Busing it to Michigan

The long road to Michigan.

The long road to Michigan.

The longest bus ride I had been on prior to last week was a four-hour trip in sixth grade to Chicago with the rest of my classmates. I don’t remember many details of that trip, beyond that Lansing — which we went by on the way to Chicago — seemed like it was a day’s travel from Detroit (it’s really about 75-90 minutes).

Enter last week, where I was scheduled to take a roughly six-hour trip via Miller Transportation and Indian Trails from Indianapolis to Holland, Mich., where my lovely wife would be waiting for her dashing, but road-weary husband.

The trip began at the Greyhound/Amtrak station in Indianapolis. It’s nice to have a real indoor station, with ticket/customer service counters, a restaurant and bathrooms. That said, it’s always like a sauna whenever I’m in there. It doesn’t matter if it’s cold or hot, it’s going to be like being in a South American rainforest in there.

The first bus, operated by Miller Transportation, was your standard charter bus. There was ample legroom, but no outlet by my seat. The bus did have wifi, but it’s more for browsing and checking email than streaming Netflix, which was sad the entire trip due to low bandwidth.

Our driver, who sounded and acted like comedienne Wanda Sykes, was sassy and cracked the whip. Her opening quip to passengers: “The bathroom is in the back. But please don’t do No. 2 on my bus. If you need to do that, let me know and we can talk.” Good thing my colon was in check. And the sass didn’t stop there. At a quick 10-minute break at a gas station along our route, she emphasized “If you’re not on the bus when I honk my horn three times, you’re getting left behind. Hey you – I’m serious, get back here or I WILL leave you behind.”

As someone with two transfers, including one of which was just a five-minute layover, I appreciated this cracking of the whip. She also seemed like she enjoyed her job, joking with travelers the entire way. Good hire, Miller Transportation.

A transfer in Gary, Ind. and another driver serious about getting places on time: “We’re leaving in three minutes. If you need to smoke do it right in this triangle next to the bus.,” the driver said, before turning his attention to a wayward passenger, “Sir? Sir? SIR? WHAT DID I JUST SAY?!? Smoke over here!” The scared and confused Chinese tourist slowly walked back over, head hung in shame. Unfortunately, he eventually sat behind me and smelled like he had smoked five packs of cigarettes. Gross.

This time, I was on an Indian Trails bus, which did have an outlet by my seat, but also had slow wifi. I’m sure the seats were probably the same configuration as my first bus, but things felt a little more cramped. Maybe I was just getting road weary?

An uneventful trip to Benton Harbor for transfer No. 2 and we landed in Holland just two or three minutes late. Amazing for such a long trip that we could arrive so close to being on time.

 

My overall assessment of riding the bus from Indy to Holland, based on an A-F grading scale:

Cleanliness of bus stations: C. Maybe this is just my perception, but both the Indy and Gary bus stations just seemed a little dirty.

Cleanliness of buses: B. The first bus was spotless, but the subsequent two buses sometimes had trash left in the seat pockets and several people definitely did a “No. 2” on my later buses, leading to some stinky travels.

Comfort: B+. The legroom was nice and the seats were surprisingly comfy.

Amenities: B+. Props on having the wifi. I just wish all seats on all buses had outlets and access to faster wifi.

Value: B. The bus is a fine alternative, but at $69 per way, taking this mode of transportation can add up. Then again, it’s still cheaper than going by plane.

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