Friday, August 31, 2012

And 920 miles by Greyhound . . .

Before talking about my Greyhound adventure I need to 'splain what's happening.

My bike was supposed to be disassembled and shipped to Bikes and More. It arrived at my home. Argh! Now I was faced with having to get it to where it needed to be. Additionally, there were no wheels! <sigh> Island Bikes, to whom I initially expressed great frustration allowed as how it was their error, but that agreeing to disassemble and package the bike was the first error. Getting the bike to my FNBS will be accomplished soon. They received my wheels and agreed with all previous observations that the rear one was broken more severely than was typical. It no rests with Salsa, manufacturer of the rim, to decide how to handle the matter.

The Schwinn is serving well, though lack of fenders is close to being a severe problem. I'd forgotten how nasty road grit gets when it rains. I hope to find some closure for the transportation matters soon.

And the roof leaks. Have to deal with the roofers, too . . . soon, I hope. 
Was it a life changing event? No, but there have been many things to consider how they may or may not apply to everyday life. But first, a word from our sponsor . . . Greyhound

The last time I rode a Greyhound bus may have been nearly a half century ago in the 60s. There were few options for my return to FL and Greyhound seemed to be the best. In the years since my last ride many things have changed. Remarkably, much has not.

The nearest “terminal” was Washington, NC, known as Little Washington to the locals. A three hour drive (give or take). The nearer pick-up location was just that, a pick-up. Stand outside a store and wait, ticket in hand, for a bus to arrive. I opted for the stop at B & L Properties where tickets could be purchased. Seemed more like a terminal. It was, but barely.

B & L may have been the couple behind the counter when I arrived at 10am for my 1050 bus. A partially converted service station (with two bays) provided indoor seating. Assorted vehicles and other equipment in stages of repair filled the service bays. My bags were labeled and the second bag paid for ($10 please) after being told to clip one front roller to one back roller so I would not have to pay for three extra bags. Seemed like good advice. The bus arrived 55 minutes late. It had been three hours late the previous day. A connection was scheduled for Raleigh at 3 pm and we were to arrive there at 2 pm, so maybe the connection would be made.

I was surprised to find that there were both 100 volt sockets and that the bus provided a WiFi signal and took advantage to charge my cell phone. Because of the WiFi connection I was also able to maintain cellular coverage where it would not have existed otherwise.

The bus passed through the home of the East Carolina University Pirates and it was no surprise that it resembled Stateboro, GA, home ot the Georgia Southern Eagles and El Sombrero, home of my favorite Mexican food. We arrived in Raleigh minute before 3 pm, but it mattered not. A bus already at the terminal (a real terminal) was being searched for a possible bomb. This must have been a common occurrence as there was police presence but little overt evidence of concern. The new bus departed at 345pm, but not until the baggage handler took exception to my bags. “I know what you did,” he hissed. “But I’ll load ‘em.” And he did with an intention aggressive disregard.

Soon after leaving the Raleigh terminal the drive announced that the bus was a local, meaning we would visit, briefly, every moderate sized city in north and central NC. He also made several allusions to the presidential race, noting that whites were attempting to keep blacks from voting. Maybe I had been alone too long. His rambling monologue made little sense.

Charlotte, too, was a real terminal. Like Raleigh and it was run down but clean. Sandwiches priced no more than twice their reasonable value. Captive audience means captive money. A strip of sockets, identified as a charging station, soon looked like a Smart Phone grazing area. Few people showed any concern about their equipment’s safety. Obviously, this was not a new experience for the majority of bus travelers.

From Charlotte the ride to ATL was swift, arriving around 230am. I expected the old Greyhound station, but found that it now existed as part of the Garnett Street MARTA facility. My stay here would be about 4 hours. Knowing I was closer to being home did not make the wait any easier. Compared to the old Atlanta bus terminal . . . no comparison. Clean. Bright. Reasonably safe with one or more MARTA and ATL police officers in evidence. At intervals over the hours, travelers would queue at numbered doors. The overly large police officer would run a metal detection wand near their pockets. I could hear no difference in sound, but he often paused and asked for pockets to be emptied. Don’t want anyone commandeering a Greyhound with a fingernail file. Wait, maybe I need to be more serious! Hard to be. After 430 am he checked no one else. Had the perceived threat left for Alabama earlier on the morning?

The trip to G’ville was uneventful and done on schedule. The bus had sockets and WiFi, but I was too weary to do more than charge my phone. I could do the ATL-Gville trip again. Most of the rest? Not in this lifetime.

Here are some of the things I took away from the numerous hours in the custody of Greyhound:

  1. Passengers are too accustomed to being treated with little regard. Some of this is because of the quality of the passengers. Most is not. Who cares about bus travelers. Real people use airplanes. Common people learn to accept mediocre treatment because there is no recourse? Like the baggage guy. I did what I was told to do and he assumed I was trying to get away with something. Should I respect that he was protecting his company’s assets? Only if he referred me to the baggage people for more money. Otherwise he was just being difficult.
  2. Lacking any actual luggage one can still travel by bus. A tall kitchen trash can and a mostly intact cardboard box can be nearly closed with sufficient tape to hold just about anything.
  3.  Having too many pieces of “luggage” is commonplace. See the comment above.
  4.  There is almost enough room on the aisle seat on modern buses to make it nearly possible to sleep for as much as an hour, though not necessarily in concurrent minutes.
  5.  If it is present Greyhound WiFi works.

Just more of the adventure.

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