I traveled 74 hours from Miami, Florida, to Seattle, Washington, on Greyhound buses.
I found the sights lackluster and barely slept, but it was an affordable, rewarding way to travel.
I would take another Greyhound bus in the future but don't plan on repeating the cross-country trip.
I spent three full days traveling from Miami to Seattle on one of the longest Greyhound routes in the US.
I made it 15 minutes into my 74-hour Greyhound bus ride before someone called me crazy.
The bus had just turned onto the highway and left the Miami skyline behind when my seatmate started coursing through customary greetings. When I told him I was headed all the way to Seattle, he was bewildered. "You're crazy," he said.
Everyone in my life agreed. Riding one of the longest Greyhound routes in the US during my college spring break was a wild idea.
But I had two main reasons to take the trip: to see the American countryside through a new lens, which turned out to be smudged bus windows, and to meet people I probably wouldn't interact with otherwise.
Plus, the ticket was relatively cheap, costing me a total of $250, and I had nowhere better to be during the first week of January. Here's what the cross-country ride was like.
I took six different buses to reach my final destination.
Greyhound doesn't offer a nonstop route from Miami to Seattle. Instead, my trip was broken into six segments.
I changed buses in Orlando, Atlanta, Nashville, Chicago, Minneapolis, Billings, and Spokane. Jefferson Lines, a Greyhound partner company, operated the route from Minneapolis to Billings. This leg was included in my ticket and luckily wasn't a hassle.
Between tight layovers and frequent delays, I had to move quickly to make each leg of my trip.
Most of my layovers between connecting buses were less than an hour, which terrified me. If I lost time at the beginning of the route, it could doom my whole trip's timeline.
The bus to Orlando left Miami late, cutting my layover window for my next leg down from an hour to two minutes. An agent stepped on board and told us we wouldn't even have time to go into the station. Instead, we had to get our bags from the bus, walk to the loading bay, and get right on the next Greyhound.
As the trip continued, delays became a regular occurrence. The bus from Spokane to Seattle was the only one that left and arrived on time. I got to Nashville a full hour after my connecting bus was scheduled to leave.
When we parked at the station, an agent came on the bus and told us he'd held all of our connecting buses. If the bus to Chicago left without us, there wouldn't be another with open seats for two days. The same thing happened in Minneapolis.
Greyhound delays are so common that they seemed to be built into the system, meaning I didn't get too stressed when my buses ran behind schedule.
I expected to pass by scenic landscapes and admire beautiful views, but we stayed on highways for pretty much the entire trip.
Although the route passed through many climates and terrains, I found the sights lackluster, as the buses mostly stayed on major interstates.
Aside from the snowy mountains in Montana and the frozen fog in Wyoming, everything cool seemed to be an exit sign away.
The buses stopped very frequently, which added to my overall travel time.
Apart from those seven main stops, the buses made short stops roughly every two hours to pick up and drop off passengers along the route.
In total, the buses I took made 47 stops in three days.
Seats were first come, first served on all of the buses.
It was wise to get in the boarding line as early as possible. People who boarded the buses in their origin cities usually got the best spots, which, in my opinion, are window seats or ones toward the front.
Very few bus stops had vending machines or restaurants, so my food options were extremely limited.
It was tricky to make a reliable food plan since most of the layovers were short or even nonexistent. There were no restaurants at the bus stations, except for a sandwich store in the Indianapolis station.
Every bus station had vending machines, and most took credit cards. The vending machines in the Miami station sold sandwiches, but the majority of the machines only sold snacks like chips or cookies.
I did my best to avoid bringing smelly foods on the bus. I felt terrible eating the McDonald's that a friend gave me in Orlando, as it made my section of the bus smell until I discarded the bag at the next stop.
It was a good thing I brought my own snacks because I ended up relying on them.
Before the trip, I packed peanut-butter crackers and granola bars into a gallon-sized plastic bag, which proved to be a lifesaver.
By the end of the three days, I had eaten over 15 packs of peanut-butter crackers, 10 granola bars, three Clif bars, a bag of chips, a bag of Cheez-Its, six Reese's peanut-butter cups, a McDonald's Quarter Pounder, three chicken tenders, a turkey-and-cheese sandwich, and a bag of Dot's cinnamon-sugar pretzels.
Each bus had a bathroom, but lavatory smells carried through the entire vehicle.
You can use the bathroom on board for solid and liquid purposes, but the smell did linger in the back of the bus. I was too shy to ever try it. Other passengers weren't.
Each bus had a bathroom with a small toilet, but the whole experience inside felt unstable due to the constant movement.
Every station I visited had a bathroom, but many of the stalls were out of toilet paper. If the onboard bathroom isn't an option and the station bathroom doesn't work out, you can relieve yourself during the occasional 15-minute stops at gas stations.
Almost all of the buses were full, and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people.
Every single bus, except the one from Spokane to Seattle, was nearly full. I had a seatmate for the entire trip until that final leg, and even if I didn't have someone directly beside me, surrounding conversations often spilled around me.
From Miami to Orlando, I sat with a New Yorker headed to Universal Studios. The man behind us said he'd just been released from prison so we spent most of our trip helping him to line up transportation in Orlando and communicate with family members.
In Washington, I shared a pack of Skittles with two kids and taught them how to use a camera.
I felt safe in the stations and on the buses, and the drivers did a wonderful job handling passenger misbehavior.
One of my family and friends' major concerns about my trip was my safety, but I didn't feel worried on the buses or at the stations. I saw policemen present at every station in large cities, and the bus drivers seemed very strict with onboard misbehavior.
In South Dakota, a man started screaming at the bus driver after they wouldn't stop for a smoke break, but other passengers quickly defended the driver and defused the situation.
And on the bus to Minneapolis, the driver removed a passenger from the vehicle after he threatened another passenger.
I barely slept and was a grumpy mess for a large portion of the journey.
I made the trip in one shot, never stopping at hotels or getting off the bus at night. The bus seats reclined, but leaning back felt like a social taboo similar to reclining too far on airplanes.
I didn't bring a pillow or blanket, but I wish I had. The buses got cold at night, and my head had no natural resting point on the chair. I balled up an extra jacket and leaned against the window.
Even when the rhythm of the bus lulled me into momentary sleep, I would wake up often. Every time the bus made a stop, the driver would turn on the lights and announce the town's name - even in the middle of the night.
I spent the overnight bus ride from Chicago to Minneapolis in a daze, waking up every hour, at every single stop.
I would take another Greyhound in the future but would probably avoid going cross-country again.
I made it to Seattle in about three days and paid less than what most plane tickets cost for an experience I'll never forget. To steal a cliché: It's the journey that counts, not the destination.
I had incredible conversations with my fellow passengers and met people I probably would've otherwise never had the opportunity to converse with on a plane, train, or road trip.
Greyhound buses are by no means luxurious, but they made me slow down and recognize the world and landscapes around me.
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