An armchair guide to traveling by bus

by Grant McGee

Last weekend’s snowy Saturday, waiting at the light at Prince and First, I had bus trip memories. It was all because two TNM&O buses were at the same intersection. One’s destination placard read “AMARILLO,” the other read “EL PASO.”

Going by bus is one of my favorite ways to travel. People ride the bus for many reasons; I think the primary one is it’s relatively cheap.

I don’t know how old I was when I took my first bus trip. I do know it was on a Greyhound from Roanoke, Va., to Madison, N.C., to visit my aunt and uncle (who ran a motel and used goats to keep the grass trimmed).

When my folks moved to Baltimore I used to ride the bus back to Roanoke to visit my grandparents and friends.

On one trip on the way back to Baltimore an old farmhand was regaling the young men on the bus with tales of his romantic conquests … in great detail.

The stuff didn’t mean much to me I was 12 and hadn’t even for real kissed a girl yet, but the young men were hootin’ and laughing. Some women were telling the driver to throw the guy off.

I used to take the bus from Roswell to Albuquerque to visit friends. There was something freeing about just sitting back and watching the expansive New Mexico landscape roll past. I looked for antelope. I didn’t have to worry about driving. Besides, I had an old clunker that was good for driving around town, but I wasn’t sure it’d make it to the Duke City and back.

I had pondered taking the bus to visit family in Florida. Flying looked to be a big hassle. How easy, it seemed, to just go on down to the bus station, hop on board and spend the next 28 to 36 hours zipping across America.

On one of my trips to Albuquerque we stopped in Vaughn for some munchies. The bus driver stood outside the restaurant having a smoke.

“You have any tips for long bus trips, like from here to Florida,” I asked.

“Buddy,” he said, “I can ride cross country on these things for free. You couldn’t pay me to do it.”

I finally experienced long-distance bus tripping.

I signed on to be a truck driver a couple of years ago. I was to take a bus from Arizona to Arkansas to Trucker Training Camp (I’ll tell you about that someday), train, then leave with my rig.

As it turned out, I ended up taking three 28-hour bus trips back and forth between Arizona and Arkansas.

By the time I was on my third trip I had learned a few things about transcontinental bus riding: Take a pillow, pack lightly, if you have to put anything in the luggage compartment below the bus try to watch what people grab during stops, try to keep an eye on your luggage during transfers (I lost a bunch of my stuff in a duffel bag, swiped between Little Rock and Dallas), try not to eat too much salty junk, take pain relievers for the aches you’ll have from sleeping in convoluted positions, and when you get to where you’re going allow time to get rest for all you didn’t get on your trip.

I still like riding the bus.

It’s got soul.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at:
blisscreeksw@yahoo.com