We had the whole weekend to ourselves trying to rest and deal with the daylight saving time so time to get writing done.
This post is the first in my Chicago-related posts. For a whole week (and then some), I’ll be writing about our 3-day excursion to Chicago.
Now that I got that out of the way, time to talk about our Greyhound experience. I had always fancied taking a bus to somewhere but always ended up driving instead. With the Indianapolis gas prices at $3.99, my car not being in tip-top condition, and the exorbitant Chicago valet parking prices, it was about time I finally gave Greyhound a try. (Later I found out that Chicago had their gas prices at around $4.25. That would have been a nightmare for me if I drove).
I was aware about their advance purchase option so I took advantage of that. What I didn’t know was their Greyhound Express service. I didn’t really know what the major difference was other than an easier way for them to label trips that were in the same region as the starting point. Regardless, the express option quickly made my day even better. A round-trip ticket only cost $86 per person, which I believe already included the advance purchase discount and the companion discount (if not both discounts, one or the other). At $162 for both of us, I was already looking at a great relief. $162 wouldn’t have been enough to pay for the valet parking, gas, maintenance and wear-and-tear for my car, and my personal health if I decided to drive. I drive a stick-shift car so driving at a super-busy area such as Chicago translates to nightmare for me. Just so you know, my nightmare actually became true right before my eyes as I witnessed how people drove up there: honking and cutting each other left and right, people crossing at every intersection, and aggressive public transportation drivers.
On the day of the trip, I was quite excited. It was finally time for our little out-of-town break and we finally got the chance to experience travel by bus. The website told us to be at the station an hour before the departure time because seating was first-come-first-serve, so we did just that (not that it would have been a problem anyway, we’re used to that kind of schedule with plane flights). We arrived at the bus station before 7 AM (departure time was 8 AM) so we had plenty of time before the departure time.
We just watched TV in the meantime while waiting to board. It was early morning so it was the morning news. There were a couple of other people at the station, most of them asleep. I also couldn’t help but notice how the station looked dark and old. It looked like an ideal place for a homeless person to set up camp and call it their temporary shelter. Metal beams littered the place, serving as posts and as our ceiling. Now I probably shouldn’t blast on the station too much because above the bus station was the Amtrak station. If you were unlucky, you would get deafened for a few minutes by the continuous, thunderous sound of the train running just above the bus station.
At 7:30, we started getting a little jittery. There were no bus drivers on sight and no other indication that we would be boarding soon. I imagined us boarding at least half an hour early. At 7:45, I saw a driver doing his pre-drive inspection of a bus. A few minutes later, he came inside and chatted with the police officer on duty at the bus station. I kept my eye on the clock and wondered when we were going to board. Lo and behold, 5 minutes before the departure time he finally started calling for Chicago passengers.
There was nothing really too special about the inside of the bus. It had typical coach bus seats with overhead compartments for the carry-on luggages. The overhead bins didn’t have doors like the planes do, instead it had three slightly flexible thin ropes that horizontally covered the bottom half of the compartment. Clearly this was meant to stop the luggages from falling over. The only problem was that it was quite hard to shove a small travelling bag in there. The ropes didn’t yield too much room and you had to put quite a bit of elbow grease to fit anything in the opening. Once you get it through the ropes, everything becomes easier because the compartment was actually quite roomy.
As for the seats themselves, it took me an hour to remember that I got more legroom than I would in an airplane. The seats also reclined back which would help a lot for trips during the night. The back of each seat had electrical outlets for you to charge your gadgets with, which I found really convenient. There was also free wi-fi offered on board, as well as a restroom. I just wish the air vents cooled me down a little further.
I found the whole drive really, really boring. I blame this to the fact that in the past few years, I had always driven the long trips (Georgia – Alabama, Alabama – Indiana, Georgia – Indiana, and their reverse routes). Just in a 3-hour trip, I suddenly remembered how boring it was to be the passenger in a long road trip. So unless you’re used to being a passenger, I suggest occupying yourself with something because it gets really boring.
The Chicago Greyhound station was the complete opposite of Indy’s station. Chicago’s station was brighter, newer, cleaner, and more crowded. Then again, Chicago’s Amtrak station wasn’t on top of Greyhound so that definitely helped the aesthetics a lot. No rumbling ceilings!
The trip back home was ignorable, probably because we were so tired. I spent the majority of the time watching out for certain highway exits so we could coordinate with Wade’s mom about picking us up from the station. The bus driver also communicated more with us: welcoming us aboard, informing us where we were when we stopped at Lafayette and when we entered Indy, and giving us the usual hooplah before getting off the bus. The driver for the Indy-Chicago trip didn’t speak with us at all.
I’m definitely Greyhound-ing again in the future.