Chaining Dollar Buses From NYC to Indy

"Sir!", some police officer shouted at me from far down the echoing subway chamber, but I wasn't in the mood. It was an early morning after some long and packed days in New York City, it sounded like he wanted to search my backpack for whatever reason, I slipped down the steps and on to a well timed train, out of each other's lives.

I emerged in Manhattan, marching west towards the first of a series of buses I'd chained together for practically nothing, just a few dollars actually, Mega Bus which I've used before. New York to DC, DC to Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh to Cleveland, Cleveland to Chicago and finally Chicago to Indianapolis. It wasn't direct, but for around five bucks I couldn't complain, especially in the dead of winter with hitchhiking as my alternative.

The transition in DC was smooth, off one bus and on the other, by nightfall I was pulling into Pittsburgh, a Couchsurfing host I'd met a year or so ago was picking me up and we headed back to his place, my bus to Cleveland wasn't until the morning.

We spent the night at the bar across the street shooting pool and swapping stories, then back to his home which he was also running as a hostel. In he early morning he rode me back to the bus station and coincidentally another guy that was staying with him.

It was still early when I pulled into chilly Cleveland, my next bus to Chicago wasn't until a bit after midnight, so I spent most of the day writing and staying warm in coffee shops. As it got later I walked across the snowy bridge and a little ways until I hit a brewery, a couple beers there and I made my way to a slightly larger brewery, Great Lakes.

The crowd grew slowly there, I chatted up the friendly bartender, someone else noticed my backpack and started talking travel and thru hiking. A free beer or two came my way, when I finally paid my bill it was lighter than it should have been too.

I had a bit of a walk ahead of me to get back to the bus station, but that too was erased when a guy from the brewery I'd been talking to pulled up alongside me and offered a ride.

As it turned out it wouldn't have mattered how soon or late I got to the bus station, it ended up being delayed several hours, it wasn't until after 4am when myself and a mix of patient and frustrated people piled in bound for Chicago.

That ride didn't get much better. We rolled right by Toledo, where several people were supposed to have been dropped off. Once in Chicago we stopped once past a tollbooth for an undisclosed delay, then once again, then finally the driver pulled off the freeway and parked, still far from downtown where we were meant to go.

It turned out the driver was out of hours, he'd been driving too much and couldn't legally drive anymore. There was apparently a bus "ten or fifteen minutes" behind us, but after a while it was clear that bus probably wasn't coming. Person by person, family by family and couple by couple people started walking away, getting cabs or otherwise figuring there own way out.

I was one one of the last to go, my friend came and picked me up as well. I'd met her in Alaska and she was now living right there in Chicago. I had until later the next day to catch my final bus to Indy, I was happy to have the time to catch up with her.

After heading back to her place for a bit we headed out, she showed me a bar she'd been working at, after a beer or so we headed out again to go pick up her girlfriend.

"After 36 hours, I completely forget what she looks like", she told me. She had some serious memory issues after an accident earlier in her life, it was practically something out of Momento, she actually kept notes and the like in a somewhat similar fashion.

They took me to a spot to get a great sandwich, then we headed to her dodge ball game before heading back to her place for the night. In the morning she'd gone to work, but her girlfriend happily drove me to a cool neighborhood to hang until my bus was coming. I hit a brewery, of course, then got myself some Chicago pizza which resembled a bread bowl more than anything else, but I still enjoyed it.

A subway ride later and I was back on another bus, Indy bound. The ride wasn't all that long, Marilyn was waiting for me on the other end. Another brewery, yes, then the short drive down to Bloomington where I'd spend the next week fooling around with her, hanging with her friend in a robot lab futzing with a project and sampling tasty Indiana beers throughout.

My next move was Michigan, a buddy's house up there would be empty and I'd have it to myself to do a considerable amount of writing, frozen within. No more cheap buses, I'd soon be marching through the ice and the wind, thumb first, the default, ready for the next story.

January 8, 2014 to January 20, 2014