Tag Archives: greyhound

From Nacogdoches to Lincoln

The bus ride from Kilgore, Texas to Omaha, Nebraska went well. Nothing on it compared to the indescribable beauty of the sky-scraping Sears Tower in Chicago, but then nothing compared to the hideous awfulness of travel in the American South, either. All in all a fair trip. It also was quite social, with Rob driving me from Nacogdoches to Kilgore.

But before some neat pictures and regular travel commentary, a word on “Steve.” Steve (Me: “What’s your last name?” Him: “You don’t need to know.”) was my terrible, terrible bus driver from Kansas City to Omaha. I have no idea if “Steve” is a real name or a nom de autobus, but whatever that creature is legally known is he was the driver of Jefferson Lines JL-0502 on between roughly 8 AM and 12 PM, Friday, July 28, 2006.


My friendly encounter with Steve began as follows

Steve: That (pointing to my second carry-on bag) is not coming on the bus.
Me: Why not? What is the problem?
Steve: Don’t get smart with me. That’s not coming on the bus. It needs to be checked.
Me: It’s been carried on nine trips so far this journey. It is the correct size and weight for a carry-on.
Steve: Listen, that’s not coming on the bus.
Me: I’ll go over to the Information Desk, and ask them if there is a problem with my carry-on.
Steve: Do you want me to call the police? I’ll have you escorted out of here. When you work for Jefferson Line for twenty-five years, you can tell me about their Standard Operating Procedure.

Steve’s general build and his hilarious use of military terminology (from his quixotic, personal “SOP” to his hilarious use of the word “tarmac” to refer to “parking lot”) imply a background in the United States Air Force. His personality does not. I am fortunate enough to count several Air Force officers among my first friends. The way these men conduct themselves — their combination of warmth and seriousness — always impresses me. Military service, to any country, is a serious business, and I am always impressed by how patriotism and true manliness bring out the best in each other.

Clearly, Steve was an exception.

That rant over, let’s begin the photo tour!

Kilgore, Texas (a town that always brings to mind an extremely embarrassing moment from a 2000 Campaign, when Vice President Gore attempted levity with a woman from that town) is an oil town. Oil rigs were everywhere.

Compared to rainy Houston, Dallas was gorgeous. Even pictures took from inside the book looked great. This is undoubtedly the best interior shot I took the entire trip.

I was in Dallas for a little more than an hour, so I took the time to explore Downtown. The Magnolia Building is particularly impressive, with a neat skywalk a la Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur.

Nighttime went relatively quickly. A huge gentleman across and behind me snored worse than I thought possible, but once he got off in Topeka I was able to sleep for a few hours. I awoke in Kansas City, Kansas, and took this picture as arrived near the bus station in that city’s Missouri-state twin.

Finally, back in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers’ Memorial Stadium and downtown greet travelers.

There may be a “best off” photo collection or two, but this concludes the real-time photoblogging of my trip to Indiana and Texas. I hope it hasn’t been a waste of your time.

How many states have you explored?

A Rant on Greyhound Bus Travel in the American South

I am writing this on a comfortable and safe-feeling Kerrville Buss Company vehicle, in Texas just after US 84 crosses the state line with Louisiana. Greyhound bus travel in the South is as terrible as Eddie and Sonny predicted. For much of the journey I was jammed next to the toilet between a very fat woman and a very scary-looking man. Worse, Greyhound’s magical-mystery philosophy of bus scheduling — such as overbooking a bus by nearly 100% and sending on my checked luggage two buses late, meant much of the travel was mentally stressful, as well. Then there were the extra connections which contradicted earlier information, chronically late vehicles, the fact that Southerns can’t line up…

Oh, that brings me to another part of the rant. Part of my vacation reading is P.J. O’Rourke’s Peace Kills: America’s Fun New Imperialism, and in it he makes the point that one of the hallmarks of civilization is the ability to form a line. The context was the rowdy and riotous behavior of Iraqis during (unneeded) aid dispensation, but O’Rourke may well have been describing the behavior of Southerners in Tennessee. The most charitable position that I (as a supposed descendant of CSA General John “Swamp Fox” Mosby) could make of this is that the evolutionary biologist Steven Pinker was right to describe the south as possessing a noxious “culture of honor.” Physical aggressiveness almost matching the anarchic-but-non-violent behavior of Beijngers in the subway was the norm, and may be a way of indicating that one is not to be trifled with (even if one is old, fat, and theoretical female).

Part of my anger comes from seeing how those even less familiar with bus trave than I fared. Through much of the trip Mexican families, an Asian Indian couple, and a Chinese man were sharing the bus with me. Their stress rose visible through our hastles and indignities, and I shudder to think that many will see that slice of the South as “America.”

Yet perhaps my anger at the Land of the Lost Cause is misplaced. (Incidentally, I wonder if it is aggravated by constant displays of the Confederate National flags, the Confederate battle flag, the Confederate Naval Jack, etc. I don’t recall being upset by the iconography before, as part of my family was pro-Confederate West Virginian, and I generally favor the preservation of whatever images people love. But you lost, I kept wanting to say, get over it. I could continue, but back to bashing Greyhound…) Several of the riders I traveled with blamed Greyhound’s sorry state on lack of competition. Certainly my earlier positive Greyhound experiences were largely supported by the happy treatment I received before Indianapolis and after Texarkana.

(Hmm… this opens up whole new areas of exploration. A Barnettian economicist v. a Huntington culturalist view of bus services? Some cool Catholicgauze maps showing the overlap between Dixie, transportation competition, and shoddy services? An excellent reflection on bus quality and poetry from Phatic Communion.)

Well, theoretically we are approaching Nacogdoches by-and-by. I shall sign off, weary from my travels.

From Omaha to Chicago

As happened to me in China (when I saw a gorgeous Hindu-Buddhist temple), the most beautiful parts of my journey hit me when I was without my camera. (Ironically, I do see a Hindu-style temple outside Chicago.)

I had a four-hour layover in Chicago, and hoping for some distraction I checked my bags into a locker and proceeded to explore the neighborhood.

My Only Picture of Chicago

It turns out that the Chicago Greyhound station borders the financial district. It is just blocks from Union Station and the Sears Tower. I spent the $11, took the ride up, and enjoyed one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful sites of my life.

Visibility was “zero,” our guides warned us, so I was prepared to be disappointed. Indeed, as for much of the beginning of the trip I was all alone, I figured the view must be terrible. How wrong I was. To see thick, billowy clouds shredded by the tops of skyscrapers — to see the sea of the sky underlit by a great American city — is beyond my ability to describe.

The people were wonderful and friendly, too. I met a Taiwanese man and his American son, where a small faux-paus (tdaxp: Ah yes, Taipei — the greatest city of the Republic of China. Man: Peking is the greatest city in the Republic of China!) begin a friendly encounter. Or the former space engineer, proud of his work on the Hubble Space Telescope but grumbling of the “politically-driven” selection of the Galileo Mission over his own company’s proposal.

Yet no photographs remain of that. So what continues below is from the journey, and is far less photogenic. I had a great time on my Greyhound trip, and even the schizophrenic woman damning us to hell was taken in good humor (well, humor — not all of it was kind) by my fellow passengers.

A friend drove me to the Omaha greyhound station. It is on the edge of downtown, and so features a view of the Woomen Building (made famous in the movie About Schmidt). Other towers in the background are obscured by a very thick fog. The fog continued until about five in the evening, making the drive to even faster.

The bus for the journey to the Windy City, getting ready.

The first leg of the trip goes fast, and soon we are in (foggy) Des Moines. Guster’s Ganging Up on the Sun and Johnny Cash’s American V kept me company. Sitting across from me were a man and woman who led parallel lives, and discovered they knew a lot of the same people.

The bus stopped in Des Moines for a few minutes, and I went out of the vehicle for a walk and to fetch supplies for a fellow passenger. Road engineering signs reminded me of China, specifically the ‘shan’ character from Fragrant Hills.

Our bus leaves familiar Iowa over the Mississippi River at Davenport.

A sight to see: a UAW union hall. Those won’t be around for much longer.