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For the easiest travel on earth...

♫ For the easiest travel on earth,
Take a Trailways, take a Trailways,
For the easiest travel on earth,
Take a Continental Trailways bus. ♫

♫ Go Greyhound, and leave the driving to us! ♫

A recent post in Teresa Burritt's Frog Blog
included the following picture:

Like many of her posts, this got the old gears grinding and brought back many memories of cross-country bus travel, some pleasant and others... well, something else.

Back in the 50's, you could truck around for $99.00 for 99 days, unlimited travel to unlimited destinations, and break your journey anywhere; I suspect this is what the poster above referred to. Naturally, it was the 50's, and the buses were notorious for intolerance and segregation (see here for details of that shameful situation), but also became a focal point for the civil-rights movement.

Back in the 60's I took several trips by bus from New York to California and back; it was pretty grueling. Even as a relative youngster, sleeping on a bus is less than luxury. The seats didn't recline much if at all, much like the cattle-class seats on a modern airliner. Stopping at all hours of the night at seedy cafés in Broken Clavicle, Iowa is the stuff of nightmares... and I will forever associate such places with the smell of Postum™, which faded into history in 2007. As I drink neither coffee nor tea, it was all I could get if I wanted something hot besides cocoa. Now it has been replaced by things like Pero™, a European coffee substitute which is similar but much better-tasting; interenstingly enough, there are people who still yearn for it - there are recipes for home-made varieties, and one product, Ersatz™, claims to be a good Postum™ substitute. Isn't that odd? During the war, Ersatzkaffee was commonly given to Allied POW's, and here we have an Ersatzersatzkaffee being marketed to those who crave it. The world is so full of a number of things...

Sleeping on the bus was so challenging for me I would often resort to sleeping pills, but those made the night-time stops more hellish - staggering to the restroom while under the influence of those soporifics is unpleasant at best. Eventually I stopped using them and just toughed it out.

One upside was being able to watch the countryside go by without worrying about the stresses of driving, and another was the interesting people one could meet on the way. Yes, there were the "other" kind of people as well, along with the fat ladies puking in the aisle if they couldn't make it to the onboard lavatory, but the really unpleasant incidents were thankfully quite rare. While I never lost a bag during an actual trip, one box I shipped from New York to Pennsylvania via Greyhound arrived opened, damaged, with much missing, and full of gravel. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall to see what happened to that one.

I've checked - there can be advantages to bus travel today, if one is hardy.

A round-trip fare from SLC to JFK would cost me $220.00 if purchased well in advance, say, 8 months, and take about 48 hours each way. Allow a bit for what passes for food and such along the route.

That compares to the lowest airfare of $408.00.

It would cost around $381.00 for gas in my 40mpg Prius at an average cost of $3.50 per gallon (which would take at least 8 days, coming and going, meaning additional lodging and food costs.)

Amtrak would cost $416.00 and take 61 hours, if one could even get through without service disruptions.

I suspect the landscape hasn't changed much in the last 40 years, but if you have the time and the adventurous spirit, you can save some money. I might actually try it again sometime, just to see what it's like.

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Sep. 2nd, 2011 12:13 am (UTC)
It's unfortunate that we do not have the train system that the UK has. I had a very pleasant trip from London to Glasgow and return from Edinburgh to London. Then I turned around and went on one to Bath. On the way back from Bath I chatted with a lovely lady who listened to me whine about the crap transportation system we have here in the States.
Sep. 5th, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC)
Our trains are damn dear unless you book WELL in advance but they can be useful.
And of course most of the rail network disappeared under Beeching's cull in the '60s..... the lines he felt ought to be built, of course weren't.


The Old Wolf

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