“You are braver than I am, Janice,” my former editor Joan Brookwell said admiringly. Joan, like me, is a veteran adventure traveler to exotic locales who thinks nothing of rising at 5 a.m. to stumble across steep, muddy Australia river banks in hope of glimpsing an elusive duckbill platypus.
“I don’t think I could do it. But let me know how it turns out. I might try it,” Joan said.
“I haven’t done it since college,” I said.
And what was my courageous act? I rode on a Greyhound bus from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando, Fla.
A $17.50 senior one-way fare and not having to drive five hours in snarled traffic was the lure. The train took about six hours and was twice the bus price. The express Greyhound bus took about three hours.
Even the Hertz guy who drove me in my rental car to the small building in downtown Fort Lauderdale exuded skepticism.
“Are you sure you want to get off here?” he asked.
I had purchased a ticket earlier online. Using the print out, I got a “real” ticket from the machine with the help of friendly staff, who took my larger piece of luggage to store under the bus during the ride.
A woman standing in a corner called out names she read from a clipboard pad. One by one, waiting passengers walked with her to the counter, and were handed pieces of paper.
Finally my curiosity won. “Are you a social worker?” I asked.
“Are these people getting free Greyhound bus tickets?
“It’s a program called Reunion, sponsored by the city of Fort Lauderdale to help people who want to reunite with relatives,” she explained.
The Express nonstop bus was exactly on time. The driver was neatly dressed and courteous. The bus was clean with comfortable seats and seemed new. There was a restroom on board.
The man next to me immediately fell asleep. We breezed through numerous toll booths with long lines of cars, without having to stop. I got out a notebook and did work the entire trip. It was relaxing and smooth as our careful driver slid past miles of clogged traffic and frustrated drivers. We arrived in Orlando exactly on time.
With about 1,271 buses, Dallas–based Greyhound vehicles travel to about 3,800 destinations on 123 routes in North America. Greyhound was founded in 1914 by Swedish immigrant Carl Wickman in Minnesota with one seven passenger car. By 1918 Wickman owned eight buses and was profiting $40,000 annually.
In 2014, Greyhound claimed a $73 million profit on $990 million in revenue, according to published reports.
The Greyhound name originated when a driver saw the bus reflection in a store window and thought it resembled the dog. A 1934 romantic comedy film “It Happened One Night,” which won five Academy Awards, centered on an heiress traveling by the iconic Greyhound.
In my college era, students commonly traveled by Greyhound. In about 1965 or so, I took a Greyhound from Valdosta, Ga. to Jacksonville, Fla. On the way, the driver stopped at an old roadside building, got off the bus, unlocked the store door, stepped behind the counter, and proceeded to take our orders for drinks and snacks!
When I got home to Houston from the Orlando trip, my longtime former supervisor, Jeff Marcus, the First Assistant State Attorney in Broward County, Fla. emailed me.
“So, how was that bus ride? I want to hear about that,” he inquired.
“This is my report Mr. Marcus. Joan says she’s going to try Greyhound.”