Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bussing It - Part 1

Ever since I was little, I've been a girl on a budget. My mother told me that she found sheets of paper in high school where I wrote down a plan to pay for prom, mapping out my pay from Dunkin' Donuts and how much I could spend on a dress, hair and make-up, tickets, etc.

I've also always been a girl on a mission, and if I want to go somewhere or do something, I will do everything in my power to make it happen. I really wanted to go to the South By Southwest Music Festival this year, and when I got accepted to cover the festival, I started searching flights and hotel rates. Unfortunately, after I booked the hotel, Guy realized that he didn't have the vacation time to take on Austin with me. By that time, airfare was pretty high and I just couldn't stomach it. So, I booked a Greyhound for $170 roundtrip. I knew it might be hell.

I must have blocked out the bus I took to Vegas alone when I had a broken arm. On that trip, nobody told me that the buses wouldn't be running to the station where I parked my car on the night I came back. So, there I was, Skid Row Los Angeles, with a dead cellphone, broken arm, and no cash. The street looked like Thriller, and I had to sit out in the thick of it waiting for a ride.

Then, a couple years later, I took the good old Greyhound back to Vegas for a night of fun with my fellow New Kids on the Block fans. We watched a killer NKOTB show from the front row. I scored a penthouse at my hotel, because I checked in late, and then...I got on the bus. *sigh* I don't know if you know where Barstow is, but it's like in half way between Los Angeles and Las Vegas and there's nothing in between. Welp, the bus was acting up and the driver decided to play it safe. Luckily, he made it to the nice rest stop in the town.

We had to wait at the Barstow rest stop for a new bus to come get us. During that time, I saw a man (bless his heart) on another bus went into the building to get food. He came out and realized he left his drink inside. He went back in, and while he was in there, a bus departed the rest stop. I wasn't sure if it was his, or I would have stopped it. It was. He was left stranded, and another bus wouldn't be there until the morning.

Worst part of the his fury, he dropped and spilled his drink all over the pavement. It was awful to watch.

I must have totally forgot about these prior incidents, because I didn't hesitate for a minute to buy that 20 hour trip to Austin. 20 hours. They say to get there an hour before your bus. Okay, 4:00 PM, I'm there. The bus gets delayed 45 minutes...which obviously turns into an hour and a half. This means I miss my connecting bus to Dallas from Memphis, but I'm positive and get ready for adventure.

I felt a little better after sitting next to a man who was visiting from Iraq. He had been traveling for five days already. He was on a plane from London, and the crew got sick, so half way through the flight, they turned around and went back to London. That was after a day or so of getting documents approved so he could even leave Iraq. He gave me a blanket that came in so handy for the rest of the trip.

Once we hit Memphis, we had to hang out and wait for the next bus. We didn't board until 11:40 PM. The phone chargers suck at the bus stations. The outlets are too big for your charger, so you have to find "secret" ones in the bathroom or kitchen areas. That's what I did the whole time. Hold my phone in the charger to try and gain some bars. The trip to Dallas was heavenly though. A bus with WiFi and outlets (figures) and plenty of empty seats, so you had an area to yourself.

After embarrassing myself by plugging my earphones into the mic jack and blasting 30 seconds of Backstreet Boys' "Get Another Boyfriend" so the whole bus could hate me, I decided to just put my laptop away and go to sleep. I popped a couple NyQuil tablets and woke up every few hours at rest stops. Loved it.

When we got to the Dallas station, what a cluster fuck! You can never understand what the employees are saying over the speaker, and no one is there to say "How may I help you?" You just wait in a line and hope that's the right place to be. I knew a bus to Austin was scheduled to leave any minute, but I thought I needed a replacement ticket.

Of course the lady in front of me didn't speak English and took forever to move away from the desk when she was done with the attendant. Another attendant opened up, and told me that the bus is about to pull out of the station now. I ran up to the gate while another employee was reading off departures to where she brushed me off. When she was done, she said, "That's your bus pulling out. They're not going to stop for you." I had to wait for the next one...3 hours.

Luckily, I met a nice Canadian boy who had been traveling for two days, also on a SXSW mission. We psyched each other up about the days ahead, and I actually ended up attending the event at SXSW that he helped put on. Dude made the best nachos at that showcase. Also, during my "layover," I had some breakfast, and it was nice to be served by a Greyhound/Americanos employee with a smile on her face.

Finally, it was time to board and I felt so bad for the girl traveling with tons of bag and her little boy. She was miserable and her son was understandably bored and wandered around. Then, he had to go to the bathroom while we waited in the boarding line. She asked him to wait, because if you leave your spot in line, you might not make the bus. They fill up quick. He couldn't wait and went in his pants. I told her I'd watch her bags and hold her spot while she took care of him. Poor little thing. The rest of the ride was uneventful, and that's a good thing.

We made it to Austin by 2:00 PM on Wednesday. Perfect time to check into my hotel. To Be Continued...

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