Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Columbus Voyage

I've traveled by bus before. Not for very long distances, but when there's something like Megabus which offers (as long as you purchase it far enough in advance and are going somewhere that no one actually wants to go) $1 tickets, it's hard to justify flying over the bus.

Until you've been on it for nine hours.

Before last weekend, I'd only ever used Megabus to get to Milwaukee, which is a 90 minute drive that I'd make if I had a car and is nowhere near far enough to justify actually flying there, even if this was back in the dark ages when fuel was actually affordable. It was an hour and a half on a bus, but I think I got some reading done (I think that was when I was reading The Fountainhead) and it was tolerable enough. I have it on good authority that even the four hour bus-ride from Chicago to Toledo is relatively painless, as “by the time it gets unbearable, you're there.” After nine hours on a bus between Chicago and Columbus, I think I've found that point at which it becomes not worth it at all.

To start with, some of you who have made this trip (and know it should be six hours) might be wondering why it took us nine. Evidently, you're supposed to go through Indianapolis if you want to get to Columbus, but throwing in Cincinnati, which is about an hour out of the way, throws the whole thing off.

If that was all it was, that the bus went a bit further south out of its way than it had to if it were strictly a Chicago-Columbus route, I'd have no problem. It told me that on the ticket, after all, and if I'm bad enough at geography to have not known how far out of the way Indianapolis and Cincinnati are, well, that's my fault, not the fault of the Megabus. Nor can I blame them for not being able to fall asleep. I can hardly fall asleep anyway, and being on a bus didn't help that any, particularly when the ride down was filled by listening to podcast after podcast. I would like to question their judgement in picking sites for dropoffs.

Both Chicago and Columbus are fine in this regard. Buses in Chicago stop at Union Station, which is useful because it's somewhat of a hub as far as both Metra and Amtrak trains, and is pretty close to the loop, where you can pick up any inner-city train you'd want. In Columbus, there's a stop at Ohio State (which is useful, because that's just as likely as not to be the reason you're going to Columbus) and at some sort of bus depot, which is at least still in the city. Getting off in Cincinnati at 5am in what appears to be the middle of the damn city (stopping on a street corner) is a bit of a stretch, but at least it seemed to be a pretty nice part of the city, and so that's fine. Indianapolis looks a bit better during the daylight, but stopping there at 3am is a different story. The lights come on, everyone wakes up and about a third of the passengers de-bus, while the rest of us sit and look. It appeared to be kind of an open plaza, which I'm fine with. Open plazas are fun. The seven 24-hour bail bondsman locations on the street perpendicular to ours were... something other than that. They were the only thing open, and though now it seems like not that bad a part of the city, when the only things that are open are “hey please get me out of jail” shops, well, I'm not sure what you're supposed to think.

Either way, it got me down to my friend's bachelor party without much trouble, and got me back to Chicago the next day (an hour late, due to the bus driver's frequent stops, leaving us all on the bus while he went to the restroom, and the ride up until Indianapolis was next to a woman who just flat out refused to do anything about her baby who was screaming its lungs off, but what are you going to do? Be a parent?) and while I wouldn't recommend it for nine hour trips, it was less expensive than a plane. So there's that.

I'm glad, even with gas prices, that I'm driving to Cleveland for the wedding this weekend. At least there'll be no screaming babies.

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