I do love bus travel

Growing up in Fairfax County Virginia, just a stones throw from Washington DC I remember always riding the bus to get to and from, well, whatever.  I remember once my mom had this little Renualt, but I don’t recall having it for very long.  So we walked, took the bus, and occasionally got a cab. Buses didn’t have the stigma they do now.  It was OK to ride a bus.  The ran all through the region, you bought a ticket and if needed got transfer slips to get you to your next bus if travelling long distances.  They were clean.

Coming in to my teen years I remember taking the bus in to Alexandria’s Old Town to go shopping, go to the skating rink or the White Tavern for burgers with friends.  I also remember going into DC to visit the Smithsonian Museums.  I liked the bus, it gave me freedom.

Then when I was about 17 or 18 I decided I needed a car.  I was working at a Membership Department Store, GEM.  I was also living with my grandmother.

My grandmother offered to buy me a car, I seriously considered an Opal.  I declined that offer and bought myself  a Blue 64 Plymouth Valiant, a push button automatic, with a hole about 2/3rds up the gas tank and a headliner that was coming down, and sunvisors cracked and splitting. This was about 1972.  I loved that car. It was mine, no strings, no threats,  all mine. I even paid my own insurance.  I knew there would be too many games and threats of having to relinquish the keys if I allowed my grandmother to assist with any of the costs.

Buying that car pretty much ended my use of buses.  Then buses changed, stigma.

Now, 40 years later and I am back to loving buses.  Well not the Merida city buses, they are driven by madmen.  I’ve often said that using city buses in Merida is not a spectator sport, it is full contact.

But for travelling distances, you can’t beat the buses.  The ADO fleet is made up of 3 class buses; the ADO, ADO GL, and ADO Platino.  We recently took a trip to Belize. Eight of us went, we took the bus, and not one of the top of the line buses either.  Padded seats that recline, see through pull down shades, or dark curtains on the windows, you choose which you want to use. TV monitors for the movies they play, air conditioning, overhead storage, enough leg room to cross your legs if you want, and even bathrooms.

Here in the Yucatan, which is a flat limestone shelf, we aren’t afforded the beauty of striking vistas.  But that does not make the travel unappealing.  In fact it is anything but.

The views are a symphony for your eyes.  Sometimes beautiful and melodic, sometimes discordant and a little disconcerting, and other times an explosion of vignettes of life.

Our recent trip was like that for me.  Sitting by the window with my eyes unfocused just watching the scenes as we sped by, like flash cards

chickens scratching through the debris under a ramon tree by the side of the road

skinny little dogs stretched out in the shade beside a building.

a man seen through the cracks of the thin log structure of his house, lying in his hammock with a baby sitting up on his stomach.

women in the side yard washing clothes in a batea and hanging them over bushes and fence.

a horse tethered to a stake by the side of the road munching on the grasses there

a store front offering flashes of red and yellow as they advertise coke and the PRD.

kittens playing in an empty lot

a young couple in a romantic clench, kissing and touching, just inches from the side of the road as we swept by, not even flinching as their hair and clothes blew from the wind disturbance we created.

goats lazily crossing the street

short elderly women in bleached white huipiles with loads of sticks and small logs in a cloth bundle on their backs held in place by a cloth strap around their foreheads as they emerged from a cut in the woods.

middle aged women in stretchy shorts and t-shirts with slogans like ‘I’m sexy and I know it’ walking to some unknown by me destination.

four young men all bent over peering in to a bucket

birds flitting between trees, doves lined up on the overhead wires, tales flicking to maintain balance

piles of burning leaves and household trash smoldering

young girls combing each others hair and giggling over some secret told in whispers

a windmill with its blades spinning slowly in the afternoon heat.

a small stand and group of people gathered at a tope with things to sell the passers by as they slow; mandarinas, plastic cups of cut mango, cucumber, and melon, wedges of pan de elote, or sweet crackers, bottle of aguas de pitaya, jamaica and horchata.

a man sitting in his car reading por esto

a wooden table a scale with slabs of meat hanging above from hooks, and a fellow standing there sharpening his knife while he chats up the woman explaining what she wants.

we pass stands of fruits and veggies, homemade treats, and hand crocheted items

people laughing, sitting, strolling, animals, trees, bushes, flowers, limbs, discarded tires, even this morning I recall it vividly, as if flash cards are being turned over in rapid succession.

Yes, I do love bus travel, it offers me the freedom to take all this in, unhindered

About Debi in Merida

I moved from Colorado Springs, Colorado USA to Merida, Yucatan, MX in January 2006. I love to read, garden, travel, and hang out with friends. Then in 2016 I moved to Richmond, Virginia, USA. Culture shock continues.
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10 Responses to I do love bus travel

  1. Enjoyed this post immensely. Thanks for the narrative…felt as if I were there.

  2. Stan says:

    Really enjoyed this bus post, Debi. I've also ridden a fair number of inter-city 1st class buses, and had similar musings. I couldn't have enjoyed your stream of vignettes more if they had been video clips (as if such fleeting sights could be captured in a recording). I actually think some of these fleeting impressions have a greater impact because of the brief exposure we experience…

  3. Eric Chaffee says:

    Thanks for the slideshow of words. I can picture you with your laptop open on the bus, writing as you passed these scenes. Well seen and well recorded!

    We drove to Merida from Buffalo last year. Your itinerary sounds daunting. Two books with some real insight on travel in those areas: MAYA ROADS, by MJ McConahay; and THE MAYA ROAD, by Jim Conrad, (older, but can be found at ABEbooks, etc).


  4. Debbie says:

    What a lovely tale. Thanks for the trip!

  5. Ron says:

    We have loved bus travel in Mexico – the ADO from Playa del Carmen to Merida, to Cancun to take the ferry to Isla Mujeres and buses all through Jalsico and Guanajuate.

    We look forward to travel to San Cristobal and beyond after we move there next year, but we will also probably do some flying around Mexico also.

    Adventures, adventures. We look forward to them and love reading about yours

  6. Marc Olson says:

    I've also come to love the bus for long-distance travel, and have done a lot of it over the years. It has come a long way from the days of “pigs and chickens” buses of my teen years. It's a wonderful and economical way to see the country.

    Thanks for the little vignettes of scenes from along the road. This is exactly what I like about buses. You don't notice all of that when you are behind the wheel.

  7. CorollaRN says:

    We absolutely LOVE the buses in Merida….yes, the crazy ones!! Even better are the ADO's….Mexico has an awesome bus system!!

  8. norm says:

    I'm sure we will have to rent a car at times, many of my “wants” are in 4×4 land. As of now: fly into Guatemala City on the 17th of December, rent a car and do the Maya rites on the 20th @ Mixco Viejo north of the city. I want to spend some time in El Quiche state.

    In general: hit as many ruins as I can on this trip. I'm 56, the back country is not getting any easier. Lots of time in the Peten. A month at least in Belize. The Reo Bec region gets a week, Bacalar and area included in that time(car needed from what I can tell). Bus to Merida. Every time I've been to Merida it has been hot, I want to check out the winter weather. The Isla Arena area is the beach plan for that time. There are some topographic features there that I'd like to see on the ground. Google Earth only reveals so much. The old salt pans in the area need looked at. Isla Jaina by boat is on the bucket list-we'll see.
    Chiapas and the Rio Usumacinta ruins are next and on up the Mexican west coast. The Mexican highlands and its vast amount of ruins will fill out the card. I'll probably fly out of Mexico City the first week of April. That is the bus/rental car plan-driving the van is another horse.

  9. try the bus, if it doesn't work out, you can still rent a car.
    where will you be travelling?

  10. norm says:

    Linda and I are debating our travel mode. Fly in and bus/rent a car now and then or drive the van down. We do not plan on staying anywhere for more than two weeks during a 4 month trip. We have always rented cars in the past. I'm a little worried about losing the ability to pull over when I see something cool. Linda is of the mind that we should try it “ya might like it”, the bus that is.

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