Half past seven on Sunday morning, and my North American jaunt had taken another weird turn. I was at Boston’s bus terminal, picking up a Greyhound service to Montreal, but finding myself delayed by a row between the driver and a youth who’d taken his elderly grandmother to the terminal. The old lady had almost certainly seen some real injustices in her long life, but as she tottered onto the coach, her grandson – young, twitchy and black – was exploding at some imagined slight from the Greyhound staff. The driver wasn’t having any of it. The comeback from the baggy-tracksuited one?
“Get a college education!”
“You should use your college education!”, the driver wearily muttered. And he was right, for no angry youth was going to be a match for the King of the Road.
I promised myself last year I’d return to the US east coast- lots of people and places I wanted to see – but having weaned myself off flying around Europe, I wasn’t pleased at the thought of spewing a load of pollution into the sky in my haste to cross the Atlantic.
The not-entirely satisfactory solution I came up with was to book a long trip, and go touring by road and rail and see as much as I could to get as much value as I could out of my travels. I got greedy, crammed in a couple of Canadian destinations, and so Sunday was Greyhound day, because it’s the only way to get from Boston to Montreal.
I’d heard the scare stories about travelling by long-distance bus – and my decision to break my 7-hour journey in Burlington, Vermont, cost me because Greyhound’s antiquated ticket system can’t cope with non-US citizens booking in advance from most stops.
(Strangely, though, Greyhound is now owned by the UK’s FirstGroup, which is bringing the name over here.)
So it was up early on Sunday morning, cursing my decision to wallow in Boston’s great bars only a few hours before. But the scenery soon put thoughts of a hangover out of my mind – the interstate highways were quickly surrounded by thick forest, and the thick forest was quickly surrounded by low cloud. On Sunday I’d been drenched by the remnants of Tropical Storm Danny and the last of it was still hanging around.
I was surprised to find that the Greyhound was a terrific way to travel – not exactly fast, but my seat was comfortable (fitting snugly into a seat designed for American backsides) with the kind of soft headrest which seems to have been outlawed in the UK several decades ago. With the driver’s easy-going drawl on the PA, this was a relaxing ride.