Sanity, safety and serial killers: Bus rides in America 9

Chopper Reid

A slightly less scary looking version of ‘Just Released’

It is 2:00am, almost nothing good happens at 2:00am. The guy sitting next to me reminds me of Charles Manson. He smells like tobacco, body odour and criminal insanity. Maybe it’s something to do with the animated discussion he was having with himself in the line; maybe it’s just that he genuinely looks like he sleeps under a bridge and drives a shopping cart for a living or perhaps maybe it’s the fact that he has a swastika tattooed on his neck..

Whatever it was, from now on I’m going to refer to him as ’Just Released’ and right now he’s sitting uncomfortably close to my right side.

As I’m typing away ‘Just Released’ leans his unshaven face over towards my ear and quietly in a voice that sounds like a body being dragged over dry leaves, whispers: “Have you ever made love to man?” Shocked I shake my head in disbelief as he adds: “Do you want to?” Thankfully this worst case scenario I was playing out in my mind fades as we hit a bump in the road and I get a fresh whiff of his body odour.

Luckily I was not sexually assaulted by Ted Bundy on my way into Portland.

As some people may have guessed I have chosen to ride the ‘Greyhound’ bus service. This particular ride was an enlightening 17 hour journey that started at 4:00pm yesterday (at the time of writing) in San Francisco and will end early tomorrow (this morning) in Portland.

The worst part is I actually got off lightly sitting next to a Nazi version of Chopper. The rest of the Greyhound clientele look more like the kind of villains you get in superhero movies.

My poor girlfriend is sitting next to a woman who is honestly so fat she should come with a health warning. I was going to try and take a picture but I’d need a wide angel lens, and the sound of the shutter would draw her attention and might make me a target for her next meal.

Why you might ask does the Greyhound bus service attract such ‘interesting’ clientele? A question I have been asking myself ever since I decided to forgo the pleasures of flying to spend time with California’s criminally insane. I have no idea, it’s actually not that much cheaper than the train.

As we thunder towards Oregon ‘Just Released’ starts snoring loudly. I’m torn, do I elbow him to wake him up and risk leaving the bus with a far better idea of the techniques involved in ‘Shanking’ someone or do I just ignore it?

greyhound bus

Greyhound.. my least favorite bus company.

I decide to keep my mouth shut and read a book.

An interesting choice, given that reading would have been more at home in Nazi Germany than among these fine fellows. I put the book down in frustration and glare at the now very loudly snoring ‘Just Released’ and contemplate all possible meanings of the word ‘strangle’ wanting to kill someone so badly hasn’t happened since I was throwing elbows on 5th Ave in New York.

Meanwhile on the other side of the bus: A thick shake, 3 packets of chips and a double cheeseburger have fallen into the fat ladies gravitational pull.

Hours later we arrive in Oregon, in one piece and with a better understanding of what prison time would be like. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger I guess and this bus ride was no exception. I have had some memorable bus rides throughout Asia in my time but this one has to be up there!

Moral of the travel story: There are many different ways to get around and see America. Bus, car, train and plane, each has its own unique pros and cons. Sometimes when you travel, it shouldn’t always come down to cost: sanity, safety and serial killers should probably factor in there somewhere too.

Lesson learned for next time, and the wheels on the bus go round and round…

Pin It

You might also like:

Travel Better: The Zen of Sake and Learning
Why Portland Might Be The Best City In America
Quebec City - A Canadian Time Machine

9 thoughts on “Sanity, safety and serial killers: Bus rides in America

  1. Reply Thomas Mar 25, 2013 9:33 pm

    I hate Greyhound coaches too! I have memories of some not so pleasant long distance journeys on those bad boys. The smell of ‘Cheese Puffs’ still haunts me to this day.

  2. Reply Ivan Apr 16, 2013 2:47 pm

    Mate – you’re too funny in all your articles. I’m glad I found this blog as I’m planning to travel long term from August. Keep sharing your stories!

  3. Reply Jackie May 28, 2013 9:49 pm

    Man, I’ve had some wild greyhound trips across the country. Bus stations seriously attract the most ‘interesting’ characters, I’d say. I saw my share of serial killer look-alikes and just flat out scary people when I took a bus from Boston to Brownsville, TX. One of my worst memories was of the guy next to me that hacked open a can of tuna and proceeded to eat it with his hands – the smell and sight almost sent me to the bathroom.

    • Reply Pete May 29, 2013 5:02 am

      That sounds disgusting, your bus experiences are all too familiar! The funny thing is, if you take a Greyhound in Canada the people are all normal. No idea what the difference is haha

  4. Reply Jaz Sep 12, 2013 6:55 pm

    Love this! I spent a couple of months traversing the USA via the Greyhound. Many of the bus trips, the stations, the outskirts locations and the people encountered on my journeys have been far more memorable than the destinations. I’ve missed connections, lost luggage, even had five nights in a row on overnight buses. On the sixth morning I remember waking up as the sun was rising, and seeing cactus silhouettes all along the horizon. Five nights of discomfort and that moment took my breath away. I’ve since travelled the states via plane and self-drive. But nothing has been as gritty, grungy and eye opening as the Greyhound experience.

  5. Reply Dennis Feb 17, 2014 4:13 pm

    My wife and I are planning to take the Greyhound from New York to Phoenix. It’s just about $20 fare difference from taking a flight via Southwest but we like to try a different experience and see the sights across America. Travel time is about 2 days and a few hours.

    But after reading this post, I’m quite hesitant in taking the Greyhound.

    • Reply Pete Feb 19, 2014 1:39 pm

      Well too be honest, maybe it was just the buses we took while there, I guess it’s totally possible we just had a bad run. Maybe take a short ride to test it out? Funnily enough I found the Greyhounds in Canada almost 100% different, far, far ,far better/more friendly and way less dodgy. Could have just been my experiences but honestly given the choice I won’t be taking them in the US again unless I can help it. That’s a long bus ride btw, i’d recommend going trains if you can instead.

  6. Reply Judi Oct 1, 2014 4:14 pm

    Back in 2000 I travelled a long way around the US in buses on my own. I had some memorable experiences, like a driver getting my next bus held for me because we were running late coming into Chicago, a bus with no aircon going from Colorado to Nebraska, watching armed police chasing a suspect through the bus station in Memphis, accidentally sitting in the middle of a homeless church service in Rochester New York, to name a few. I also noticed that the practices at each bus station were different. Some took your bags, tagged them and you didn’t see them again until you got off, right through to you got the tag, you kept your bag with you, you gave it to the guy to load & then you got on the bus. Worst experience would have been arguing with the woman behind the counter in Raleigh North Carolina, who wasn’t going to let me on the bus, because the first person in Colorado hadn’t dated my 30 day ticket. I had to produce my passport for the driver to tell this woman that I hadn’t been using my ticket for more than 30 days, because I hadn’t been in the US for more than 30 days!

    All in all, an interesting experience though.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

Close

Please Follow & Like Us!!

Twitter

Facebook