Prologue: I consider myself a pretty intrepid traveler. I have yet to meet a mode of transportation I can’t endure.
Further, I’ve gotten pretty city-savvy. I enjoy making the most of the latest fad in transportation.
Mostly though, I’m a sucker for a good deal. I’m the girl who plans my vacations around flash sales.
So naturally, hearing that Megabus was coming to town was the kind of good news that could only be topped if RyanAir or EasyJet decided to hop the pond and start offering 15-cent flights to Los Angeles. I took the Megabus to Austin back in December for a lunch date, and it was perfect. On time, low-key, seat to myself, read the whole way. So I didn’t even hesitate to book a trip to Houston for Monday-Tuesday, and a trip to Dallas for Friday-Sunday last week.
Sitting in the parking lot of Katy Mills for an hour with no sign of the 7pm Megabus, I should have seen the writing on the wall. As I griped about the lack of communication, my gracious ride (who was waiting with me so that I could stay in an airconditioned car, instead of sitting on the pavement) said,
“Yeah, I’d pay at least $4 per trip if they would be on time.”
Right. You get what you pay for.
Tickets were already booked for Dallas though. So Haley (who, in all fairness, would never have hazarded such an obviously fallible plan had I not been so exuberant about Megabus) and I boarded in San Antonio at 4:30 pm, and headed for Dallas. You can read Haley’s account of the trip here.
Act One: Austin. Where after seeing a pretty convincing Chris Farley double…
we backed up right into the spot where he had been sitting, and felt an ominous bump. Followed by an announcement that we would be staying in Austin for an hour to address a “safety concern.” They also told us to be back on the bus in one hour because they were leaving “regardless of whether or not we were on the bus.”
Though needlessly stern, that’s about as helpful as the Megabus people would be throughout the hours that followed. Also, we saw Chris Farley again, so I don’t know what the bump was, but it was not him.
We were in Austin, on Guadalupe street, though. I’ve been stranded worse places (Ljubljana, for instance). So we made the most of it and had Pho for dinner.
Better than organic funyuns and dried cherries, which was what I had packed. We also had two bottles of wine and no corkscrew. Little did we know by the end of the evening we’d be willing to claw through and drink whatever cork bits fell into the wine.
The bus left at precisely 7:20. I don’t know how I feel about that kind of punctuality. What kind of safety issue is resolved in exactly one hour as scheduled? How well can you really fix something in an hour? I mean, I was ready to get to Dallas, but I also believe in the importance of actually fixing things.
Because if you don’t, you end up exactly where we were 1.5 hours later.
Act Two: After crawling along in the predictable North Austin/Temple/Belton traffic jam, we realized that while the rest of traffic was speeding up, we were still going about 5-10 miles per hour. Cars whizzing by, efficiently making their way north. No announcement, no explanation.
One concerned passenger jumped up and rushed down the stairs to check on the driver.
“Well, he’s still alive.”
Suddenly, we sped up. A collective sigh of relief. But wait…we were just going down hill. Once the road leveled out, we slowed to a stop.
Still no word from the driver. It should be noted that Haley and I were giggling like idiots the whole time, because we were neither hungry nor alone, and so this was all very entertaining. (The people in the Group Messages are Haley, me, and Amanda Brack, whom I still have listed under her maiden last name…we’ve been friends for a while!)
Policeman #1 boarded the bus, asking us to please get off the highway. That’s when we got the first and only piece of true information we would get. We peered down the stairwell, listening to the driver explain that our transmission was out. (the video Haley mentions is of this conversation)
Policeman #1 explained that there was another southbound Megabus a few miles ahead…also stranded. Then he left.
Policeman #2 appeared about five minutes later, and the scene repeated itself. This is also about the point when our chronical of the trip on social media started generating some worried phone calls and messages from friends.
“We’re going to die on this bus,” one particularly hopeless passenger said, as the clock neared 9:45.
“We’ve got wine!” Haley and I announced.
“It’s my 21st birthday at midnight!” another passenger exclaimed.
We felt like we’d saved the day. Even though we were still sitting on a bus on the side I-35, and no one from Megabus had spoken up to inform us of our fate.
Finally, another bus, Coach USA, pulled up, and we walked along the grass median to board the smaller vehicle.
Haley and I could not find seats together, which is when this conversation happened:
Act Three: The remaining 1.5 hours were uneventful. Over the course of the journey I listened to a confident young man tell his cute seatmate the following (which I relayed by text to Haley and Amanda).
He then went on to explain that he was classically trained, but just had a knack for rhythm. And he’s an amateur mechanic. “I don’t know, I’m just good at that kind of thing. I’m good with my hands.”
The cute girl relayed her woes of car trouble, and the confident fellow offered to take a look at her car for free when they were back in Austin.
I wanted to take the girl by the shoulders, shake her, and say, “If there is one thing you have learned from this trip: when it comes to transportation, you get what you pay for.”
Epilogue: Our return trip was 2 hours late presumably due to traffic…which is always present…but not accounted for in the eta. If you plan to take the Megabus between San Antonio and Austin, just be advised, it’s a seven hour trip. You could literally fly to Peru.
I love that a band nerd was picking up on a vulnerable bus traveler with a broken car. FAN. TASTIC. #bandnerdsforever
You can make even a boring bus trip sound like an event not to be missed!
Oh Megabus. I’ve taken it round trip from DC to NYC at least 4 or 5 times, and the only reason for running late has only ever been traffic going in and/or getting out of both cities. While extremely frustrating to sit through, I can’t exactly condemn Megabus for traffic around two of the most congested cities in the US. I have experienced some pretty terrible bus drivers in that time, though.
Also on one of these Megabus trips, our bus stalled out in the middle of NYC rush hour, right in front of the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. We sat for about a minute, and then the bus started moving again. I remember just feeling grateful that it hadn’t stalled INSIDE the tunnel.
Rex and I just booked Megabus tix for our Sept trip to NYC….who KNOWS what will happen!!! 😉
I’m sure it will be marvelous. I think it’s just the Texas operation that’s still working out the kinks…and yes, we’ve decided that had our Dallas bound driver been as helpful and informative and friendly as the SA bound driver, things would have felt a lot different.