Long Bus Ride Tips
July 3, 2005 1:10 PM   Subscribe

How can I keep myself occupied for 31 hours on the greyhound bus? My partner and I are leaving on Thursday for our vacation, but we are travelling to our destination via greyhound, and it is a very long ride. I love to read and listen to music, but I get bored of those. I can sleep on the bus, but not too well, and I am resistant to taking drugs to knock myself out. Any ideas for bus activities for two adult women?
posted by arcticwoman to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: seems like it would be good to exploit the journey somehow - turn it to your advantage. maybe work on some kind of journal? i'm not sure how the logistics would work - i find typing easier than writing on a bus, but how many hours battery use can you get from a laptop? taking photos out of a bus window could be good. again, there are limitations for the medium. maybe some kind of external structure would help? you take a photo every hour, exactly on the hour, and write how you feel, or talk to people sitting nearby and try to somehow record their stories (but keep the noise down!). if you had unlimited photo storage, a movie made from a photo every 10mins would be pretty cool. you'd get the changing time of day through the light, plus, i suspect, some kind of slow change of landscape. how about recording ambient noise? or taking watercolours or pastels or coloured pencils, or just pencil/ink and drawing the view (again, maybe every hour, in shifts for sleeping...). seems like this could be an opportunity to make something interesting... space is a problem. got to be something you can work on close up. i think a small watercolour every hour might be possible, but what about drying? pastels and just go for the colour/ambience? what will other people be doing? i guess people these days travel listening to music. is there some way to make a music collection based on what others want? take their addresses and promise to mail them something?

31 hours is a long time travelling. if you're anything like me you'll be in a pretty bad mood by the end of that time. might be worth stopping half way, taking things a bit easier. could end up saving time overall - less time at the other end to recover.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:33 PM on July 3, 2005

Do you knit/crochet/embroider/sew? I find a project really helps the time go by, especially something kind of repetitive. It puts me in kind of a trance and hours will pass before I look up.
posted by cali at 1:54 PM on July 3, 2005

Two Game Boys. Play alone or against each other.

Write your Christmas cards.

Take that shoebox of photos and a new scrapbook.

Write three chapters of your novel.
posted by sageleaf at 2:05 PM on July 3, 2005

posted by andrew cooke at 2:10 PM on July 3, 2005

Knitting or crocheting. Socks or washcloths are good small projects. If you already know how to knit, socks are not that hard.
There are travel versions of a lot of games. I have a good one of yatzhee where you roll the dice by rolling a plastic holder over your hand and then locking the dice in place by pushing on the bottom. Twenty questions is always good. This might be a good time to learn orgami. Get a book and some paper.
This type of thing could be fun:
Grerilla Art
Watercolors like andrew cooke suggested would be fun. They even make watercolor paper in postcards. You could dry them by using that blue sticky stuff that looks like bubble gum to stick them to the window or back of the seat in front of you (available in the office supply section of hardware & dept. stores. Get the blue, the other colors dont stick as well.

posted by BoscosMom at 2:13 PM on July 3, 2005

Yikes! Forgot to check my link
Guerilla Art
posted by BoscosMom at 2:16 PM on July 3, 2005

Spend the whole time on a cellphone, calling people who you don't ordinarily talk to, in order to run down the same litany of what you've been doing for the last several years. Remember to speak up!

that Guerilla link again
posted by Aknaton at 3:04 PM on July 3, 2005

I'm sorry, but if I were seated by you and you were on your cell phone the whole time, I would be REALLY annoyed. Not to mention, everyone on the bus will know your whole life story. yuck.

I second the games, journal, and knitting ideas. Especially the journal option...the greyhound usually leads to some interesting travel stories and commentaries, and if you and your partner work on it together it could be a cool collaborative memory of your trip.
posted by jetskiaccidents at 3:21 PM on July 3, 2005

Jetski, Aknaton was making a joke. Haha.
Serious suggestions of things to do:
Make sure you'll be comfortable: Wear stretchy clothes, bring healthy food and water and scented lotion in case there's a stinker on the bus (there's usually at least one).
Bring books, music, crosswords, knitting, playing cards, gameboy, cat's cradle, paper and envelopes and stamps so you can write letters, a camera to document the journey, etc. Sure, you'll get bored with your activities, but if you have enough options you can just move on to something else when you get tired of whatever you're doing. Bleach your teeth. Listen to old NPR shows on your iPod. Bring a map and follow along with your route as you drive. Take naps.

You're lucky that you're traveling with a friend. In my experience time goes by much faster when you have someone to talk to.
posted by bonheur at 4:06 PM on July 3, 2005

buy cigarettes and mrs wagner pies. laugh. play games with the faces. look at the scenery while she reads her magazine. Talk to her when you know she's sleeping.
posted by bonaldi at 5:48 PM on July 3, 2005

Seriously: take cushions.
posted by bonaldi at 5:49 PM on July 3, 2005

Best answer: A box of trivial pursuit cards - you don't need the whole game if you're not hypercompetitive - is relatively small, light and contains more trivia questions than you could read in 31 hours.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:46 PM on July 3, 2005

Best answer: I wouldn't suggest using a laptop on Greyhound, nor would I suggest flashing around expensive electronics or cameras. I would also suggest being judicious as to who you talked to. You can most certainly find entertaining and safe and fun people to talk to and have lots of fun with, but just be street smart.

The prison system does indeed dump discharges into the Greyhound system for homeward bound trips with little more than a ticket and some pocket change. To be fair, the majority of the passengers are just folks trying to get where they need to go as cheaply as they can, but very few are tourists.

Also be aware that 9/11 increased restrictions on carry-on items on Greyhound, but it seems to be very sporadically and arbitrarily enforced by extremely undertrained monkeys.

Besides the extra unwanted attention, it'd be a pain in the butt to use a laptop in your average Greyhound seat. I pulled out a 4 to 5 year old brick of a Pentium 1 laptop on my first Greyhound trip once and you would have thought that I had produced some sort of fantastic artifact that required half the bus to take notice, watch my screen, ask endless questions - including questions like "Woah. Aren't those really expensive?!" in nerve-wracking tones of envy.

And shooting photos through the scratchy acrylic windows is icky, but if you're okay with that, it's fine. However, most Greyhound trips have lots of stops. Some very short, some way too long. I've always taken photos at stops just to document the trip.

Greyhound trips are grueling. Your 31 hour quoted trip time that's printed on the ticket can easily double, and even sometimes triple. A 28 hour, three transfer trip I took once turned into something closer to 70 hours, and that's without any breakdowns.

There's no reserved seating on Greyhound. It's first come, first served. If you have any transfers, that's where you'll run into problems. If you get to your transfer point and the bus fills up before you get on it, don't be surprised that they don't pull up another bus and just make you wait for the next scheduled bus on that route. On some routes that can be once a day - some it's once an hour. Be prepared to wait and kill lots of time at stations if so. I once waited 12 hours trying to get out of the Los Angeles downtown station on a heavily traveled route in a line of hundreds of annoyed people. I was lucky that I made friends with a trucker that just got out of jail on a DUI bust and was busing home, so we took turns in line holding each other's place. We ended up hitting up nearby bars on layovers in El Paso and San Antonio, stuffing my excessive luggage in the expensive lockers. (I was moving via Greyhound on that trip, with luggage maxed out at 4 items exceeding 60 pounds a piece.)

Do bring a pillow. Any pillow. A travel pillow, a fluffy jacket, a real pillow. Earplugs are nice.

Dress appropriately. Dress like you're going camping or like you know you're about to be homeless. Dress down. I've totally ruined clothes a few times on Greyhound trips. Gum on seats, dirt, other and unmentionable things. I've torn sturdy shorts nearly in half by getting a pocket or hem caught on malformed or broken seating or other bus hardware. I literally spent the last 8 hours of that trip wearing what was basically some kinda crazy hobo-kilt. By that point I was too tired to give a damn, and went about my rest stops and other off-bus duties like I didn't care, underpants flapping and everything. Because I didn't care. At all. I just wanted to get to my destination, shower, and change, and there was no way I was going to pull my checked luggage out (a good way to piss off the driver) and then change in the 'bathroom' on board. (A good way to ruin more clothes or worse.)

Wear sensible, comfortable and durable shoes. Greyhound buses can break down.

Bring lots portable snacking food, nutritious and otherwise. Bring fresh bottled water. Greyhound station food is a crime against humanity, as are the fast food stops where you pull into a fast food joint and everyone has 10 minutes to place their order, and then maybe another 5 to get back on the bus. It'll be the only hot food you get, though. There's no time for anything else. I think the next trip I take I'm going to bring army surplus MREs with heaterpacks.

Bring an LED penlight or small LED headlamp or something. By all means, bring a small first aid kit with a sewing pack and painkillers, or anti-cold-catching remedies like Emergen-C or Airborne, or even garlic! Bring wetnaps, napkins, tissues or toilet paper. Bring quiet activities. Don't expect space, privacy, or politeness. Watch out for stinky people. There's usually more than one.

Don't get drunk or drink on the bus - unless you're prepared to get booted from the bus without a refund, even if you're totally sane and polite. Greyhound drivers are judge, jury, and executioner, and they're stupendous badasses.

I realize I've offered very little by way of 'things to do', but honestly, there's usually very little of that sort of luxury or space on a Greyhound trip of that length. Two hours in and your primary concern will merely be survival and just making it there. Sleep as much as possible. Watch the scenery roll by.

Keep an eye on your personal effects, especially at transfers and dropoffs. The drivers are none too careful about who walks off with what, and there aren't any skycaps and there's rarely a security guard when you really want one. Your luggage is entirely your responsibility once it's pulled from the undercarriage, and good luck finding it if it's lost, mis-transferred, or walked off with.

In all seriousness, being bored will be the least of your worries. Between the crazy stunt driving the Greyhound drivers are famous for and the colorful clientele and grueling death-march pace of a marathon Greyhound trip, you'll suddenly forget about all these diversions you brought with you and wish you packed lighter.

Music is good - it can block out the noise of the bus, and earphones or earbuds can be used as earplugs in a pinch. Books are good, especially thick, pithy ones that make you sleepy. A Gameboy with a couple of epic games, puzzle games, or multiplayer games would be good. Knitting or something like it might be good. Writing or doodling might be good, but buses can be bumpy the whole trip through, and I'm not just talking about the road or the suspension on the bus.

Not all Greyhound trips are hell, but it seems like most of them are. I'm really not being cynical. I'm really mellow, patient, and I don't expect much. I'm just being realistic. Greyhound is an experience unlike any other, and that itself can be quite entertaining.

The train is so much more elegant, even so far removed from it's heyday. Hell, they have a bar on board, and oftentimes you can bring your own.

Best of luck, and Godspeed.
posted by loquacious at 6:26 AM on July 4, 2005 [2 favorites]

I would _definitely_ second andrew cooke's suggestion of an audiobook--sounds like a perfect opportunity, especially since one of the distinct pleasures of an audiobook is that you can share it in the moment with one another as it's happening.

Very different than just reading a book at the same time, and it really helps you understand how families felt, clustered around the radio.
posted by LairBob at 8:44 PM on July 4, 2005

You can blow a couple of those hours (up to 4 maybe) by reading any local or nationwide newspaper COVER TO COVER. It is really quite refreshing because you probably never do it at home...you know, you are always rushed to get out the door so you get sports scores and headlines on front page. Just grab your local paper and the USA today at the bus station. You get caught up on all your news and there are really some awesome tidbits of general knowledge combined with some extremely funny human interest stories. It really gets good when you grab a local from your stop midway. Someone that lives 15 hours away by bus leads a much different life and it really gives you a perspective on how similar and how different people in this country are.
posted by jdstef at 11:33 AM on July 6, 2005

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