It's been a few years since I made a long-haul Greyhound trip, and to be honest I wasn't even thinking about it until I got an email from Greyhound saying I needed to use my rewards points soon or they would be canceled. I only had a 25% discount, but since I've been infected with the travel bug for 36 years now, I figured I might as well not let that go to waste. So, I decided upon schedule 1262 which is the local run from Houston to Miami via New Orleans and a bunch of other cities. The fare with the discount: $40. Sold. I decided to fly back on AA
since I figured 24 hours on a bus would be long enough. They had a really good one-way fare on their 1830 departure, operated by American Eagle. When I got to Miami, the plan was to get a day room at the MIA
airport hotel, so I could freshen up and relax. I must say, everything went off without a hitch. Below you'll find a stop-by-stop travelogue of the bus ride. Pictures are posted after that. At the end I'll talk about the flight for a bit, but relize the main focus of this report is the journey on Greyhound, so if that doesn't interest you, feel free to find some other generic report about a flying F with a thousand pictures of the food served and menu card to read.
New Orleans, LA
I arrived at Union Passenger Terminal at 6:30a for the scheduled 7:30 departure. The station was fairly busy with a long line waiting to board Amtrak's 7:00a “Crescent”, plus passengers waiting for Megabus and Greyhound. Using the bus tracker on Greyhound's app, I saw that my bus was arriving from Houston around 6:50, so I lined up to be the first one to board around 6:45. The bus arrived at 6:52, and boarding started about 7:15. There were a large number of passengers re-boarding, so by the time I got on board, there were not many seats left. I think I managed to snag the only remaining open pair of seats. Departed on time at 7:30 with the seat next to me open.
This was a quick stop at a Texaco station. Three passengers got off, none got on. Greyhound used to have its own station on Gause Blvd in old town Slidell, but once they cut back service here around several years ago, the building was not needed for the amount of service it saw.
9:15a – 9:52a
stop is at a Shell station right off I-10 next to the Tanger outlet center. I stepped off here for a quick stretch. Back on board, I was told I had to move seats because I was actually sitting next to the wheelchair lift, and there was a wheelchair passenger who was going to be boarding. So, I moved to the back, and again found the only open pair of seats right in front of the bathroom. Departed GPT
10:09a – 10:20a
The Biloxi stop is across the street from the old train station, and only about 2 blocks away from the beach and Beau Rivage casino. Several passengers boarded here, filling up all remaining seats except the one next to me. Score.
11:25a – 12:01p
Since we were running 15 minutes late, we would have 15 less minutes for our layover. Everyone had to get off the bus here, and they gave all passengers who were continuing east a re-boarding pass, so they could board the bus before new passengers joined. I went inside and bought a ham/cheese sandwich and a drink from the Greyhound owned and operated restaurant. They called for re-boarding at 11:50a after the bus was cleaned and serviced. We departed at 12:01 with a very nice bus drive from Ireland.
1:05p – 1:22p
A couple of folks got off here, and a couple of more got on. Seat next to me still empty. Greyhound has been doing away with stations they own in many smaller cities around the country to save on costs and instead stopping at large gas stations/convenience stores next the interstate, but Pensacola still has its own Greyhound terminal, even though it only sees a handful of buses a day. Departed PNS
at 1:22 and crossed Escambia Bay. Spotted the CSX trestle on the left which I crossed on the Sunset Limited in 2004.
Ft. Walton Beach, FL
2:27p – 2:49p
The drive to Ft. Walton was a scenic one, as we passed the beach side communities of Navarre and Mary Esther. I had vacationed to this area with my family probably 20 or more times growing up, so it was a treat to see it all again, but from a bus this time. Ft. Walton had its own (small) terminal as well. I stepped off here to stretch and take a few pics. Two passengers got off, and I think one got on. When we departed, I still had an open seat next to me.
Panama City, FL
4:23p – 4:44p
It was a real treat driving over the Destin harbor bridge and through Destin itself on the way to Panama City. Looking at all the boats in the harbor, I instantly thought back to when we would rent pontoon boats for the day in this same location. Great family memories that I will always cherish. We passed the intersection for Hwy 30A, which runs through the beach side communities of Seaside, Seagrove, etc. The last time I was there was when I was engaged, and a group of us, including my dad, stayed in a condo for a few days. I remember my dad I cooked homemade risotto for everyone. Crossing over the Panama City bay bridge, there was a bunch of people just sitting and walking on the bridge sporting American flags. Random, but cool. Arrived Panama City's nice little Greyhound terminal and hopped off for a bathroom break. Several passengers got off, none got on.
7:46p – 8:35p
I enjoyed the two-hour drive down rural state highways between Panama and TLH
. When we got to TLH
proper, we drove right past Florida State University. Man, that strip of road had an incredible amount of restaurants and shops, etc. Students at FSU can never go hungry or bored, I'll tell you that much. This was another meal stop, so I made my way to the restaurant and had a grilled chicken sandwich, fries, and a drink. Was it a tad overpriced at $8.99? Maybe, but it tasted fine. Re-boarding started at 8:15, and by the time the huge line of new customers boarded, I had a seat mate for the first time. But it wasn't so bad. Departed TLH
on US 90 in a northeast direction to eventually connect with I-10.
11:14p – 11:23p
To my surprise, there was an actual station building in Gainesville, and it seemed to be quite a ways off the interstate, so I got to see more of the city of Gainesville than I ever had before. About four people boarded here and took up all 4 remaining seats on the bus. As soon as we departed, the station agent shut the lights off, locked the doors, and headed home for the night. Departing Gainesville, we passed a bunch of college bars and clubs which were packed with people. Probably all UF
11:59p – 12:36a
This was the only rest stop between TLH
and Orlando. It was at a Pilot truck stop with an attached Arby's. This was my seat matte's stop. I took a stroll into the convenience store portion (not the Arby's, hate those places) to grab a Diet Mt Dew and to get the blood flowing. I was not uncomfortable on the bus, but every now and then being able to walk around a bit helps out a lot. Two passengers got on here, one of whom took the empty seat next to me. But again, no big deal, she was a small, older lady who seemed pleasant enough.
1:51a – 3:00a
I slept the entire way until the drive turned on the lights and made our arrival announcement five minutes from the Orlando terminal. Everyone had to get off here since this was a service stop for the bus. The Orlando station was huge, and pretty nice. Plenty of seating, large restaurant, and I liked the layout. I honestly spent the hour here standing up watching highlights of the Broncos game and checking out the brochure rack in the station. I also took a stroll to see what kind of gifts they had in the small gift shop. The bus bank was tempting since I have an older model from the 1980's, but I passed. Next time. Re-boarding started at 2:40a. On time departure at 3:00a. Full bus, every seat occupied.
Ft. Pierce, FL
4:52a – 5:13a
I barely remember this stop, but it was at another truck stop/travel plaza. This was the only full fledged rest stop until the end of the line in Miami. I was thinking about stepping off, but the girl next to me was sound alseep, and I didn't feel like waking her. So I quickly fell back asleep, and didn't wake up until we approached our next stop.
West Palm Beach, FL
I awoke to visions of palm trees and high rise condo towers fly past my window as we made our way to downtown Palm Beach. The station was actually connected to the Amtrak and Tri-Rail station, and I spotted a Tri-Rail train loading up for Miami. We were only here for a few minutes, and about six or so passengers got off, including the girl next to me. Sweet. I would have two seats all the way to MIA
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
7:00a – 7:23a
I again fell asleep once we left Palm Beach, and awoke with the arrival annoucement into Ft. Lauderdale. The station seems to be in a pretty good location, just a couple of blocks from the beach, pretty much in the downtown core. At least ten passengers left the bus here. I made it a point to stay awake from here on out, passing many maritime-related businesses on the way back to the interstate, and more than a few high end restaurants and stores.
Miami North, FL
7:50a – 8:04a
This is a suburban stop at a huge park and ride facility. Again, Greyhound has its own terminal here, albeit a small, old one. Several more passengers got off, so we were pretty much half full when we left. There was a bus next to us going to Tallahassee. Different model, though – it was one of the new Prevost buses, compared to the older MCI
model from 2000 that I was on. Departed at 8:04.
Arrived at our final stop at the new Miami Central Station (which is home to Amtrak, Tri-Rail, Metrorail, Metrobus, Greyhound, Megabus, and is connected to the airport by a free train) only five minute behind schedule, thus concluding a grand adventure on the highways and byways of America.
The new Megabus seating area at New Orleans Union Passenger terminal. Amtrak is on the left, and Greyhound is to the right.
End of the line. Miami Central Station.
I checked in to my room at the Miami Airport Hotel just about 10 minutes after I stepped off the bus. The new Miami Central Station is really nice and super convenient for inter-modal connectivity. After taking a shower and sleeping for a few hours, I ordered some room service, since the restaurant on the top floor of the hotel was not open during lunch hours. I remember eating in that restaurant with my dad in 1997, when we flew Pan Am 2 from MDW
. It had a great view of the field. Anyway, I checked out of the room at 5, and made my way to gate D60 (the lower level
Eagle boarding area) to wait for my flight to board.
American Eagle 4451
Dep: 1830 (actual 1847)
Arr: 1939 (actual 1949)
Really the one unique fact about this flight was that I got absolutely soaked when boarding the plane, since boarding took place during a nice tropical downpour, which made the outdoor covered walkway to the aircraft highly ineffective. Also, the covered ramp leading to the plane itself had some leaks, so everyone was pretty much drenched by the time they stepped on board the aircraft. It was...interesting. Too bad they don't have jetways for all gates, even Eagle, as some airports do. Not enough space, perhaps. The flight itself was fine, typical domestic service, but I appreciate the full can of soda offered. It was a scenic flight as we followed the gulf coast the entire way. At one point, I saw Gulfport, Biloxi, Mobile, and Pensacola out my window at the same time. Just a great view. We made a smooth approach into MSY
runway 1, and parked at gate C-10.
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