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Summer Travels: Navigating the Chinese Bus

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Posted June 26, 2011 by tyeshamoore in Lifestyle

You may be familiar with the expression about when you make plans, God is known to laugh. Laughter must have been echoing from Most High during my last excursion. Last week, I went to New York for a street co-naming ceremony and a family visit. Once I reached the city, things were fine, but the real story of interest is the trip itself.

Being a former New Yorker, I am in no way opposed to saving a buck. While I would not consider myself to be a daring traveler, I am willing to be unconventional. On this trip, I was using a familiar method of travel, though terribly unknown to those outside the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic: The Chinese Bus. Before I am assailed by those of you who would target me for being politically incorrect in dubbing it as such, go check it out online—it is not just my name for it. To further explain, it is a charter bus system based out of Chinatown in New York City. You can take the Chinese Bus to a variety of locations: Philadelphia, D.C., and Virginia are just a few of the stops. There are countless different company names but all to the same effect—really affordable travel if you do not mind sacrificing a bit of comfort.

While I am usually a champion of this mode of travel, I must admit this trip was at the bottom of the scale. It began with the bus being late…nearly two hours late. I sat in a parking lot in a half-sleep state hoping one loud New Yorker who wanted everyone to hear his conversation would finally draw a breath and be quiet. (No such luck.) Once on the bus, I realized I had a seat near the back but since no one was honoring seat numbers, I sat in an open seat near the middle. Will (name changed to protect his dignity) was seated by the window and later said he was pleased I was not “big” or else it would have been a more miserable ride. We made small talk and he told me he was from Brooklyn. To his credit, he did have a New York accent, but when he could not tell me where he was from in the borough, he wisely changed the subject. Despite this shortcoming, he was a rather charming fellow, as seatmates come, so I was comfortable with the knowledge I had not sat by a loon.

The ride itself felt longer than usual. The driver made one fueling stop (completely normal) but I realized it was still quite early in the voyage. Soon the air was blowing at maximum iciness and I retreated under a wrap I had wisely brought with me. During the middle of the trip, I awoke to discover we were not yet on the turnpike. I bartered with my bladder, reminding it of the understanding that we avoid public restrooms and a porta-potty on wheels was definitely a “no go.” When we reached exit 10, Edison, I woke up for the last time. The air conditioner was now off and a stifling smell of stale bodies and food filled the air. The sheer joy of seeing the 14s (a series of exits near Manhattan) approaching cannot be totally explained. Finally, we reached the Holland Tunnel and I rejoiced in that part of my trip coming to a close.

Of course, once in Chinatown I was disoriented. Normally, I take a bus that puts me near the F or the J train. I looked about and realized I was not the only person in that condition. In such circumstances, I followed the only logical course of action and walked the half block to Canal Street to gain my bearings. Fortunately, I knew I was near the F train. In the company of several other passengers, I made my way to the station. Once in the familiar comfort of the subway, I whipped out my book and headed home.

I am sure you are wondering if I will ever take the bus again. You know I will. You cannot bet the price. My entire trip cost less than the cost of the tolls to reach New York. Had I driven, I would have had to pay for tolls and gas (nearly $4.00 a gallon at the time of my stay). For those of you who would brave city parking, it would have been a beast in expenses. This is not to say, I do not love to fly. A flight would have saved me a lot of time and much of the hassle. However, if you are mostly motivated by savings, are not daunted by possible encounters of the odd sort, and can endure an accelerated version of a Greyhound trip, then by all means take the Chinese Bus.


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tyeshamoore


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