I got on the express bus to Madison. Spent time online replying to e-mails and catching up with my friend Michael who lives in New York now. It’s striking to me how utterly unreasonable it is to travel by Greyhound. From a customer service perspective this is probably the worst trip I have ever been on, and yet if all the busses were like this one, and they arrived on time, and actually let you onto the busses you bought tickets for, it could easily compete with air travel. This ride is actually quite nice, and I don’t mind the extra time it takes.
But as nice a thought as it is, it’s not reality. My foray into comfortable convenient travel was short lived and ended abruptly when the bus got off the interstate near Madison and promptly turned in the wrong direction.
Before long we were stopped at a truck stop in the middle of flipping nowhere Wisconsin about 15-20 miles out of downtown Madison where my bus stop was supposed to be.
“I need to get to the capitol, where’s the Madison Express Bus stop?”
“It’s about 20 miles that way” said the bus driver, pointing at the horizon
“That’s my stop”
“Well you got on the wrong bus, only express buses go there”
“I got on the bus they told me to get on!”
…he didn’t respond, he just looked at me without a single care to give…
“This bus isn’t going to get any closer to downtown Madison is it?”
He shook his head “Next stop, Minneapolis”
“Thanks a million”
I hung my rucksack on my back and wore my laptop bag on my shoulder, I hadn’t showered in a couple of days and I’d been sleeping in my clothes. I had 15 to 20 miles to walk along a Wisconsin state highway. So I decided to stick my thumb out and see what might happen
To my complete and total surprise I found a ride in about 10 minutes. I was picked up by an ex hippie. He said he had over 700 miles of hitching on his record, but not lately. He’s a professor now at UW Madison.
We talked for a while. He was a Catholic, and agreed with me that JP2 was way cooler that Benny16. He drove me straight up the door to my hotel and then gave me his card so I can send him an e-mail and keep him updated on the ministry I’m doing.
What an amazing cherry to top off my travel odyssey! I got to the hotel and found that rooms were not available yet, so I switched into my bathing suit and went for a swim (wouldn’t want to be the smelly guy at the nice hotel) then I changed into a fresh white shirt and headed to the thrift store. Mission accomplished… At least until the trip back!
PS: Although I was not positive at the time, I have since checked it out and Hitchhiking is legal is Wisconsin, so long as you do not stand in traffic lanes or cross any signs prohibiting pedestrians.