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Bah, Humbus: The Ride From Hell

Carol Sottili

So we all know that flying is a trial. But there are worse ways to travel.

My daughter flew in from college in St. Louis and the flight went like a charm. In less than four hours door-to-door she had traveled about 900 miles. She should have stopped while she was ahead. Yesterday, Merry decided that she'd take a Greyhound bus to Richmond (about 95 miles) to see her friends and boyfriend for a few days. We went online, found a bus leaving Springfield, Va., at 3:15 p.m., scheduled to arrive in Richmond (after stops in Woodbridge and Triangle) at 5:20 p.m.

At 5:15 p.m., she called. "Guess where I am?" she said. "In Richmond?" I guessed. Nah. She was still in Springfield. Her bus had broken down on the way to pick up passengers. And that's where the fun began.

Greyhound decided to divert a Washington-Richmond bus to pick them up in Springfield. But the Washington driver had no idea how to get to Springfield, and spent a while getting lost (I guess they don't have GPS systems onboard). When the bus finally arrived at about 5:30 p.m., the driver and riders (who thought they were on a nonstop bus to Richmond) were none too happy.

And the Springfield riders were also cranky and very cold. The driver was especially miffed that one of the riders wanted to go Woodbridge, a scheduled stop, and pointed him out to everyone on the bus as the guy who was going to stop them from going directly to Richmond. Other riders started berating the fellow, and wouldn't let up.

"He didn't speak English, and I felt badly for him," Merry said. (Maybe he was better off not understanding his seatmates, I thought). After another detour through a residential Woodbridge neighborhood, the bus found the station there, dropped off the happy-to-be-leaving passenger, and made its way through rush-hour traffic to Richmond, arriving at 8:30 p.m.

St. Louis to Fairfax Station - 900 miles - under four hours. Fairfax Station to Richmond - 95 miles- more than five hours.

Maybe it's not quite fair to compare planes to buses. And we've all been caught in I-95 traffic jams that have turned a 1/2-hour ride into a three-hour nightmare. But anyone who tries to tell my daughter that flying is the worst way to travel these days is going to get an earful!

Feel free to share your own bus-train-automobile travel horror stories.

By Carol Sottili |  December 20, 2007; 1:44 PM ET  | Category:  Carol Sottili
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I had an experience about as bad coming home from NYC on one of the Chinatown busses. They lied about where the stop in New York was and I not only missed my bus, I missed the next one too and didn't get back to DC until after Metro had closed. Did your daughter at least get to see everyone she wanted to see?

Posted by: EricS | December 20, 2007 4:56 PM

i have a similar story about the chinatown buses. i was coming back to rockville on the NY-Rockville bus. I asked them repeatedly, do you stop anywhere, and they assured me they didnt and ushered me onto the bus. i wasnt too happy 6.5 hours later after having stopped outside of baltimore at a rest stop to let someone off, at the baltimore travel plaza, dc, and finally rockville. NEVER AGAIN!

Posted by: Rockville, MD | December 20, 2007 5:54 PM

Hate US Greyhound - the drivers never seem to know what they're doing and the buses are just gross.

Love Canada Greyhound. Everyone is exceedingly nice, the buses are tidy, and when they have overflow or a broken bus, they don't seem to have a problem rustling up another one.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | December 20, 2007 6:48 PM

I don't have that kind of horror story, but long bus rides suck!! Back in the summer of '88 I had an internship at Colorado State in Ft. Collins. Unfortunately, poor Penn State student that I was, I didn't have the funds for a flight. ( I lived in York, PA at the time.) The only good thing about the trip out and back was that I was able to hop off in Limon CO to spend 2 days with my sister on the return. I vowed NEVER AGAIN. Since I am currently without a vehicle I tend to take the Bus to NYC or Philly(from Wilkes-Barre PA) but it is not Greyhound ( MARTZ )

I have taken Greyhound to Pittsburgh a number of times ( change in Harrisburg) and it is always an adventure. One time they needed to add a bus due to the amount of passengers. We had to wait over an hour for the second bus. I think that same trip there was a guy in the station that was on his cell phone ( head set talking very loudly) telling the person on the other end that he "Did not steal your drugs, or your money!!!" The ranting conversation lasted about 20 minutes while people just looked on in amazement! I don't think he got on my bus.

Posted by: rja112 | December 20, 2007 10:15 PM

Once got stuck on a Greydog that broke an axel somewhere between Ithaca, NY and the middle of nowhere - it took three hours to get a relief bus from Syracuse, which was maybe 1.5 hours away. Have also had the "If you don't like the movie, you can get off right now!" experience on the shoulder of the New Jersey Turnpike, courtesy of Peter Pan and a crazy-as-a-bedbug fellow passenger.

My best bus stories come from trips going to and from college. College was in NYC, home was all the way upstate in New York. It was quite common for people going up from the city to have a maximum-security prison as their final destination: they were on their way to visit their incarcerated loved ones. More than once among the passengers embarking in my hometown were recent parolees from those same prisons, wearing brand-new jeans and carrying garbage bags holding all of their worldly possessions, being dropped off by prison guards on their way home from the night shift. There were no tears at those goodbyes, that's for sure!

Posted by: BxNY | December 21, 2007 10:11 AM

I've taken Greyhound from DC to Quebec City two times. The difference in the American bus system and the one in Quebec is amazing. I had to change buses at the Port Authority. I'm a slob, but that place made my stomach turn. The bus station in Montreal, while not in the best section of town, was amazingly clean. The Orlean Express, the bus company from Montreal to Quebec, was wonderful. Clean buses, polite people, organized. The bus drivers drove like maniacs, and talked on their cell 'phones. I think they drove like maniacs in part to make unplanned stops so that we wouldn't have to use the disgusting bathroom. The time that I took the train from DC to Montreal (about 15 years ago) was also an experience. It was delayed at every station. When we finally got to Albany, some guy was chased through the train by security. Seems he'd tried to lead a revolt of the passengers who were getting on at Albany. I think that we were three or four house late getting into Montreal.
I've taken the Chinatown buses to NYC. It's been a mixed bag.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 21, 2007 4:13 PM

I was on a 4.5 hour bus ride from Blacksburg, VA to Vienna, VA. There was a couple nearby with a hysterical baby that cried the whole time and the father had a voice box (from smoking) and was trying to comfort the baby in this "robot" voice the whole way. Plus the bus driver passed the Vienna stop, went all the way around the beltway and came back to Vienna despite the loud pleas of confused passengers to exit and turn around! He added 2 hours to the trip. WHAT A MORON. I will never ever ride any long distance bus again.

Posted by: hate grayhound | December 24, 2007 11:42 AM

I don't recommend using the Chinatown buses to go to NYC. There are many unannounced stops along the way and it usually takes waaay too long to get to NYC- I'd take the Peter Pan bus from DC to NYC over the Chinatown bus.

Posted by: plamar1031 | December 27, 2007 3:38 PM

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