When a 4 Hour Trip Takes 8…

Everyone who travels will tell you – you get into your fair share of trouble while you’re at it. I don’t know what about traveling long-term tempts fate so much, but when you’re on the road for a while, interesting things are bound to happen. And if you’ve been reading my previous posts, you’ll know that I’ve already had my fair share of difficulties. But, as any good traveler, I tend to go into any situation ready for the unexpected.

Sometimes there’s no preparing for it.

When you ride on a bus – particularly between major cities – you expect delays. It’s part of the gig. It’s one of the cheapest ways to travel, so it’s really not surprising that there are sometimes problems. Traffic happens. Accidents happens. Buses break down. So, I tend to expect some delays when I ride on a bus – no matter where I’m going.

I don’t expect my bus to turn around, though.

So, here’s the story: my friend and travel buddy Jackie and I were on our way back from New York (the second time), and we decided to take a bus. It’s only about a four-hour trip, and it’s easily the cheapest (and least stressful) way to manage the trip. Getting even the cheapest Amtrak tickets are usually about 3-4 times as much as a bus ticket. So, for the traveler on a budget, it’s the logical choice.

Our bus left New York City at 12:30 PM, and was scheduled to have us in Washington D.C. by 5:00 PM the same day – counting time that we spent at a rest stop in New Jersey. I don’t know why, but it was a fairly empty bus. There was one person per every pair of seats, and still some open pairs afterwards. Jackie sat one seat in front of me, which allowed me to put my computer on the seat next to me and lean against the window while I worked I generally make sure I have at least an hour’s wiggle room when planning to take a bus – or really any form of transportation – anywhere. Because it seems like any type of long-distance ride has some form of complication when I’m on it.

(The last time I rode Amtrak, the train I was supposed to get on was 12 hours late. And one of the last times I flew the plane was delayed because the flight attendants couldn’t get the door to close – which is sort of important when it comes to flying.)

So, I figured we’d probably be back in D.C. anywhere between 5 PM and 6:30 PM. Jackie and I could take the Metro back to my aunt and uncle’s and get dinner at a reasonable time.

And we were actually making pretty good time. I kept an eye on our projected arrival time as we traveled using Google Maps – it tends to be fairly accurate – and we were projected to arrive in D.C. around 6:15 PM with traffic. We had our pit stop in New Jersey, right at the border into Delaware. The bus driver made all of us get off the bus so he could refuel. We were given very clear instructions:

  • Be back in fifteen minutes.
  • The bus will be right here.
  • If you’re not here, we’re leaving without you.

That’s the way buses work. You are responsible for getting yourself on and off the bus on time. If you get left behind, it’s really your fault. I’d never been on a bus with people who were stupid enough to get left behind at a gas station. Most of us are self-aware, and know that if we got left behind, we’d be pretty much screwed, as we all had places to be.

So, we all get back onto the bus – 25 minutes after we got off. We actually ended up having a longer rest break than planned. Which was fine with me – I enjoyed being able to stand and pace for a little while. I got some food and stretched a little bit. The bus picked us back up, we all boarded, and we headed off again.

Fast forward an hour. It’s about 4:15 PM and we have a projection to arrive in D.C. about two hours after that. Not amazing time, but for rush hour into Washington on a Friday, it’s really not bad. So I was happy.

Then the driver comes on the intercom.

“Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen. Uh, when we took our rest stop, we left some people behind. So, I have been – I have been ordered to turn around and go back for them.”

Stunned silence. The woman in the seat across the row from me looks over at me. “This is a joke. Right?”

I don’t know why she thought I would know. But I was pretty sure it was not a joke.

Jackie sends me a text as soon as the intercom turns off: Idiots. I can’t help but agree. I had so many questions:

  1. How do you miss getting back on your bus when it takes a 10 minute longer stop than planned?
  2. Why did it take them an hour to get us to turn around?
  3. How could the bus company prioritize those few people – who could have taken the next bus a couple hours later – over all of us, who were on time, and all had places to be in the evening?

Luckily one of the people sitting near me took the initiative to call the bus company immediately. Apparently, we were informed, we had left not one person behind, but five. And the company felt that the most compassionate thing to do would be to turn around for them. And while I respect the business for sticking to their values – after hearing everyone around me complain about what they were missing – I had to disagree. The most human thing to do would have been to get us to D.C. in some semblance of on time. What if one of us had been going somewhere really important? A funeral? A hospital to visit a dying friend or relative? What if we were trying to catch a plane or train? A delay of another 1.5 hours would ruin all those plans.

The people around me all started to talk – you could call it bonding, if you would like. The girl sitting across the aisle from me is a teacher, and she was going to D.C. to meet up with some friends to take a mini-vacation before school starts again. She’d been expected at a dinner at 7:15 PM, and now we weren’t going to get in until 8:00 PM.

The boys sitting two rows in front of me are DJs, and because of the delay they missed part of a gig at a club in D.C. Both of them were pretty easy-going people, and only looked a little disappointed, but accepted the delay.

The girl sitting in front of the teacher was on her way to a music festival in Baltimore for the weekend and would miss her ride there. She also hadn’t eaten all day, and now was resigned to being stuck on a bus for another 4 hours before she could get food. I – luckily – had a couple of spare granola bars, and I gave a couple to her to help her, but I doubt it did very much.

I was angry, I’m not going to lie. Not because I was delayed myself – no, that didn’t matter. I had things to do (like write blog posts that are long past due). But because these 5 people felt entitled to make the bus turn around when it was their own fault that they missed it.

Anecdote: My much kinder, and more compassionate best friend Jackie has pointed out that they could speak English as a second language and have heard “50 minutes” instead of 15, and just assume that things work that way here in America. And I mean, she could be right – but I don’t think so. I don’t think the bus company would have made the bus turn around for anything less than an absolute demand from the people left behind. So maybe it’s unkind. But I don’t care.

It’s now 5:05 PM, and we’re nearly back in New Jersey. We’re all sort of resigned to our fate now. I’d decided to do the mature thing and simply bury my nose in a book, and not look at who got on the bus. Because I couldn’t truly, deeply resent them if I didn’t have faces to match them to. We were nearly at the border when suddenly, the bus pulls off the highway, turns around, and gets back on going the opposite direction.

I think I’m one of the few people who noticed that right away. I’d been staring out the window for a while. I’d lost my internet connection and needed a break after working on the bus earlier. I know one other person noticed because he went up to ask the driver what was going on, then came back to inform us that the people who’d made us turn the bus around had contacted the company to tell them that they no longer needed to be picked up.

I can’t even tell you the momentary chaos that ensued. I was swearing and threatening these people who I had never seen and would never see again. Jackie was silently fuming and staring out the window. The teacher next to me was in hysterics – laughing and saying, “I can’t handle this, guys. I can’t do it.” The girl in front of her was muttering a string of steady curse words under her breath. The DJs said, “Are you f***ing kidding me?” and groaned.

This was incredible. I will never know if Jackie was right or me. I’ll never know if those people were simply very entitled and didn’t feel guilty about inconveniencing many of us for their own benefit, or if it was truly a string of weird coincidences. And I don’t know that it matters – it didn’t deeply inconvenience me in any conceivable way, and I met some cool new people out of it. So, I can’t complain. Not really.


Note: You’ll probably notice that I didn’t put the name of the bus company in this post. That was purposeful. I spent some time reflecting on everything that happened. Yes, the company inconvenienced me. But they also fully refunded both of my tickets, as well as gave me a voucher for another ride. And when it comes down to it – I’d rather ride with a company that chooses to help its passengers – even if they’re idiots – than one that would just leave them behind. Now if this same thing happens again – obviously I won’t ride with them again. But when I spoke to their representative on the phone, he was both kind and helpful. So all around, as weird of an experience as it was, I don’t really consider it a bad one.

New York City: The Pulse of America

I’m sure this will surprise exactly 0 of you, but I loved being in New York City. So much so that I went back again this week for three days. Well, that was actually because of an appointment, and not because I just really wanted to go. But it was fun nevertheless.

I can’t even tell you how much I love it there. The pace, the people, the atmosphere, the art and music scene – it’s all amazing. Not to mention – of course – the book scene. So many major publishing houses call New York City home, as do many writers. Maybe that’s why I felt at home the second I stepped off my bus and onto the street. I knew, when I took that step, that I would live there someday. And maybe sooner than I thought. But more on that later.

My first day in New York, I met up with a pair of friends and we went to do some of the touristy things that I desperately wanted to do – starting with the Brooklyn Bridge!
Okay, we didn’t actually walk the bridge. We went to Pier 17 in Manhattan. From the end of the pier, you get this view:


Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge, taken from Pier 17. Pulled from my Instagram.


Amazing, right? I still want to walk the bridge someday – but that can come later. For now, I’m happy that I got to see it. From that pier, we walked up to the Staten Island Ferry – which is honestly my favorite thing that we did that day. I love water, I love boats, and I especially love being on a boat on the water. But the best part of that ride was this:


Lady Liberty
Yes, we could have gotten a better picture from the island itself. Or if the tourists in front of us had moved to allow us to see it… Pull from my Instagram.


Seeing the Statue of Liberty up close was the moment that it sank in that I was in New York City – that place that everyone reads about and sees in movies. It didn’t feel real until then. I felt almost like the New York you see in movies was a fantasy, and not what the real New York City would look like. But I was wrong on that front.

The Ferry was awesome – we took it to Staten Island, then back again and got off. From there, we walked to see the Bull of Wall Street and the Fearless Girl – but since it was a weekend, it was swarmed with tourists all trying to get a picture. My introvert came out and I ducked out of there after catching a glimpse of both, rather than stand in the middle of that crowd just for a picture.

Speaking of introversion – from there we caught the subway to arguably the best place in the city: the Strand bookstore.

If you like books and you’ve never heard of the Strand you need to find out now. It’s a huge bookstore – and I mean huge. Like, miles upon miles worth of books. I almost wish we’d gone there first instead of last – because by that time I was hot, tired, and hungry. Not to mention a little bit broke after buying lunch, so I couldn’t buy any books that day. Well, I shouldn’t have bought any books at all, but that went better in theory than it did in practice as I ended up leaving New York with one more book than I came with.

And that was it for day one. I spent the next couple of days mostly working from coffee shops and exploring the streets in the evenings. On Wednesday I took the day off so that I could see some more sights – but this time without as many crowds, hopefully.
So first thing Wednesday, Jackie and I head to Times Square:

Yet another truly incredible experience. Since it’s such a popular place for events, television, movies, posters, and more – it felt almost surreal to be there in person. As you may be able to see from my pictures – it’s clear that it was still pretty crowded despite it being mid-morning on a Wednesday. I expected as much, though. It’s still Times Square, after all.

After that, we did a bit of walking. We walked to Rockefeller Center and looked around, then past Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. From there, we – unfortunately – had to walk past Trump Tower. I stopped for a picture even though I still have a nagging feeling that taking a picture is just giving the building too much credit, but what the hell.

If any of you know New York City well, you may know what direction we were headed in – our next stop was Central Park.

Let me just say: as someone who had never been to Central Park before, I had no concept of just how big it is. That park is enormous! And this is yet another time where I’ll say that I almost wish that we had gone a little earlier in the day, because I was pretty tired and wanted to get back to where we were staying to rest.

Apparently I also shirked my duty to take pictures of food while I was there. The only item of food that I took a picture of was my pizza – and let me just say, if you haven’t had New York pizza, you are missing out. It was so good we ended up ordering two entire pizzas and eating them both during the week that we stayed there.


No regrets.

But despite not taking pictures – we ate some amazing food. From picking up food at Central Park on our walking trip, to going to West Side Market and grabbing whatever we felt like – everything we had was amazing. Other than pizza and hotdogs – I think I ate exclusively Chinese and Japanese food while we were there, simply buying whatever I felt like from West Side Market. It was amazing.

I’ve now been to New York City twice – but my second trip can wait for a future post as it was far less interesting. Though our bus ride home had some interesting incidents – but, again, more on that later.

To keep you all in the loop, there’s a distinct possibility that I’ll be cutting my traveling shorter than I planned, in favor of moving to New York City when the opportunity arises. I’m not sure what’s going to happen in that regard yet – but when I know, you’ll know.


Travel Diaries: Road Trip

The first leg of my journey started in my home state of Minnesota, and led me and my closest friend on a road trip to the East Coast. The GPS told us that this trip (specifically, for me, from Saint Paul in Minnesota to Maryland) would take us an upwards of 15 hours to drive. More, if we wanted to avoid tolls (which we did).

We decided to take the trip in more than one segment. We didn’t split it up evenly – but we decided that we would stay overnight with a friend in Janesville, Wisconsin on our way. This was about a three hour trip from where we started in Rochester, Minnesota – which is another hour and a half from where I had been staying in Saint Paul.

Mississippi Overlook in Saint Paul, MN


We ended up running a bunch of errands during the day, right up until evening, on the day we were supposed to leave. They just started piling on top of each other, one after the other, until suddenly it was 4 hours later than we’d planned to leave, and we were rushing to pack and start driving. By the time we hit the road, it was pushing night time, so we didn’t arrive in Janesville until nearly midnight.

The next morning, we planned to get up around 4 AM and hit the road by 5. That way, we could do the rest of the trip (roughly 13 hours without tolls) in one day. Well, first off, my alarm doesn’t go off. So road trip companion Jackie wakes me up at around 5:15 when she gets out of the shower. That’s all right, though. I shower and we’re in the car ready to go by 5:40, easy. From there, it was smooth sailing, we thought. Right?

Except when we turn on the car we have a ‘check engine’ light.

There was some swearing. We go to a coffee shop, get our coffee, and try and sort out our options. We do a bunch of googling, try everything possible to make sure that the light wasn’t a fluke. We checked all of the caps on the gas, windshield wiper fluid, oil, etc. Tighten everything. Clean what we can. Check the oil. Anything that we know how to do, and that various chatrooms told us could cause the light to come on.

But the light stays on.

So there’s more swearing and more weighing of options. I drive a hybrid, so we didn’t want to go to just any auto repair shop. But the Toyota dealership in Janesville didn’t open until 8 – and that was still over an hour and a half away. We didn’t want to lose all of that time, so we did a little mapping and planning. Since the light was solid and hadn’t been on the day before, we decided to take a risk and drive around an hour and fifteen minutes in the right direction. That would bring us to Racine, Wisconsin, which had a Toyota dealership that would be open at the time we got there (a little before 8 AM). And that’s precisely what we did.

If I had known what was wrong with my car, I wouldn’t have risked the trip. But we didn’t, so we did. And we made it all the way there without even a hiccup.

Taken from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN

So finally we get there and the people at the dealership were amazingly nice about the whole thing. We explained that we were on the way to the East Coast and that we didn’t have an appointment, and they squeezed us right in.

So we go into the dealership and sit and wait. And wait. And wait. An hour and a half passes and we were already bored, and that’s when they finally approach us and tell us the bad news.

The coolant tank was punctured and was completely empty. The whole thing needed to be replaced. There was yet more swearing, sighing, and weighing of options. We told them to go ahead with the repair (because no way in hell was we driving 12 hours with no coolant), and they give us an estimate of two hours for the repair. It was around 9:30 am at the time. So that would have gotten us out of Racine at noon, which was still a doable time. We could’ve made that work.

But then there technical problems. They couldn’t get their computers to work to verify that the fix had worked. So we ended up sitting in that Toyota dealership for a total of 6 hours, just waiting. I was so antsy that I wanted to scream. My skin was crawling. My feet tapped uncontrollably. I couldn’t focus on anything – not even a game on my phone. Which was almost completely dead, anyway. I just wanted to get on the road. Every second that ticked by pushed out estimated time of arrival later and later.

Finally, they give us the go-ahead. We paid a wince-inducing amount of money to the Toyota dealership, and hit the road again. The GPS put our estimated arrival time at 3:30 am, local time. And being the crazy people that we were, we decided we’d try to make it.

I’m sure you can imagine, but we did not make it the whole way that day. We were already exhausted from the stress of worrying about my car and the money involved with the repair. That, and because of the delay, we still hit Chicago at a bad time – though it wasn’t quite rush hour yet.

Chicago, IL

Jackie drove from Racine to Chicago – despite just having gotten her driver’s license the day before. In fact, she drove all the way to Indianapolis – which is one hell of a distance, if anyone is counting. It’s longer than I can drive in one sitting. Though, of course, we did stop for gas in there somewhere.

Now, Jackie had her heart set on stopping in Indianapolis – partially because she’d never been there before, and partially because she really wanted to see the Funky Bones exhibit at Indianapolis Museum of Art. Unfortunately, because of our delay in Wisconsin, we didn’t hit Indiana until 8:15, and by the time we finished eating dinner, it was nearly nine.

We did still hit IMA, but we didn’t get admission. We walked around outside, and saw some of the sculpture gallery outside of the fence. Our favorite was a fountain right outside the museum. Hopefully we can stop by again and see the exhibit Jackie wanted to see so badly.


Sutphin Fountain at Indianapolis Museum of Art


From there, we drove until a little before midnight, and stopped in Columbus, Ohio overnight. It was an exhausting day – I had to talk for the entire 3+ hours we drove to Columbus because I felt like I was going to fall asleep. Not a good sign when you’re driving. We were still about 6 hours away from our destination, and we were definitely not going to be able to make it all in one night.

We were so tired that by the time we got to the hotel, we just went straight to bed and slept all night. We didn’t allow ourselves to sleep in the next day – that would’ve been a mistake – but got up at 7 and had breakfast before hitting the road.

The next morning was absolutely beautiful. Nearly cloudless, blue skies welcoming us into our last day of traveling. Columbus is such a clean, classic city – and it was early enough that there were few people around – it was incredibly picturesque.

High Street in Columbus, OH

And on top of that, we drove through the mountains for almost the rest of the day. The roads were pretty clear, the sky stayed that beautiful blue, and our trip was smooth sailing from then on.

We stopped in the mountains for lunch, then drove the rest of the way and arrived in Maryland at exactly 4pm.  While it was quite a long trip, it was also a lot of fun. We listened to a lot of music, as well as podcasts, and an audiobook. We also took a lot of pictures, and spent a lot of time just talking. All in all, I would do it again. Which is good, because I’m going to have to at some point!


The Great Road Trip Playlist!

Approaching a 13-hour road trip this week, I knew that I had to design an amazing playlist to help the drive go by quicker. Of course – we also did things like: listen to podcasts and an audio book. But – honestly – we did spend a lot of the trip listening to music.

Building a long playlist is – more than anything – dependent on being very familiar with what types of music you enjoy. Because once you’re on the road – unless you have a very good road trip companion (which I did) you don’t have a lot of freedom to add or remove things from your playlist. Sure, you can always skip – but that can get old if you’ve misjudged what music you’ll enjoy.

Because I know that I really enjoy Alternative, Indie, and Classic Rock, those genres were heavily represented in the playlist. As well as crossovers from other genres, and just other songs that I like for one reason or another. I also included some songs that were recommended to me, as I love new songs – and pulled some songs that just have to be included in a road trip playlist.

So without further ado, here are some of the highlights of the playlist that I built:

Classic Rock

  • The Beatles (Ticket to Ride, Help, Here Comes the Sun)
  • Fleetwood Mac (Go Your Own Way, The Chain, Landslide)
  • The Rolling Stones (Start Me Up, Sympathy for the Devil, Beast of Burden)
  • Blink 182 (All the Small Things, What’s my Age Again?, First Date)
  • Eagles (Hotel California, Take it Easy, Life in the Fast Lane)


  • Train (Drops of Jupiter, Play That Song, Marry Me)
  • Panic! at the Disco (LA Devotee, Let’s Kill Tonight, Collar Full)
  • Ed Sheeran (Galway Girl, Don’t, Runaway)
  • Olly Murs (Wan’na Be Like You (with Robbie Williams), Dance With Me Tonight, Troublemaker)
  • Maroon 5 (This Love, Love Somebody, She Will Be Loved)


  • Coldplay (Clocks, Adventure of a Lifetime, Yellow, Up & Up)
  • Hozier (Sedated, Arsonist’s Lullaby, Angel of Small Death in the Codeine Scene)
  • Florence + the Machine (Dog Days are Over, Delilah, Shake it Out)
  • Arctic Monkeys (One for the Road, Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High, Fluorescent Adolescent)
  • The 1975 (Love Me, Chocolate, Settle Down)


  • Red Hot Chili Peppers (Road Trippin’, Californication, Can’t Stop)
  • Rooney (Simply Because, Stay Away, Shaken)
  • Arcade Fire (Normal Person, Keep the Car Runnin’, The Suburbs)
  • Oasis (Champagne Supernova, Don’t Look Back in Anger, Wonderwall)
  • U2 (Vertigo, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Beautiful)

Indie Music

  • Noisettes (Never Forget You, Don’t Upset the Rythym, Wild Young Hearts)
  • Of Monsters and Men (Little Talks, King and Lionheart, Crystals)
  • Mumford & Sons (Believe, Little Lion Man)
  • Bombay Bicycle Club (Shuffle, Luna, Take the Right One, Lights Out Words Gone)
  • Phoenix (Laso, 1901, Lisztomania)

These 25 artists are just a taste of the playlist that we listened to on our 13-hour trip (made even longer by an unintended 6-hour pitstop in Wisconsin). There are over a hundred and fifty songs on the actual playlist – which you can find on Spotify and listen to as much as you want if you want to change up what you listen to for a while!

As always I would love comments, and more suggestions for music to listen to while I’m traveling is always welcome! (Special thanks to my amazing friend Jackie, who has much better taste in music than me and helped build a truly great playlist for our trip).

Brief Introduction

Well, here we are. A week later than planned, and a little haphazard, but still here.

I’m excited to announce that, due to personal circumstances – both good and bad – I’ve decided to spend the next year of my life traveling the world. I don’t have everything planned out yet – because planning a year just seems ridiculous at this point – but I know that I’m going to spend the first six or so months traveling around the US – going places that I haven’t been before (and some that I have), and trying to see everything that I can possibly see. After that, I’m heading to Europe!

My blog here is going to be a mix of different types of posts. Some of them are going to be about where I am, and what my favorite spots are where I am. Some will be somewhat more informative – dealing with things like how I’ve been managing my budget, where to get cheap tickets, how to live out of a carry-on, and other things along those lines.

I’ve also created an Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat that are all going to be connected to this blog, where I’ll be posting more details of where I am – and, very importantly, the pictures I’m going to take along the way. So if you want to see everything there is, check out my pages!

I always welcome interactions on all my different platforms, so feel free to drop me a line, send me a message, or leave a comment!

Next week, my post is going to be about the best music to listen to on a road trip. I would love for people to leave me comments about their favorite songs, albums, artists, and genres to listen to on the road. There will also be some further details as to when my adventure starts, and where I’m going first!

Instagram: @wander_writer

Twitter: @wander_write

Snapchat: wanderwrite