Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Fiascos

Instead of my usual Friday roundup post, today I have an even better treat for you: the tale of a series of comically bad travel experiences that happened to me this week.

Last weekend, I went on pre-summer getaway that was supposed to have involved taking the train to Boston on Saturday, meeting up with a friend and heading out to Cape Cod for a few days, and then returning home by train on Tuesday. Around 10pm last Friday night, I heard the news that two commuter trains had collided and derailed in Connecticut, indefinitely suspending Amtrak service between New York and Boston. After some stressful scrambling on my part, I managed to cancel my train reservations and book bus tickets instead.

I was a bit apprehensive about the bus ride because, well, it's a bus ride, but about three hours into the trip, I was thinking that it wasn't so bad. There was no traffic, we seemed to be making good time, and the trip was passing by quickly. Just at that moment, a jarring, grinding sensation had everyone grabbing for their seatbelts. The bus had blown a tire! The drive safely pulled the bus over to the shoulder where we all got out.

We stood on the side of the Connecticut interstate waiting....

...and waiting...

...and about an hour later a repair truck arrived. We watched as they removed the damaged tire, which was completely shredded.

Then they put the spare tire on and got us back on the road.

I arrived in Boston a little bit late, but with a good story, and continued on with the fun part of the weekend. On Tuesday, I got on the bus to come home. I was much less apprehensive this time around. After the events of the trip on Saturday, what more could go wrong, right?

About twenty minutes into that trip, I sensed a commotion starting on the bus. A few people from the rear of the bus were walking up to the front and standing in the aisles. There was a slight smell of gas fumes on the bus and apparently,it was much worse in the rear, where the air conditioning was weaker. Some of the passengers sitting back there felt sick and started to call and email the bus company to lodge complaints. This led to the drive pulling over on the side of the road to announce that, since the situation had the potential to become a safety hazard, the bus company was making him turn around and bring the bus back to Boston. This caused an outcry from a second group of passengers who were insisting that the bus must go on to New York. The driver, still on the phone with his boss, said that he had his orders and his hands were tied. The irate passengers starting passing around his phone, pleading with the bus company to let the trip continue. After about thirty minutes, with passengers still complaining, the driver got back on the road and drove slowly on. Our fate was uncertain for a few minutes. Were we indeed going on to New York? No. At the next junction, he took an exit ramp and turned the bus around, putting us back on the road to Boston. At this point, a couple of passengers from the back of the bus who had lodged the original complaints started to argue that since the bus was too unsafe to continue to New York, it also must be too unsafe to drive back to Boston. They wanted to get off the bus immediately and so they dialed 911 from their phones. A minute later, two police cars with lights flashing surrounded the bus and pulled it over!
By this point, I was in a state of amused disbelief. Not particularly stressed out, just watching the entire situation unfold while I snacked on some taffy I had gotten on Cape Cod. It took another half hour for the state troopers to talk with the driver and the passengers who called them, but we finally got back underway to Boston, where I spent an extra night staying with my friend before taking a train home on Wednesday, shortly after Amtrak service had resumed.

It was a memorable trip, to say the least. I'll share some pictures of its more pleasant parts next week. In the meantime, do you have any travel horror stories to share?


  1. OMG! I think I would have been so irritated by the squabbles on the bus ride home. Although it does sound very entertaining!
    The only thing I've had come close is the time I drove to Mexico with some friends and we got stopped at gunpoint in Nuevo Laredo. They wouldn't let us drive into the interior without having proof of ownership for the vehicle. So, we ended up taking a bus at midnight to Monterrey. It was a bit stressful, but a grand adventure.

    1. You poor thing. That sounds horrible, but I'm glad you thought of it as an adventure. I would have started crying.

    2. That sounds like a stressful trip! At least you got a good story out of it.

  2. Wow. I hear stories like that all the time about the DC-NYC bus. We decided to book a cheap Jet Blue flight to NYC for our upcoming trip. I didn't want to chance anything. Of course, flights are no guarantees these days. A few years ago when I was in this small town in Morocco, I was catching a flight back to Casablanca. I was the only passenger and they cancelled the flight on me without notice. The airline decided to drive me to the next airport in a taxi, which was three hours away. From there I caught the flight to Casablanca where I stayed for a night before returning to France. Ok, my point is that when I took a taxi to the airport in Casa the taxi broke down. Like as in, the car died for good. The driver of the taxi got out on the highway and started waving down other taxis. Another taxi finally stopped and took me to the airport where he proceeded to rip me off all my money insisting that he charges more. Oh, what fond memories I have of Morocco.

    1. What a saga! My bus trip was relaxed and easy compared to that!

  3. oh my goodness!! that WAS an adventure. however - i'm glad the first driver was able to drive safely to the side with a shredded tire. the second adventure? ugh. glad the trains started the next day. glad you had fun in between. happy friday, n

    1. Would you believe that it was the same bus driver on both trips? I actually felt sorry for him and the tough work week he was having!



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