A fan travels Greyhound to see North America, with the excuse of following the World Cup.

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Travel by Greyhound -- The Ameripass

A fan travels Greyhound to see North America, with the excuse of following the World Cup.

A sporting event can often provide the spark that lights up paper plans to travel; especially if it is played out across the map, in a selection of venues, over something like 30 days.

The fan who travels to the United States for the World Cup has to cover a great distance, at least once in the opening qualifying group. Those who have the money can fly, although they see little else of the country, while the more adventurous trickle around on Amtrak and Greyhound. A real fan of football wishes to be there for the whole month.

With a 30 day Greyhound pass, it is tempting to roam around the country covering at least one game in all the nine cities.

The Planning:
You plan, and re-plan it all, and see that it is indeed a possibility.

The opening game is in Chicago, and the next day you have to be in Detroit..... It means an eight-hour night bus, to get there for a morning kick-off.

Opening round games can then be seen in Washington, Boston and New York over the following five days. It would be a struggle to get from there to Orlando in two days, but there is an option in six.

Four days later you can catch a second round match in Dallas, and then take your time to reach San Francisco's quarter-final contest the following week.

There is to be some rest on the beach, before seeing a semi-final staged in Los Angeles. You are at the Rose Bowl, watching two of the four best teams in the world; knowing full well that you could probably never afford the asking price for the final, in the same stadium, after all the ground you've covered.

It would be possible, but too much time is spent on one Greyhound bus or another, and little of the country is seen, except for soccer stadiums offering hamburgers, Cokes and expensive merchandise; bus-station lockers, if they work; and the moving hands of time that push you on. One missed connection in the early stages, and it could all fall apart; the project pointless.

England are not even in the competition, and are you such a fan that you would pay to watch 90 minutes of Mexico vs Norway, or Morocco vs Holland; both Europeans, there at the expense of your country?

So a more leisurely option is chosen....

It is too early to spend all your money in the clothing houses of Chicago, and not too exciting to prost with the Deutsch.

It's almost an impossibility to taste the Manhattan cocktail, with thousands of resident Irish and Italians in and around New Jersey.

And it will hardly be a tea-party in Boston, where the hand of God is to give it a stir.

So that determines the dome of Detroit as the first destination to draw your attention for the qualifying round.

First Impressions:
Greyhound travel may have lost some of its glamour. The cutback in services after a lengthy drivers strike can mean overcrowding and disappointed travellers missing connections; if they were lucky enough to be near the front of a sweaty line to begin with.

Baggage is tagged to the final destination, but will it be on the same bus as you when you arrive; jaded, with smelly feet and a horrible taste in your mouth?

At Boston International Airport, waiting for a connection on North West Airlines, you hear a steady flow of apologies: an aircraft is 'delayed because of a cable being attached to a door mechanism'; then a further announcement is made and 'another plane is sought' for your aircraft, which obviously has a major problem. Cut-price airfares, and quick turnarounds of aircraft, seem to be having their toll.

Further announcements say that a plane to Minneapolis, and another to Hyannis have been cancelled: 'due to mechanical problems', and you start to wonder if The Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) will regret their partnership deal within the NorthWest market. At least with its wheels on the ground, Greyhound is far from parked up.

A Greyhound Pass also allows free passage between Toronto and Detroit, and Seattle and Vancouver, so a taste of Canada is included in the grand tour of US 94.

Greyhound travel in Canada suffers little from overcrowding, apart from Coast to Coast. Not so in America. If you turn up at night, and expect to catch a bus out of Detroit in fifteen minutes, you will be disappointed.... FULL. Sometimes another bus is found, sometimes not. The night you try to leave for Washington, is the night there is no extra bus. A game will have to be missed!

It helps if plans are flexible on the road and with an unlimited mileage, thirty-day bus-pass, they can be.

Travel By Greyhound:

From Atlanta, the overnight bus to St. Louis is crowded.

The girl next to you is going all the way to Salt Lake City, and although you have to pass through Denver and Salt Lake City on the way to San Francisco, you gain more by breaking up the journey -- leaving your bags in a locker and exploring the towns by day.

Greyhound provides a freephone number for all timetable inquiries.... and you ponder your options on the Missouri bank of the Mississippi River, under a 630ft arch that is the continent's largest monument. The sun is shining and the humidity has dropped.

Nearby small crews are busy preparing a stage and setting up stalls for the three-day Fourth of July, weekend extravaganza. On the other side of you, tourists stroll by along the muddy water to take their chance on one of the paddle-boat gambling palaces.

A few drinks later, in the refurbished Laclede's Landing area, and you almost miss your bus. The happy hour has started and the barmaid is always ready to offer you another; two mouthfuls away from the one you are still drinking.

"Thanks, very kind of you -- especially if you're buying!"

Sometimes she does, to keep you longer, in the knowledge that you will probably stay longer still. They do appreciate tips; plenty and often. And if you're a touch slow to part with your money, for service that might be far from good, a jar may be waved in front of your face.

Summary:
Rather than just go to football matches, this fan chose to see the country too. I know Americans say some bad things about Greyhound, and there may be more bad than good stories, but for adventurous travellers, a 30-day Greyhound pass is a great way to see North America by staying on the ground.

Buses are more frequent than Amtrak, and they go to just about everywhere. Be warned though, some of the stations are in grotty areas. I never bothered with taxis, but perhaps you should. I had some close shaves, but most of the people were harmless when they realized I was neither a threat, nor easy prey.

I guess it helps that I've travelled in Africa, Asia and South America, and have stayed in worse slums than the most run-down areas of the United States -- but you always need to be on your guard.

Think about what you want to do and where you want to go before you start your journey. The pass starts on the first day you use it and runs consecutively. You will only save money if you intend to go across country, and not stay in places for a week.

I look at the Greyhound Pass as an ideal way to get a feel for the great diversity and expanse of the country, and think about where you want to come back to.

Foreigners can buy the Ameripass abroad or at Greyhound's International Offices in New York and Los Angeles (you'll get them cheaper than the Americans).

Greyhound passes can even be purchased online.

When you're on the road, call (800-231-2222) for schedule information.

Visit The Greyhound Website.

Michel Guntern -- TravelNotes.org

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