If you are a certain age and were usually watching your money while enjoying your youth in the military or college, you probably can be counted among the many of us who were frequent customers of either Greyhound or Continental Trailways bus lines.
Continental Trailways was a legitimate competitor to Greyhound until 1987 when they were absorbed into the Greyhound system. By then, two large bus companies were not really needed since traveling by bus wasn’t as popular as previously.
Looking back, I remember bus travel in a romantic sense. Maybe it is because it occurred primarily while being on my own in the Air Force between 1961 and 1965.
All aboard for Oklahoma, St. Louis, and points east
There was the trip with my basic training friends from San Antonio to tech school in Amarillo via Trailways. It was November and cold in Texas as we rolled onto Amarillo Air Force Base. That bus was warm and cozy and I sure missed it when the driver dropped us off in that cold parking lot. Ahead of us was eight weeks of hell with Tech Sergeant Green. We thought basic training was tough but it was a Sunday school picnic compared to Amarillo tech school.
My most memorable bus trip occurred when I left Amarillo in late December of ’61 and headed home to Cincinnati for Christmas leave. Being a poor GI, I naturally booked passage on a Greyhound bus. Have you ever ridden a bus from Amarillo, Texas to Cincinnati, Ohio at Christmas time? Unless you are short on cash I have one word of advice: DON’T!
However, looking back it is a fond memory as the bus was so full that people were standing in the aisle. I’m sure that was illegal since when we reached a weigh station in Oklahoma, the driver asked the standers to crouch down and spread their weight around.
I can certainly identify with these guys
When we reached St. Louis about sixteen hours later at 7:30 a.m., I found out I missed my connection to Cincy by thirty minutes. That meant waiting until 3:30 that afternoon for the next bus.
After finally leaving St. Louis and having gotten no sleep for 24 hours, it was on to Cincy where I quickly fell asleep which was a great feeling until I was awaken in Shoals, Indiana and told that the bus had broken down and we would have to move to another bus. By then, I figured, “Screw it” and got off in below zero weather with the ground covered with ice and snow.
We finally made it to Cincinnati by 4:00 a.m. and feeling like needing a bit of luxury, I caught a cab home. When I was dropped off, I just stood in front of my house for a few minutes in the dark breathing in the freezing air while thinking; “What the hell have I done?” I had three years and nine months to go in the Air Force; was it always going to be a litany of bus rides?
Fortunately, it wasn’t unless you count the Greyhound trip from McGuire AFB in New Jersey to Cincinnati after coming home from Germany in 1963. However, I’ll save that for another time! For now, I’ll just say that those experiences made me a better man.