Monthly Archive: October 2013

A Fairly Thorough Evaluation of the Wisconsin Greyhound Bus Experience: Our Greyhound Adventure Pt. 2

Greyhound Bus with Kids

Here are a few things that I DON’T like:

  1. Greyhound costs significantly more than the local operators- I paid $50 for us (me 20, 15 each kid) to get from Green Bay to Milwaukee, and the others were under $20 for all of us.
  2. Greyhound charges more for a “refundable” ticket.  I read a few horror stories about buses breaking down and people not getting any ride at all, then being told their tickets weren’t refundable.  I do understand the concept of some sort of travel insurance for missed connections or cancellations, but this seemed shady.
  3. The station in Green Bay inside is dark, and though I’m sure smoking is no longer allowed inside, it had a look like it was rinsed in ashtray water.  I’m sticking with that description.  I went in while my parents had my kids in the car just to ask if my stroller needed to be checked, and where the bus would pull up- the agent who roused himself from some hiding spot just out of view said “either in the front or the back” and looked at me like I was stupid.
  4. There is a grill by the front doors.  I tried to take a picture of this- wondering why there’d be a propane grill facing the parking lot.  Amusing, but weird.  Really weird.
  5. Smoke and other smells on other passengers.  Definitely comes with the bus crowd.  Why so much smoking, people?

Image

 

Now a few things I DO:

  1. Outlets.  YES!  Because if you’re going to be stuck on a bus for 3 hours with kids, you need power.  Power!!!  (evil cackle)  Without power, no iPads.  No checking email.  No escape.  Let’s face it- if there was ever a time to get sucked into the world of technology, it’s while riding a bus with two kids.  (Stops to plug in the boy’s iPad again…)
  2. WiFi.  So I heard.  I’m not using it, but the driver said “this bus should have WiFi.”  I can always tether my phone, especially if I have an outlet, but it’s a good concept.  If not reality.
  3. BIG windows, leather seats.  Lots of legroom. Clean. So far, no bathroom smell.  Kids are sitting together, reclined, and have no complaints.  They point to cows now and then.
  4. Still not very expensive.  Doable.  And probably a whole lot cheaper if you book in advance.
  5. Website- pretty decent.  I had to ask which station the bus dropped off at, and the customer service was pretty good as well.
  6. Driving- good.  About as good as you’d expect.  We’re on schedule, and I don’t feel jarred at stops.
  7. No smoke breaks.  No getting off and getting back on- just a few people getting on, and then we’re on our way.  We made stops in Appleton, Osh Kosh, and Fond Du Lac, with just a few transfers at each point.  We started with 5 other passengers, and at most, the bus was half full.

Half full = more kid friendly. We could have taken the bus all the way into Chicago- but for the same cost, we can switch to the train for what’s likely to be the most crowded part of the trip.   We’re starting to whine now.  Fighting over one iPad, because we’re spoiled.  I like the design of the cup holder- but my water bottle doesn’t fit well.  It holds it so the top brushes the upholstery.

Keep in mind- at this point in our drive- about 4.5 hours in- we’d likely be in the same boat.  Crabby, getting bored, and over the whole trip.

I’m daring at this point to say that the bus is still preferable over driving with both kids in the backseat and no adult companion.  One more reflective post to come.

Riding the Dog (Our Greyhound Adventure) Pt. 1

Greyhound Bus with Kids

This is the bus, the view, the kids- riding a Greyhound through Wisconsin.

I see an outlet… I plug in my laptop.  The bus engine sputters to a stop.  In the words of Steve Urkel; “Did I do that?”

No matter.  The motor’s on, the bus has rolled out of the station, my kids are happily playing on their four-year old iPads (please hold a charge?  please?) and we’re quite comfortable.  I’ve printed our Amtrak boarding pass and we’re finally on our way home.

We regularly pass the Greyhound station on Harrison St. in Chicago, and it frankly scares the crap out of me.  I’ve never been inside. Probably alone- I see people smoking, swearing, and looking angry outside, that’s all I’ve got to go on.  I guess I’m going to have to check it out at some point, because when you don’t own a car and don’t rent one, your options for Northern Wisconsin and Upper Peninsula travel are limited.

I was hoping to come across some positive reviews…  I googled “greyhound good experience” and got about a million hits for negative reviews.  Blog entries weren’t encouraging, either.  But the Amtrak website threw me for a loop, so it wound up being our best option for this trip.

I love Amtrak.  Unfortunately, Milwaukee is the end of the line for our trips up North, so you need to connect to a bus to get further. It usually isn’t too difficult to get someone to drive to Green Bay or Appleton, since people from Dickinson County regularly make trips there for shopping or a taste of “city life” 😉  Buses do run up into the U.P., but they arrive at insane hours- 3:30AM, 1:25 AM, and none near my parents.  I’d checked the schedule before we came up and saw two options for our return trip- Appleton bus at 10:20 to Milwaukee with a 3 hour layover, Green Bay at 6:10AM to Milwaukee with a two hour layover, or Green Bay at 5:00 in the afternoon with a 15 minute difference between arrival and the train departure.  The last train leaves Milwaukee at 7:35 every night, and brings us right to Union Station in about an hour and a half.

So I tried to book the Appleton trip, and I kept getting an error.  I tried the 5:00 GB route, same thing.  I called Amtrak.  Basically, the ticket agents told me I couldn’t get a ticket for the bus because it had to be mailed, and there wasn’t enough time.  Or I could pick it up in Milwaukee- the nearest station- which is where I was trying to go.  They could reserve seats on the train for me for the Milwaukee to Chicago portion, but they couldn’t accept payment over the phone or guarantee anything.  I asked it the train regularly took passengers from that connecting bus, but they had no idea.

I figured I’d try the bus websites, and here’s where things got really complicated.  I’ve taken Indian Trails buses and it was a decent experience when you but all their buses leave early.  The 5:00 bus was run by a company called Jefferson Lines.  When I went to their website, they listed all the times for Greyhound as well as their own.  I found out about the other bus company, Lamers- and will be checking into their Friday and Sunday service to Milwaukee for a future trip.  But for today- it looked like Greyhound was the only sure thing.

Starting a mental pro and con list I’ll be sharing next…

Lets Talk About Snacks, Baby

I have good kids- really, I do.  My five year old is willful, and my three year old energetic, but they’re also cute, curious, and endlessly entertaining.  I have one trick that has saved the day countless times, and though it seems like a no-brainer, it deserves its own post: let’s talk about snacks.

We learned this year while doing our longer rides that the kids get whiny and weary without a constant supply of food on the road.  Here’s a list of my favorite things to carry in our reliable (and awesomely oversized) Go-Getter bag.

Dye has been a problem for us- we noticed our princess got super worked-up after eating fruit snacks years ago.  I’ve read a lot about how it can affect kids with ADHD and Autism, and our girl is on the spectrum.  The severity and frequency of tantrums is noticeably different since we cut dye out of her diet.  I’ve gotten a little more lax about this, but recently let her go a little crazy at a friend’s birthday and paid for it for about three solid days afterward.    I’ve noticed Red 40 and Yellow 5 giving her the most trouble, though we try to avoid any artificial dyes because they’re unnecessary.  It’s meant changing a lot of what we eat, and really, it’s for the better.

1)  Capri Sun Roaring Waters.  Clear.  Not sticky.  No artificial color.  In those squeezable pouches my kids go crazy for.  It does contain Splenda, (click here for articles for and against) but I go to these because they have a good shelf life and my kids think they’re getting a treat, and it keeps the peace while keeping them hydrated.

2)  Apples.  And an apple slicer.  I also keep some of the small “Jiff To Go” tubs at times- it’s a great, filling snack.

3)  Seaweed Snacks (usually from Trader Joes.)  My kids are crazy about eating these “papers” and devour a package quickly.  I myself can’t stand the taste, but they’re a staple at our house.

4) Carrot sticks.  Of course.

5)  Mozerella String Cheese sticks.

6) Go-Go Squeeze Applesauce packets.  Messy, but my big boy loves ’em.

7)  Simply Go-Gurt yogurt tubes, frozen.  The other kinds have tons of dye in them.

8)  Bananas, grapes or berries, depending what’s on sale.

9) “Dinosaur eggs.”  These are a type of plummelo we find at Farmer’s Markets, and they’re gone fast.  My kids think they’re a type of candy. :)

10) Popcorn.  Which unintentionally feeds birds, I admit.  But makes for great entertainment during a lakeside picnic.

I’m not proud of that list…  there is definitely room for improvement.  For example, I’d like to replace the juice pouches with some water bottles- after months of weaning from juice to water, the kids are now happy with water and a splash of real juice.  Go-gurt could be worse- and I wish there were more veggies on the list.

Any suggestions for good packable foods?  Ideally something that isn’t perishable should I forget about it overnight?