Sunday, August 1, 2010

Going West

As those of you who also read my Oz blog know, I went to the 2010 Winkie Convention. It was something I'd wanted to do for years, so when I realized I could afford to pay my registration and take the time off work, I jumped for it. Getting there and back was a story in itself.

Due to being unable to find affordable air fare, I decided I would take a Greyhound bus to California. A former Winkie attendee advised I go to Salinas, CA and take public transport from there. Another Winkie was persuaded into meeting me at Salinas and going the rest of the way from there.

Setting out on July 21st, I got a taste of what traveling on a Greyhound would be like: there was some idiot overreacting about everything and asking people a bunch of questions. I was really glad he wasn't on the same route I was.

Reboarding buses and making transfers can be boring, frustrating, and confusing, as the intercom systems they announce the buses on are often full of static. Transfers are really frustrating when the bus you're supposed to catch is late.

Riding the bus is okay, except when there are people talking loudly (something they tell you NOT to do), or when there are young children crying and screaming!

Oftentimes, I'd resort to my MP3 player, some books I'd brought along, or my phone, which I had to recharge a number of times, to ignore the other passengers. As I passed through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, I also took some photos.

As I mentioned, I had to recharge my cell phone, and at most Greyhounds, there are outlets they allow people to use for this purpose. At larger ones, power strips or specially designed rows of outlets were available. In Flagstaff, AZ, however, there was a sign over uncovered outlets saying that they were not for you to use, and if you were caught using it, "your trip ends here." Instead, they'd recharge your stuff for you at the counter for $2. Great, so all the other ones offer it for free, while here, if someone makes a simple mistake, you'll strand them? A little harsh!

As for food (each of my trips lasted about 48 hours, spread over three days), I had intended to bring some sandwiches to save money, but by the second day, they were turning rancid, and the last one I had made me sick, so I discarded the rest at a Circle K and bought some crackers. Most Greyhound stations offered over priced vending machines, and some had built-in cafeterias, but I couldn't bring myself to eat there. Sometimes, the bus would take a break near restaurants or convenience stores, and I had better luck there.

The bus arriving at Salinas was about two hours late, the guy picking me up knew it wasn't my fault, though he wasn't thrilled about it, and believe me, neither was I. You'd expect better service for $200+. I guess, given the nature of the transport, you can't blame them for stiff necks, sore backs and tail bones.

Anyways, we got to Winkies in plenty of time.

Sunday, I opted to take the public transport back to Salinas, and the bus system that connects Pacific Grove, Monterey, and Salinas is incredible! On time, comfortable seats, and a pleasant atmosphere. (The price was a bit steep compared to Springfield, but hey, it's California.) I arrived in Salinas, grabbed a late lunch, and headed over to the Greyhound station, which was ... dark and really ghetto. You had to get a key to use the bathrooms.

The bus I was supposed to catch in Salinas was late, but I reflected that it would just cut into my four-hour layover in Los Angeles, making that shorter.

In L.A., we got a new bus that was on time, and eventually made it to Oklahoma City on time as well. Making the final transfer there was easy, as it turned out the same driver was also going to be starting that route.

However, it was spoiled when, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, our driver was changed, and the new one wound up getting us 30 minutes behind schedule. But at least Audrey, my ride home, didn't have to wait too long, as she got there about 10 minutes before.

Next year, I'm trying a different mode of transport!