Following on from Washington DC and Nashville, the third and final stop of my mini US tour (Apr 2017) was Dallas. If you’ve been with me on this journey from the beginning you’ll possibly remember that my motivation for this entire trip was to visit some friends,
With a friendship dating back well over 10 years, my first trip to Texas had been long overdue. I’d hoped to visit sooner but sometimes things don’t quite go to plan. Nevertheless it was finally happening and I was so excited! All I had to do was get there from Nashville.. I decided I’d take an overnight bus!
This was my first time traveling on a Greyhound bus and this story probably begs the question why it wasn’t my last. I thought an overnight bus journey was a fantastic idea. It was going to be a long journey (14-15 ish hours) whatever time I traveled so why not travel in “dead time” as I like to think of it. Why waste daytime hours traveling when you can do it in hours you’ll be sleeping, right?
A fool-proof plan so I thought – I was wrong! My bus left Nashville late on Tuesday evening and at around 2-3am I was being woken up and thrown off a bus in Memphis. “We need to clean the bus!”
Now? You couldn’t have done this in Nashville at a somewhat more reasonable time? Can’t you just clean around me? I want to sleep!
I remember little of Nashville’s bus station, and you can read why here, but Memphis’ I remember as clear as day. For one it was pretty small so a lap of the station didn’t take very long. Secondly, given I was a little drunk and sleepy I didn’t dare make use of the available seating in the station. I knew if I sat down I’d be waking up hours later stranded in Memphis – I had to ensure I stayed awake!
Following a 30-45 minute break we were finally allowed back on the bus and I fell asleep pretty instantly. My next memory was waking up in Little Rock to the most beautiful sunset! It felt like it anyway, the reality is it probably wasn’t but when you spend 13-14 hours on a bus you probably tend to exaggerate the highlights a little.
I admired it beautifully and swooned over Little Rock. Wait.. Little Rock? We’re in Arkansas! We’re no longer in Tennessee and we’re in a new state, that little bit closer to Texas! Feeling excited I made sure to stay awake from that point on and admired the sun rising up over the US.
Soon enough we’d arrived at our first stop in Texas, a scheduled 15 minute stop to allow us enough time to use the facilities and stock up on snacks. However before the first person could even get as far as stepping off the bus they were turned around and returned to their seats by two officers who climbed on board.
“Welcome to Texas! Time for a gun and drug search!”
Perhaps it’s something about the Southern states in the US but the whole “welcome to the USA” could do with a little work, some of you long-time readers will recall I had a similarly “warm welcome” on my trip to Atlanta. If you missed that you can read it here!
Anyway, back to Texas. I can’t recall what they actually said, I’ve probably put it friendlier than it actually was but nevertheless I was still more relaxed than most. As you’ve probably established by now I’m pretty laid back but additionally I knew I had nothing to worry about. Just co-operate and you’ll be gone!
One by one the officers rummaged through each passengers belongings before dismissing them from the bus. By the time my turn came I was fully prepared for them to look through what they needed to but what I perceived to be helpfulness went unnoticed. It didn’t stop a patronising bunch of questions anyway.
I don’t know if it’s just because we were inching that bit closer to Mexico but having seemingly answered all their questions correctly and having found nothing in my possession I was disposed of like vermin. I’m not sure there was a proper signal that suggested I could go, just a grunt and a look of bemusement at what I was still doing here.
“Oh, I’m free to go? Your communication skills are excellent by the way!”
I gathered my things together and picked up everything I didn’t want to leave behind on the bus and then committed the crime of the century. I thought I’d check my pockets to ensure I had everything I needed and then got smacked with the full force of this officer’s shitty attitude.
“WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING!!?”
“Don’t put your hands in your pockets!”
“What? Why don’t you get stuffed!”
Alright, so maybe I skipped saying that last part but it certainly crossed my mind, worded a little stronger than that too. Why give me such shitty attitude over something so trivial and literally just after searching my body and my possessions? What exactly do you think are in my pockets that you don’t know about?
Despite having a million thoughts running through my head, I wasn’t sure any of them would actually be appreciated so I settled for smugly keeping them to myself (“Ha, I told him.. in my head at least..”) and getting off of the bus.
One by one passengers followed but a couple of guys were escorted off. I don’t know whether they’d actually found something in their possession or whether they just couldn’t bite their tongue if faced with the same “friendly” attitude.
Unfortunately the delays added a good hour on to our journey, all I wanted to do was get to Dallas. Eventually one of the guys came back, some young black guy who proudly proclaimed “Daddy’s back!” as he stepped on to the bus.
It was a well-received return on board including by myself, I loved the cockiness of it having been in no doubt he was probably panicking only a few minutes earlier. I guess if he had anything he was let off with a slap on the wrist.
I don’t know what happened with the other guy, perhaps he slipped back on and I didn’t notice but there was little concern from anyone else about his whereabouts and we were off! It’s surprising what a gun and drug search can do for the mood of the place.
Everyone had perked up a bit and the previously-quiet bus was now full of chatter, including my neighbour who’d brightened up a bit. Everyone was pleased to be on the way again and I suppose it provided a good story to tell at a later date. A warm welcome to Texas and further example of the famous Southern Hospitality. They don’t warn you about the interrogations and searches!
Fortunately it was an otherwise uneventful journey from there. My only other gripe with the journey was that the power outlets didn’t seem to work on board. I’d done nothing to preserve my battery life on my phone in Nashville on the presumption I could charge it overnight but none of the outlets seemed to be working so all of the passengers found themselves in the same predicament of not being able to charge our electronics.
Now ordinarily it wouldn’t be a problem but my own cockiness / confidence has risen quite significantly. I went to Sydney as a newbie traveller a few years earlier and didn’t have a clue what I was doing so I was ridiculously prepared. I knew journeys, locations, street names, adjacent street names and on and on and on. I knew Sydney better than the locals having not even been there! Alright, I’m exaggerating but you get the point. I was prepared for every eventuality and had an endless supply of paperwork (and copies) should anything go wrong.
Four years later why would you bother with any of that? I’ve travelled plenty and you don’t need to go to all of that effort. Contacts are on my phone, maps on my phone, accommodation details on my phone and consequently I arrived in to Dallas with a dead phone.
I’d made it to Dallas but now where do I go? I don’t know where I am, I don’t know how to get to my hotel, I don’t even know what hotel I’m staying at – what was the name of it again?
I figured I’d just wing it. Dallas is tiny right? I was obviously going to just stumble upon where I wanted to be. Let me add I’d remembered one small detail, I was staying on Commerce Street, I had no idea which hotel but I figured if all else failed I’d get a taxi to Commerce Street and charge my phone at an establishment somewhere to save me.
However I wasn’t in any rush so plan A was just to see where I ended up – perhaps I’d even find somewhere for lunch that I could also charge my phone at.
So I stepped out of the bus station and had a decision to make – left or right? I opted to go right but I only got as far as the street corner and something changed my mind. Travelers instincts or intuition maybe but right just didn’t feel right to me so I turned around. Left it is!
I walked in the opposite direction to the next street corner. Where am I anyway? I looked up and would you believe it, there was a sign reading ‘COMMERCE STREET’. Unbelievable! The one street in the entire city I had to find and it was there in front of me!
Now I know what you’re possibly thinking, it wasn’t coincidental. For instance Dallas’ bus station is downtown and I’d chosen to stay downtown, perhaps I’d picked this particular hotel as it was this close to the bus station. It certainly sounds like something I would do so I couldn’t rule it out but I don’t remember doing this and certainly at the time it wasn’t something I’d expected. It may have been pre-meditated but it was forgotten about by the time I’d reached Dallas.
Even with that stroke of luck in mind, I could easily have gone right instead of left! It might have been justice too and a lesson learned. I should have had to face the embarrassment of walking miles, getting ridiculously lost and then having some taxi driver mock me as we drove past the bus station on route back to my hotel.
However the reality was all I’d achieved was boosting my ego further! I’m a genius! I don’t need tonnes of paperwork, instead of biting me in the ass I’d ended up exactly where I wanted to be anyway.
Admittedly I still didn’t know what the name of the hotel was, nor which way up or down Commerce Street my hotel was. From memory I was stood at 1100 Commerce Street and I knew I was staying at 1900. I turned right and the next sign I came to was 1200 which was again a stroke of luck and before I knew it I’d arrived at my hotel problem-free.
I was met with a friendly receptionist, checked in and then collapsed in my room. I was finally in Dallas! Stay tuned for the rest of my first day next time on the blog!