  Politics, martial arts, and blowing up tornadoes with bombs were the main conversation topics, but he was a nice enough dude so whatever.  As the ride went on we stopped to let more people onto the already crammed bus which didn’t sit well with the dude behind me when someone sat next to him.  The next hour or two was spent with him screaming “Fuck, man!  Shit!” Every so often.  He definitely had a mental condition which made it a little sad when the bus driver eventually kicked him out.  

The Denver terminal was packed.  I couldn’t even sit on the floor if I’d wanted to so all I was able to do was stand in line for two hours which was total shit after not sleeping the entire way there.  The thought of getting on another bus started to make me sick and I grew anxious standing there in line unable to move.  My goal was a window seat at the very least, if I’m gonna hurt I might as well have a view.

The two hours went by and I still had a solid spot in line when the bus crew called us to bring our bags out then get back in line, which was promptly met with “Nevermind!” as I got outside.  RIP my place in line.  I went to the back in despair and waited another 20 minutes.  Once it was time to board they distributed the lines which then put me near the front, the window seat was back on the table, aw yeah!  

Once I got on the bus my mood changed dramatically.  There was actual leg room!  Sweet leg room!  I even had the row to myself so I could sprawl out and take a nap, but life always comes with caveats.  I was seated near a wheel chair access door and there was a gap in it blowing cold air at me the whole time but hey, everything else was great.

As we rolled on, a guy in front of me jumped back and sat next to me because the lady he was next to was pushing him out of his seat while she slept.  He was a really cool dude who helps immigrants get on their feet wherever that may be, so he travels via bus a lot.  He had a lot of really fun stories like being held hostage at a party by some of the folks he helped since they didnt have valid IDs to purchase alcohol with yet, making him the lifeline of the party.  He snuck out the window and ran away so he wouldn’t miss his bus.  Later he bought me a sandwich and some chips, and we’d started using each other as a point of reference to make sure we were on the right bus during transfers.  It was sad to see him go.

With Saint Louis meant another hour of waiting while they changed drivers and refused the bus, as well as parting ways with mostly everyone I’d been traveling with since Denver.  With nothing to do I looked at my ticket and realized I’m kind of behind schedule, which isn’t too horrible since I had a 12 hour layover in Bangor to contend with.  As long as the delay doesn’t go over that it’s all good.  

Speaking of delays, I got into St. Louis around 3.  I was supposed to be gone at 4.  Then 7:30.  Then 9:30…. And then 2 thanks to the big wigs at Greyhound.  People who just showed up got on the bus while those that had been here for hours got pushed aside to run back and forth from the gate to the ticket counter to be told “I dunno” by each multiple times.  I’m growing more and more concerned that my pack and I will never see each other again as it was just sitting out there on a random bus in the lot.  It wouldn’t be until 2 that we’d finally depart.  I’ll be in Maine a day late which doesn’t bode well for all the reservations I made.  But at least I got a meal voucher, and the manager was really nice and tried very hard to get us out earlier.  It made me sad to see people going after her throat for just delivering bad news and you could tell she was on the verge of tears.  I made sure to at least thank her for trying.  People: some thugs are out of an employees control no matter what the business is.  Be smart enough to recognize that and be humane enough to not be a dick because things aren’t going your way.  If I can say that now in the face if all I suffered through with this greyhound shit, then… well.. just don’t be an asshole to people trying to help you, kay?  Kay.

One of the people who hassled the most manager later complained that his free meal had regular fries instead if ‘greyhound fries’ and tried to get a refund.  I don’t know what the hell greyhound fries even are, but that says enough about the kind of people I’m referring to here.

I finally get on the bus and make some transfers, honestly I don’t remember anything about it.  As of my writing this i don’t even know how many days I’ve been doing this.  Anyways, I changed buses in Cleveland to an old piece of shit bus.  As we were leaving the station a woman complained to the driver that the air conditioning was too cold (it absolutely was not), so the driver turned on the heat full blast.  We leave the station and he gets lost trying to find the freeway because someone at the station gave him bad directions.  Then we got stuck behind a train for almost an hour.

Needless to say the bus was running late, and it was hot as fuck because the air conditioning wasn’t working correctly.  We made a stop to pick some folks up and the bus was packed to capacity.  A bunch of breathing, farting, smelly, sweaty bodies all crunched together.  I don’t know how I slept through that, but thank god I did.

We arrived in Pittsburg early in the morning, and the driver didn’t know if the bus was continuing to NYC or if we were transfering.  He advised us to talk to the ticket counter.  So I stood in line for 30 minutes, got my ticket renewed with a brand new 2 hour layover.  I sat down and realized that the people I was traveling with were gone, folks with the same destination as me.  They must have found out something earlier/faster than me and got on a bus.  God fucking shit djdmdnsnsjemekamwjhrr.

Two hours go by, I get in line for the bus, and I’m promptly pulled out of line with news that id be waiting another three hours.  At this point im starting to lose it.  I’ve had nothing but delays and cancelled buses since I started this.  I’m already a day late for my reservations, how in the hell is Greyhound still even a business?!  I frustratedly tried to find Amtrack tickets to no avail.  A plane ticket would cost my entire AT budget.  A car rental would be $700.  I’m fucked.  I have zero choice here.

I put my bags in storage and walked around Pittsburgh to find a gas station or convenience store and couldn’t find one.  So I just decided to wander around for a bit and was really happy I did.  It’s a really nice city where even people trying to sell vicodin on the streets were nice enough to stop and chat for a while, at least in my case.  Most of the time when someone tries to sell me drugs they get butthurt and leave when I say no, but not in Pittsburgh.  They tell you where the cool areas of town are, reassure you that yes greyhound is the worst but once you’re clear of NYC it’s smooth sailing.  I hate cities but this place was just beautiful and awesome.

In a better mood I went back to the station and waited for my bus, got on, and took a nap.  I woke up here and there to admire the scenery, cause damn Pennsylvania is beautiful.  I can’t wait to hike through it.  It’s also strange just how totally different the plant life is here.  There’s trees out east that I’ve never seen out west.  They reach tall with awkward Dr. Seuss arms almost like a less hostile Joshua Tree.  It’s gorgeous.

For some reason I had to transfer busses in Baltimore to go to NYC (greyhound logic, why can’t I just keep hearing north?!).  Since my bus from Pittsburg was late I had to go update my tickets yet again (UUUUGH).  I stood in line for 40 minutes in the jam packed Baltimore station elbowing people who were trying to jump in front of me to skip the line, breathing down my neck and totally in my bubble.  That’s when I got the worst news yet:  there isn’t a bus to NYC until 7:00PM.  Tomorrow.  A 24 hour layover.  They pushed food vouchers at me demanding I go eat and started writing up a hotel voucher for me.  I’m not hungry, I’m tired, sore, and stressed out of my mind.  But I go to the food stand and order a cheeseburger anyways and eat it outside.  It tasted like the broken pieces of my soul, gathered by greyhound along my trip and forced back down my throat.  

A cab arrived to take me and two other poor souls to a hotel, and I realize that I have no idea if they’ve arranged a ride back to the greyhound station.  They didn’t say anything about that and I didn’t think to ask because I’m not even sure if I’m human anymore.  I got in my room, showered, and drooled over a menu of Chinese food I cant afford while I tried to call the station.  Twice there was no answer, so I called the main greyhound customer service line because who the hell else am I going to call?  It took me an hour to reach someone over two attempts.

“I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that.  But I can give you a direct number to the station”

I wasn’t expecting any other answer, but I had to try.

I stayed on hold with the stations line once again for 20 minutes, and was urged to just leave a message.  So at this point im looking at calling my own cab and hoping they refund me tomorrow, because if I’d known it would have been like this I’d have declined the hotel offer and slept on the grass outside the station or something.

Oh also I’m writing this as these things unfold for the most part.  So yes hello there, this is me as I’m still unable to reach NYC and stuck in a hotel room miles away from the station.  Kill me, thank you.  I’m gonna go to bed and hope tomorrow works out better.  I’d like to add that I’ve survived this without getting overly worked up, but if my bus to NYC is cancelled or moved one more fucking time I’m gonna fucking lose my ass.  Again I find myself asking why I can’t get a route that just circumvents having to stop in New York?  If it’s impossible for me to get to Maine through it then put me on a slower longer route that still guarantees that I at least get there, damn.  

ALL I want is to get to Maine, that’s it.  That’s not unreasonable of me is it?  Is it?  Is it?  However this turns out ladies and gents, I’m gonna make this clear: don’t use greyhound if you have to be somewhere by even a soft deadline.  With the exception of my SLC bus and the hot bus to Pittsburgh the rides have been surprisingly nice and comfortable, the drivers are friendly but don’t pander to bullshit, and usually the staff is friendly as well (which amazes me because the customers are always unsurprisingly pissed off and throwing tantrums trying to anger a bus into existence.  Protip: that doesn’t work).  But their core infrastructure which is literally the entire point of them existing is fucked.  They can not get you from point A to point B without your route forming ancient Norwegian runes to summon demons from the 8th dimension who just bring you eternal bad luck.  If they got their shit together, greyhound would actually be kind of nice.  It’s a road trip without having to stress over driving.  Meanwhile a dude I was gonna share a campsite with at the start of the AT has been by comparison having very minor issues with greyhound and is now ahead of me even though I started earlier than him.

I won’t lie, a lot of this has just made me want to go home and say fuck the AT.  But it’s not like I could even if I really wanted to cause I’d have to go through Greyhound.  I’d probably end up on the moon somehow.  Anyways it’s time to sleep, I hope the next paragraphs tell a happier story.

I woke up, took an Uber back to the Greyhound station and basically read the whole time I was waiting (Radio Free Albemuth by Philip K Dick, good book!).  I managed to catch an early bus to New York City which lifted my spirits a bit, but all it really meant was that id be stuck there for 14 hours waiting for my next bus.  So I sat down and read some more for a while until my ass couldn’t take it anymore, then went outside.

I stood outside for a whole until I heard someone say “I see those trekking poles!”.  I looked over and saw a couple of guys with backpacks sporting yellow AT tags.  They were NOBO hikers getting off trail, The Legend and The Goat.  They took me around times square and it was a blast, they were both really cool dudes, hiking with them would have been a wild experience for sure.  They focused more on having fun, getting off trail to do things like white water rafting and made a lot of connections along the way with folks until they ran out of money.  They didn’t care much about hiking the whole trail.

They had to catch their bus which left me with the only option of sitting around again till my bus came.  It showed up late which again left me worried about my timetable.  Then Boston came by, with yet another late bus, but at least it showed up at all.  The ride from Boston to Maine was uneventful really, we made a lot of stops along the way which yet again made me worry I wouldn’t get to Bangor in time for my last bus to Medway, but amazingly we made it there two hours early.  Enough time to stop by a diner and eat my first real meal in almost a week.

I got my bus ticket to Medway, hopped on, and finally I finally made it to my last stop where I was picked up by a shuttle from the AT Lodge and brought to their hostel for my last night in civilization.  Finally.

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