Below is sort of a first person travelogue I wrote on my 2-night bus adventure. Every few years it seems I have the urge to do one of these. I've always liked to push myself to my limits to see just in fact how much I can tolerate travel wise. I guess I have a strong sense of adventure..one of those "journey is the destination" people. I guess my rationale for doing it was somewhat different this time. I've had a lot of changes (not for the better) in my life lately and I've been living in an airport area hotel for the past few weeks...and well, I needed an escape. So I pieced together this routing, one that would have me leaving Atlanta on Wednesday morning, going as far west as Dallas, and still get back in Atlanta by Friday...which was the key day, as on Saturday I'll be checking out of the hotel, packing up a moving truck, and heading on down to start my new life in...drum roll please...New Orleans. So sit back, kick off your shoes, feel free to question my sanity, and come along with me as I ride Greyhound buses from Atlanta to Memphis to Dallas to Houston to New Orleans to Mobile and back to Atlanta, without stopping, in the space of two days. To make it somewhat/remotely airplane related, I should say that the trip started with a ride on MARTA from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to the Greyhound terminal in downtown ATL.
I'm sitting here in the Atlanta Greyhound station, about to embark on a crazy bus adventure around the Southeast. The station is not that full, and there's a decent police present both inside and out. My bus to Memphis is supposed to have Wi-Fi and power outlets. We'll see. It would certainly come in handy for the 7h15m trip. I'm sure many people question my sanity in regards to me taking trips like this - but things like this have always made sense to me. Considering what has transpired in my life recently, I needed an escape - time for me to reflect and ponder where I'm going and where I've been. The open road, without question, will help me with that process.
ATL station 1
ATL station 2
Walking to the bus
Our ride to MEM
Our bus left ATL on time at 8. It's not crowded at all - only around 13 passengers. It's a new bus with Wi-Fi, power outlets, and cushy leather seats. The driver seems to be courteous and professional - one of the "old school" Greyhound drivers. His name is Richardson...probably in his late 50's or early 60's...I'm sure he has many stories to tell. There are two stops before we reach Memphis - Birmingham and Tupelo. The drive from BHM to MEM will take us on U.S Highway 78, a road which I've never been on before. Looking forward to that. Come to think of it, this trip will feature several first-time roads for me. I'm sitting back, comfortably cool and relaxed, it's really a beautiful day outside. I think I'll throw my cares/worries away for a while and enjoy the journey.
Cushy leather seats
Legroom + cup holder + outlet + book holder thing
We departed Birmingham on time with about 20 passengers on the bus, which means I still have a pair of seats to myself. The station there is nicer than Atlanta...not as busy of course, but it was clean and pretty spacious. Right now we're about three hours from Memphis, maybe an hour and a half from Tupelo. I'm curious to see what the Tupelo station looks like - honestly, not expecting much. I've always been fascinated by small town America - places somewhat off the beaten path but which still have a soul. As I write this we're cruising down a nice 4-lane divided highway with a speed limit of 70 but it's technically not an interstate, although I see signs that say "Future I-22 Corridor". Pretty country out here. Rolling hills and tons of wildflowers. For some reason the flowers are reminding me of what I lost - or, what I'm about to. I'm happy to be heading west on this picture perfect day but I'm not happy that I'm heading into the sunset of my marriage. Very sad mixed with a strong sense of failure. Time for some Cheez-It's.
Had my first true "Greyhound moment" shortly after 1. We were about thirty minutes out of Tupelo, and this guy a row in front of me across the aisle asked the bus driver if he could get off. Now I sort of expected this guy to do something weird because in the Tupelo station, he tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I had a spare radio I could give him. He looked a little out of it - something wrong with him in the head I reckon. Anyway, the driver told him no, he had a ticket to MEM, and the bus only stops there. The guy then started pleading and begging and telling the driver he was sick and needed to go to a hospital and asked to just be left on the side of the road at the next exit. Eventually the driver agreed, so the bus exited the highway, stopped on the emergency lane, and the guy got out with his 3 books (his only possessions) in hand and strolled down the road. One of those things you only see on Greyhound. We got to Memphis at 2:25pm, and my connecting bus to Dallas departed at 3:55pm, just about 15 minutes behind schedule, not too bad. I was expecting worse. Memphis should be proud of its bus station. It's very nice - spotless, spacious, modern. At the station I charged up my phone and bought an overpriced but edible chicken salad sandwich from the Greyhound cafeteria. This bus to Dallas is an older bus, which means no outlets or wi-fi, but the seats are well cushioned and very comfortable. It's basically a full bus, too - I had a seat mate until our first stop in Forest City, AR and I'm sure I'll have one leaving Little Rock. It's smooth sailing on I-40. Relaxing, peaceful ride. Let's hope it stays this way.
Older (but still comfortable) seats on the MEM-DAL bus
Forest City, AR
Little Rock skyline
The Memphis-Dallas bus, seen here in Little Rock
Is somebody really checking in a car door? (in Dallas)
Boarding the Houston bus at crowded Dallas
Made it to Houston with 5 minutes to spare
Well, it was an uneventful night. Got to see the sign for the town my grandma grew up in, Stuttgart AR, on the way to Little Rock. Night fell as soon as we departed Little Rock. No seatmate = score. We stopped for a meal break in Benton, AR at a truck stop. The driver, "Ms. Anita" (a true character), made sure everyone knew we only had 10 minutes to get food and be back on the bus or else we'd be "left accidentally on purpose". I liked her. My dinner ended up being two corn dogs which had been getting a tan under the heat lamp. Mmm, gourmet. Once we left, we made stops in Hot Springs (a nice 25 mile detour of the interstate on a dark 2-lane highway), Hope (home to President Clinton and possibly the worst excuse for a bus station I've ever seen), Texarkana (back to civilization), and finally Dallas where we arrived at 2:15am, or about 45 min late, thanks to a lot of traffic and road construction. The Dallas station was packed. Reminded me of Atlanta, only smaller, and more crowded...not the best combination. During my one hour layover there I charged my phone and bought a Fanta Pineapple soda. The friendly employees had everyone line up for my 3:15am Houston bus at 2:45, and I managed to be number five in line, ensuring I'd get a good seat on what appeared to be a full boat. Indeed it was full, but again, the bus gods were on my side and I didn't end up with a seatmate. We left Dallas a little late, but I figured we'd make up the time en route. It was a quiet, peaceful ride down I-30 (with the exception of a couple of very talkative people a couple of rows back...was glad I brought some ear plugs) as we stopped in a couple of small Texas towns...Buffalo, Huntsville, and Conroe...before approaching Houston. We were supposed to arrive Houston at 7:45am, which would have given me :50 minutes for my layover, but we hit some serious rush hour traffic. ATL type rush hour traffic. We came to a stop in HOU at 8:30am, giving me 5 minutes to make my connection, which thankfully I did. Here I am on the Houston-New Orleans bus, with another 2 seats to myself, and we're just pulling into our first stop on this "Local" run (which means the schedule has more than 2 or so stops), Baytown TX. The stop here is a gas station, and not an overly nice one. I'm glad I'm in the bus and not out there. We're on time and Big Easy bound. I'm tired, but I did get some sleep overnight, so it could be worse. Also, smart move on my part for packing snacks and drinks - they've come in handy.
Port Arthur, TX
Lake Charles, LA
Sitting here at the Lake Charles station...thinking of her. I need to let it go. It's over and done with, yet why do I try to convince myself that it's all a dream? You know this is a new Lake Charles station. It's shared space with a Shell station, but it's much better than the old one, and right off the interstate. Same story in Beaumont...they closed the old station and opened a new one in a travel plaza right next to I-10. Overall it's probably a better idea because it gives people more amenities and it saves on travel time. And off we go...dead on time. Next stop will be Lafayette, a place I've been to several times on the bus (and train). After LFT we cross the Atchafalaya Basin on our way to the Louisiana state capitol of Baton Rouge, and finally another 80 miles or so down to NOLA. I'm getting kind of hungry. Last "meal" I had were those two corn dogs last night. I might get a sandwich in BTR. I'm groggy but coherent...feel like I can pass out at any point thought. So much on my mind. Praying for peace.
USS Kidd and part of skyline in Baton Rouge, LA
Baton Rouge, LA station seen from the Greyhound cafeteria
BTR departure board
Made it to NOLA
Three buses boarding = lots of people
The Greyhound half of the Union Passenger Terminal
I'm in Mobile. In about 15 min we should be loading up for the final leg of my trip, the 12:40am bus to Atlanta via Montgomery. The bus from Houston eventually arrived into NOLA at 6:00pm, about 30 minutes late due to bad traffic in BTR. That meant I only had 30 minutes for my connection. So I walked into the good old Union Passenger Terminal and found the already forming line for folks heading East on the 6:30pm local service to Mobile via Slidell, Gulfport, and Biloxi. After the station agents loaded a bus to Houston and another to Shreveport, they loaded ours. It was another one of those older buses. The driver really sucked...he didn't make one announcement. Usually they make a "welcome aboard" announcement to go along with the rules and regulations. I guess this guy was mike shy or something. It was a neat ride for me because I remember my grandparents taking me on a day trip to Biloxi on the bus several times as a kid. Sometimes Greyhound, sometimes Trailways. So it brought back great memories. The drive from Gulfport to Biloxi took us alongside the beach for about fifteen minutes. I forget how nice of a drive it is. I even saw the old Gulfport and Biloxi Amtrak stations - I wonder if my "Save The Sunset" stickers are still stuck to the walls? I guess Katrina must have knocked down the water parks and amusement parks I remember going to...and the original Biloxi bus station because this one seemed to be new and sharing space with the local regional transit. Anyway, we pulled into Mobile ontime at about 10:15pm. I charged my phone and got a really excellent cheeseburger from the cafeteria. Now, just waiting to board the last segment home. It's been quite a trip.
Our MOB-ATL bus seen here in MGM
Mobile to Montgomery was only the second time I had a seatmate for the entire journey...a nice old man who who had a Saints hat on. I got in line early for the bus and I'm glad I did because it was oversold...about 4 or 5 people didn't even get on. So we left on time at 12:40 and took to I-65 North. It was non-stop to Montgomery and I slept 95% of the way...only waking up when the "now arriving Montgomery" announcement was made. Nice station there. I have to give Greyhound credit. They've tried to have a cohesive look for most of the stations (except for the really small ones) and it's paid off. You can go in to any one of them and know what to expect in terms of amenities and service and, for the most part, they are clean! Not like the creepy stations of old. We left MGM after a 20 minute stop and my seatmate was gone, so I could stretch out for the last segment to ATL. Again, I was out like a light, and only woke up as we approached the ATL airport. It was one of the newer wi-fi/leather seat/outlet buses again. I really like those. Arrived ATL about 15 min early, at 7:20am. Hopped on the MARTA to the airport, called the hotel shuttle, and here I am, typing this at the desk.
I think Greyhound has, in many ways, come a long way. I can remember old, decrepit stations and old, decrepit buses when I was growing up. I think perhaps newcomers like Megabus has forced Greyhound to up its game...and it shows. The service seems to be fairly consistent, I see a genuine effort being made to operate on time, all the station employees were pleasant and helpful...even the ladies in the cafeteria...and never at any point was there a feeling of something being unsafe. Also, there's a big security presence at all the larger stations, the public areas are clean and well kept, and the passengers generally keep to themselves. I saw all walks of life on the bus...not just the vagrants and transients of society, of which I didn't really see any on this journey, but which I think Greyhound is perhaps best known for carrying. In the end it's just another way to get from point A to point B, and I'm happy to see the company make improvements in all areas, even when compared to my last long distance Greyhound trip in 2009. If you know what to expect going in, know some of the ins and out of bus travel, and generally just have an open mind and sense of adventure, going Greyhound can actually be a rewarding experience.
Thanks for reading.