Featured TRAVEL SCOOPS

A Boomer’s Road Trip Down Memory Lane–by Greyhound Bus 

June 19, 2020
A boomer's journey by Greyhound Bus

People often send me emails offering to write guest posts for MoreTimeToTravel. Usually, I refer them to our guest post policies and most times, never hear from them again.

But this time, I was intrigued by a lovely note I received from a retired British journalist and author who asked whether our readers would be interested in his story. Tim Albert introduced himself as an “old English buffer,” and a 72-year-old boomer.

He went on to explain that instead of taking a more conventional—and comfortable—holiday last year, he decided to embark on a Greyhound bus adventure around the U.S., similar to the trip he took in 1969 at the age of 22. 

The trip not only provided Albert with opportunities for self-discovery but also allowed him to observe how bus travel had evolved over a half century, and witness the dramatic cultural and political changes that had taken place in the U.S. 

Albert has turned his travel reflections into a book, called Two Summers: Nixon and Trump by Greyhound, which will be published by Elbow Publishing on July 1, 2020. 

I’m sure you will enjoy Tim Albert’s essay as much as I did!



A Boomer’s Trip Down Memory Lane–by Greyhound Bus

The Greyhound Bus in 2019

The Greyhound Bus in 2019

Sometimes you stumble on an idea that is so good that you can’t talk yourself out of it.

That is why I found myself, at the age of 72, boarding a plane on July 1, 2019 that took me from Heathrow Airport in London to JFK Airport in New York City. I took along two blow-up cushions, two 1960s guidebooks, and a 30,000-word diary from the 12,000 mile Greyhound bus trip I had taken some 50 years before, almost to the exact day.

Mementos from Tim's first Greyhound bus trip

Some of Tim’s trip essentials

That flight in 1969 was on a plane chartered by the British Universities North American Club, a student-run organisation that enabled thousands of young Brits to make the grand tour of the most famous country on earth.

Old photo of Tim in Texas

Old photo of Tim in Texas

I saw the sun rise over the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls, and set sail off the coast of Long Island. I rode a horse in Texas, lost my meager stake without a single win in Las Vegas, and marvelled at the whizz-bang technology and artificial grass of the Houston Astrodome (cleaned with beer and kept together with a zipper, imagine!). After that I settled down to a career in journalism and then a gentle retirement tending my garden.

The notion that I should celebrate my golden jubilee year by doing it again came into my head as I was sitting in my dental hygienist’s chair—and it refused to budge.

Cautiously, I made some plans. I decided to travel for 60 days, divided into two stages. The first stage would take me from New York to Florida and Texas, and after a short break, I would go from Los Angeles to Boston and back down to New York. Unlike last time, when I slept on the buses to save money, I would spend each night in a bed. Definitely.

On a Greyhound Bus Trip: Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, second-time around

I splashed out on electronic gadgets that I couldn’t yet use, and hired a personal trainer to repurpose my body for sitting on buses. My British contemporaries, many of whom had also ridden Greyhound buses in their youth, were impressed; my American wife’s family feared for my life.

But I survived. Some of the bus stations felt a little edgy but aboard the buses, I felt safe enough, thanks to the skills and tact of the drivers. The buses were surprisingly comfortable, and the worst incident came when we made an unscheduled stop to transfer into an ambulance a young man with dyed hair and a trilby hat who had been groaning in the aisle.

I struggled with electronic ticketing. In 1969, I bought a single pass for the whole three months; this time, I was forced to log on to a complicated website to research and book each trip one by one. The site crashed regularly, presented me with problems (such as showing me a bus route into a town but not one out), and occasionally ‘lost’ the tickets I had just painstakingly bought. Sensibly I took paper copies, which I often brandished.

What I missed this time round was the vibrant on-board social life. In 1969, my diary records conversations with farmers, architects, students from all over the world, veterans going to and from the Vietnam war, and more. Now each passenger is locked in their own cell phone bubble.

Luckily, the world outside still provides a mass of compensations. I admired the lively street scene at St Petersburg (described cruelly by my younger self as where Americans go to die) and the restoration of the Queen Mary at Long Beach (previously seen as a de-funnelled rusting hulk).

More seriously, I sat at a reconstructed Woolworths counter to learn about the civil rights movement, cowered amid the storm at the Hurricane Katrina exhibit in New Orleans, and stood in respect at the 9/11 and Vietnam War memorials.

Visiting the Queen Mary

Revisiting The Queen Mary docked in Long Beach, California

One morning in Orlando, seeking a shop that would sell me sandwiches for my journey, I came across two ladies. ‘Can you tell me where to get food?’ I asked. They immediately dipped into their handbags to offer me money. I declined, of course, but it brought home to me something that had impressed me in 1969 – the generosity of individual Americans.

My two standout memories were also at both ends of the day: steaming in a long straight line through the Mojave desert as the sun set in all its glory; and winding through narrow roads in the Catskills as a rising sun poked through the early Autumn mist to shine on the early autumn foliage. 

I am pleased I conquered my doubts and went. I’m not sure I would have the energy to do it all again, but there are plenty of places I would like to return to in shorter bursts. I’d happily board a Greyhound bus again – as long as I could figure out the timetables well enough to avoid the 12-hour journeys.


Tim's Albert's new book

 


Interested in meeting Tim (virtually)?

Contact Tim to find out about attending the July 1 Zoom launch of his book, Two Summers: Nixon and Trump by Greyhound Bus.

Tim in the 1980s, when he was editing the British Medical Association’s membership magazine

  • Reply
    noel
    June 22, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    Wow, what a brave soul and such an amazing experience, our bus systems here are so antiquated, it really is sad but fortunately still in need.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 25, 2020 at 9:45 am

      Perhaps, they’re be a resurgence with all the cancelled flights!

  • Reply
    Jeff & Crystal Bryant
    June 22, 2020 at 2:31 pm

    Wow! Your article brought back memories of Greyhound trips from my youth. There is something captivating about watching the miles roll by as you stare into the abyss of roadside America.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 25, 2020 at 9:44 am

      Guess somewhere in between, most of us boomers moved from buses to cars!

  • Reply
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    June 22, 2020 at 10:11 pm

    This boomer’s Greyhound trip tickles my fancy, but not to the extent that I would want to board a Greyhound bus again myself! It did bring to mind some fond memories of my own bus trips in the past, most especially one I took with my Mom one summer when I was about five from San Diego, California, to Portland, Oregon, to visit my Grandpa on his strawberry farm. My favorite memory of that trip was being presented with a new box of crayons and a coloring book, and of roaming around the bus visiting the other passengers who all seems to like me.

  • Reply
    Donna Janke @ Destinations Detours and Dreams
    June 24, 2020 at 9:40 am

    What an interesting story and what an adventurous man. When we were teenagers my sister and I made a several day bus trip from Winnipeg to Ottawa where we were going to help my aunt out for a while after some surgery she’d had. Bus travel in Canada was more common then. I couldn’t imagine sending my own daughter on a similar trip when she’d been that age. Now it not only doesn’t feel very safe, it isn’t possible in many places. Greyhound stopped operating in the western provinces at the end of 2018.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 25, 2020 at 9:43 am

      Tim says that the bus stations are more worrisome than the buses themselves!

  • Reply
    Debbra Dunning Brouillette
    June 24, 2020 at 8:51 pm

    I am so glad you accepted Tim’s guest post! It was a delightful read! I am interested in reading his book, too. Our Greyhound bus station here in Evansville, IN, was converted several years ago to a restaurant, so no bus stops here! The only time I remember riding the bus was once, as a teen, taking it to visit a friend in Birmingham, Alabama. I’m surprised now that my parents let me go!

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 25, 2020 at 9:42 am

      I think buses were different when we were teens or, perhaps, we were more willing to take risks. I wonder what buses are like now during the pandemic:-(

  • Reply
    Cathy Sweeney
    June 26, 2020 at 1:06 pm

    Where there’s a will, there’s a way — as they say. I’m glad that you responded to that note from Tim. This is a great story. Touching and interesting. I’ve never traveled by Greyhound bus. Perhaps I’ve been missing out on some special experiences.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 27, 2020 at 2:00 pm

      It was nice when people loved traveling in the USA!

  • Reply
    alison abbott
    June 29, 2020 at 8:37 am

    I’m glad your gut reaction put Tim on your site. His story is a wonderful read filled with nostalgia and moments that made me smile. I also love the smart and practical ways he prepared for the trip. Especially training for the bus-something I could have used for quarantine-but who knew!

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 29, 2020 at 11:19 am

      I am reading his book and love his writing style, too!

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