It's a long road when you're riding a bus.

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My semi-retired husband decided to take a job recently to drive bus.  This is a first for this old farmer/rancher.  After we left the farm he was in construction and home building until the crash and so this was a good chance for him to do something that he had some experience with.  He can drive just about anything you put him in, except maybe an airplane, but knowing him, he could probably do that with just a little help. 

I decided that I would take a ride with him on one of his runs this past weekend.  He makes a run that is about 450 miles a day.  I used to ride a school bus many, many years ago and have been on airport shuttle buses.  I have even ridden in the big buses when we were in Cancun and Orlando for short little tours.  But, this was a whole different experience.

First of all, these bus drivers are well trained and riding a bus is very safe as far as having a good driver.  Greyhound puts their drivers through an 8-week course before they can transport passengers. 

The buses are every bit as comfortable as…well, maybe an airplane seat.  Something I wouldn’t want to do as long as many of the bus passengers must do when traveling across the country.  They aren’t bad but I wouldn’t want to ride this way very often.

They do a have a small bathroom and it looked clean, but I declined to use it.  The ride itself was actually pretty comfortable.  I was glad I had a small blanket with me because the floor was a little cold for me as the heat came from above. 

I was a little surprised at how quiet and polite the passengers were.  As I thought about this while watching them in the depot and during the stops it really hit me that when we travel we generally fly and we are anticipating a trip going somewhere fun and exciting.  Even when it’s for business it isn’t something I dread.  I had the feeling that most of these passengers weren’t headed to anywhere fun.  Most seemed like they tired and worn out and many seemed very down on their luck.  The make up of the passengers were about 80% men with few women. 

As I contemplated the journey I had taken for the day and thought of the differences I noticed in this trip compared to flying to our destinations in the past. 

The depots were clean enough but seemed very dingy.  Most were located in the older parts of the towns where we made stops.  I found this interesting.  They had signs posted all over stating they had cameras “watching you.” 

They didn’t have a news channel on television in the depot lobby.  It was on a channel that featured people in prison.  Very depressing to me.  

Food at the depot snack bar was very reasonably priced.  There wasn’t a lot of variety; mostly hot dogs and hamburgers but they were only a couple of dollars each.  I really didn’t see many people eating and it made me wonder if they couldn’t afford to eat.  A few had cups of coffee but not much else.  There sure weren’t any Starbucks cups to be seen.  Even the vending machines were cheap at 75 cents a can for pop compared to a couple of dollars charged at an airline terminal.  

People were dressed very practically and warmly.  Most had on jeans and sweatshirts with sneakers.  Many looked like they hadn’t been washed for a while. 

I was very surprised to learn there was absolutely no alcohol allowed on the buses.  If a driver even thinks a passenger has been drinking he can refuse to let the passenger on board.  I asked about this because they let passengers drink on airplanes.  I guess they have experienced too many problems with alcohol on these bus routes.

They don’t allow smoking either.  But, they do make short stops to allow the passengers to get off so they can have a cigarette. 

Many of the passengers tell him they are going job-hunting in other areas, as they can’t find work where they live.  It seems like most passengers are traveling solo as well.  I talked to one young man and he said that taking a Greyhound bus across country saved him hundreds of dollars over flying.   

My husband has only drove for one week and has already had some pretty exciting experiences. 

He had a passenger one night that was very out-going and ended up staying at the depot on a two-day layover because of bad weather.  Because of this, my husband spoke to him quite a bit for two nights.  He seemed friendly enough and talked like he wasn’t in a big hurry to move down the road but was pretty vague about where he was headed.  The next night when he made his bus run he found out that the local news station had been posting a photo of a wanted fugitive.   They found out that he had killed a two-year-old girl in Texas a few days before and was a suspect on the run.  They also considered him armed and dangerous.  They haven’t found him yet. 

Another passenger got off at one stop before his final destination, saying his friend called and was going to give him a ride from there.  At the end of the run there were six police cars waiting for the bus and the passenger that had gotten off earlier!  He was wanted on drug charges.

Another night one of his passengers claimed he was a physic and was telling people what their futures held.  I hope he told them happy things were in their future, as most people didn’t seem to be smiling on these bus trips.

There is no security check when boarding a bus and they don’t request your identification to see if it matches the ticket. 

After making this trip and hearing the stories of the week we talked about situations that could be dangerous and how my husband would handle them.  It’s an interesting mix of people that boards his bus each day and even though they are usually very well mannered, I worry about the day when someone might not be.  But, he’s an old cowboy and they might have their hands full if they decide to give him any problems. 

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