Another Greyhound Horror Story

“I am in Charlottesville waiting on a transfer. It’s not looking good. The bus is in Richmond with no driver. The attendant here isn’t hopeful. If no change by 4am, we will be sent to Richmond to wait there. I doubt I will make it up the mountain Thursday as planned. I’ll keep you posted”

For the Record:

I have never had much luck when it comes to public transportation. I was left behind by a train. I wasn’t allowed to board another train being told I was five minutes too late to check my bike. I once slept through a subway stop to wake at the end of the line. Other times, it wasn’t even my fault! I’ve crammed into seats next to people so big they really require two. I’ve slept in stations waiting on delays. I’ve patiently sat aboard broken vehicles needing repair or replacement.

The following is another public transit disaster. Aka: optimistic opportunities and patience training.

The Plan:

I am invited to spend a week in Le Conte Lodge in the Great Smokey National Park with a friend who is the winter caretaker. The plan is: Megabus to DC then Greyhound to Knoxville ($55 total opposed to $90 only on Greyhound). Buy a week of food then hitch to Gatlinburg. From there, walk ten miles up an icy mountain to the Lodge.

Pittsburgh to Washington DC:

I take a local bus into Downtown Pittsburgh at 6:15am with a pack empty except winter clothes, a quilt, ice traction, and my tripod. I have food for the bus and lenses in a small bag. My camera is around my neck as always.

Megabus delivers me to DC as promised and almost without incident. We stop for twenty minutes waiting on the police to deal with a customer thrown off the bus by the driver. I missed most of the drama keeping my headphones in. But, I overheard the explanation to the police. She refused to put shoes on. She hit another rider in the head with a tablet so she could have the seat. She is picking fights. She is thrown off. The journey continues.

Washington to Charlottesville:

In DC, I wait for a 5pm Greyhound to Knoxville. I wander Union Station walking circles to stretch my legs. I listen to calls for Amtrak wishing they went to Knoxville or Gatlinburg. Buses can really suck. I watch people move through the station and put myself in their shoes. What is your life like? I drink coffee in McDonalds and I read a book.

At 5pm the bus departs. The bus is new and comfortable with “leather” seats and room. The bus is nearly empty.

At 7:30pm we arrive in Charlottesville to await transfer. The wait continues into morning and the next day. We are told there is no driver in Richmond for our bus. If one is found, we may be rolling by midnight. If not, we’ll take a bus back to Richmond and wait there. I send the message above to my friend.

Richmond Station:

The station is packed. People fill nearly every seat. More line the floors leaning against walls in futile attempts at comfort. I speak with a rude employee who blames DC for sending us through. Wintery conditions further south, snow and ice, are to blame for the delay. I search for a spot.

I am fortunate to find a bench in the “restaurant.” I pull out my quilt and rest my head on my pack. I fall asleep waking hours later to learn my bus is boarding. I almost missed it!

Charlottesville, the third time:

It’s noon on Thursday and we’ve been driving for an hour. We stop in Charlottesville where I spent a rough night. We continue and merge onto the freeway. Then, the bus breaks.We are back in Charlottesville. The bus, sporadically stalling and requiring frequent restarts in the shoulder of the highway, manages to limp back to the station. Here, we wait another hour for another bus. I am on that bus now spiraling sleepily down the highway towards Knoxville.

New plan:

If all goes well, I’ll arrive at 11pm in time to catch a bus to a Walmart Supercenter. I’ll buy groceries for the short week then Uber to Gatlinburg. There, I’ve found a Motel 6 for $40. I will hike up to the lodge Friday morning, a day behind and $100 poorer thanks to Greyhound.


Truth be told, I don’t much mind . My only losses are time and money. Time I have in access anyway. I used it to relax and practice breathing (If you haven’t heard of Wim Hof, check out his breathing techniques. It may change your life). As for money, I’ve never had enough so nothing changes. More will be made when I need it. And who knows, Greyhound may refund the ticket or credit my next one recouping some of the “loss.”

Friday Morning:

I am sitting in the hotel lobby with an overflowing backpack (section hiker status? Nope. Cabin packer!) on the floor next to me. My bus finally arrived in Knoxville at 11:30pm last night. I Ubered to Walmart for groceries then to Gatlinburg and a Motel 6. It was after 3am when I, at last, crawled into bed and slept. I have a belly full of buffet breakfast. It’s time to hike a 70 pound pack up a mountain! Whooo!!!

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