Monday, June 2, 2014

Bangor by Bus

While many people I know have expressed that they would never make a long journey by bus unless there was no other option, riding the Greyhound bus is actually quite nostalgic for me. When I was young, my mom would drive me from our farm to Rycroft, a one and a half hour drive, and put me on the bus. I'd make a five hour trek to Gunn, where my grandparents would be waiting for me at Gunn Corner, stepping from their four-door brown Chevrolet car, arms waving and big smiles on their faces. This boisterous greeting always made me feel so special and so loved and the summers I spent at their farm provided some of my happiest childhood memories.

The first time I was to ride the bus alone, I think I was around 12 and I recall eating pancakes at the bus station restaurant as we waited for the bus to arrive. I was so nervous about riding on my own that I threw up all the pancakes and I learned what it meant to feel butterflies in one's stomach.

I've ridden the Greyhound bus numerous other times, from Edmonton to Grande Prairie to visit a boyfriend when I moved from my college town to the big city and he stayed behind, from Seattle to Edmonton to see family when I didn't have enough money for a plane ticket all the way from Anchorage to Edmonton and then later, from Anchorage to Edmonton when I sought out the adventure of seeing the countryside pass me by and making in stops in places along the Alaska Highway.

The longest Greyhound ride I've ever taken was in 2002, when I traveled from Edmonton to New York City to experience the one year anniversary of 9/11. Four days of riding the bus took its toll on my body and spirit and I recall finally arriving in to the Big Apple, my first trip to the city, and being complete exhausted and self-conscious of my cleanliness and swearing that I would never make that trip by bus ever again!

So, while riding the bus has its drawbacks, mainly that I can't stop whenever I want - to photograph an old barn or talk to someone selling vegetables at their roadside stand or explore a market or Festival, it also fills me with sentimentality, and for that, I will always have a soft spot for that old, familiar logo of the sleek, silver dog running the length of the bus...


Catching a 4am bus from New York City to Maine sounded fun and adventurous at the time that I booked my ticket, so that arriving at 2:30 in the afternoon would provide time to pick up my rental car and then have the afternoon and evening to explore my way to the Canadian border of New Brunswick.

Catching a 4am bus from New York City to Maine was not easy. I didn't trust that I would be able to take a nap at midnight and hear my 2am alarm to make the trek from my Brooklyn apartment to the subway and then to the bus station in Manhattan. So, I forced myself to stay awake, going cross eyed and becoming nauseous doing so.

On the plus side, I didn't have to deal with commuters.

Upon arriving at the Port Authority bus station, it was clear that I was not alone in my exhaustion. 

Twenty-six of us boarded the bus and I spent the next six hours being woken up every hour or so when the man sitting next to me jerked violently upright when his head would tilt and settle upon my shoulder.  I was too tired to care.

A brief bus change in Boston afforded me a front row seat where I chatted with Butler, a driver from Philadelphia who was driving the Boston, Mass to Bangor, Maine route for the first time. 

Our scheduled five hour trip took nearly six and a half hours because Butler was having difficulty following the printout of directions he was given. We turned around several times and he often stopped at forks in the road and paused for minutes on end trying to decipher the intended route. Why new drivers aren't provided with a GPS until they learn the routes, I don't know.

Thankfully, none of the riders were disruptive or angry and instead, those who were familiar with the route guided him to the appropriate bus stops. From the city to the rolling farm land, and all beneath sunny, cloudless skies, I was impressed with the driver's calm demeanor. When at last we disembarked in Bangor, I asked what he was going to do for the evening and he gave me a large smile and said just one word, beer. What could I do but laugh?

Thanks for the memories Greyhound...