Greyhound should re brand themselves to Tortoise.

Trip Start May 06, 2010
Trip End Dec 17, 2010

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Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, July 10, 2010

I just had a journey straight from hell! The bus journey from Seattle to Los Angeles was scheduled to take 28 hours all in all which is bad enough aleady but there was just problem after problem.

The first segment of the journey to Portland was fine.  I was sitting beside a nice guy from Turkey and it was a pleasant 2 hour journey.  Then the problems started. 

The bus was scheduled to leave Portland at 6.40pm.  At 7.30pm we were still sat on the tarmac with the engine running the whole time but no sign of a driver.  At 7.40 a driver appeared and just drove off, no explanation or apology as to why we were running an hour late.  Fantastic customer service- NOT!!   A couple of drop offs later he drove in the wrong direction and had to turn back on himself!  In fairness to him, he didn't drive for a long time before he realised but you don't expect coach drivers to get lost!!  Didn't really help us to make up any lost time either, it obviously in fact just added to it.

After driving for hours we hadn't made any of the time up so the driver decided to skip a couple of stops to get us back on track which was fine.  It was in fact a very good plan until the bus broke down!!!!!  

The driver had stopped a couple of times and got off the bus and back on again and I thought it was a problem with the door.  At 3 am he said something about a warning light coming on and having to turn back and then this really strong smell of burning came into the bus and he pulled over.  Smoke was billowing out the back of the bus!  We were all evacuated and had to stand at the side of the road for an hour in the cold until we were sure the bus wasn't going to blow up!!  

The driver had called for a mechanic and a replacement bus but we were told the nearest replacement bus was 3 hours away so all we could do was wait.  After an hour and a half the mechanic arrived and said he could fix the problem, it took him another hour and a half to fix it.  We were on our way again a little after 6am.

During our little break down period we asked the driver why he was late in the first place leaving Portland.  You're going to love this!  He and another driver were both doing long distance routes to LA and both were supplied with defective buses which they refused to drive so they had to wait for a suitable bus to arrive.  One bus had mirrors hanging of it and the other bus had a door which wasn't working properly.  The poor driver was feeling the irony of now having a bus that practically blew up!  Nice to see that Greyhound cared so much for the safety of their passengers and staff!!

We got to a designated transfer station at 7.50am but the station didn't open until 9am so we had to wait for it to open.  The driver stayed with us until 9am so we weren't abandoned there as his shift was by then officially over which was nice of him.  He must have been shattered as well, we all got some sleep albeit only 3 hours in my case, but he didn't get any.  When he left at 9am he told us that we should get on our way at 9.20am.  We finally left the station at 10.20am and thinking about it, there wasn't an apology or explanation for that either!

Traffic was bad after that and the bus fell further and further behind schedule with the upshot being that we didn't get into LA until 10.30pm when we were supposed to get there 6 hours earlier at 4.30pm.

There was a reason why I had booked a coach to arrive in the afternoon and that was that I didn't want to arrive in LA after dark, especially as the Greyhound station is in the downtown area which every guide book tells you to avoid like the plague at night.  It is a very dodgy place, especially if you are a lone female. Two women on the coach who lived in LA told me not to hang around there by myself which added to the stress of the whole situation.

To make matters a little worse, I found out from the girl sitting next to me, Nidia, that my hostel was actually 40 miles outside LA itself and I would need to get a train to get there.  I had no idea the hostel was that far out of the city centre so that just added to my gloom.

Nidia was an absolute sweetheart.  Her mum was picking her up from the station so she asked her mum to take me to the railway station (30 min walk away) so I was not left downtown by myself.  The train station wasn't ideal either but it was safer than the greyhound station.  I have never been more grateful for the kindness of strangers. While we were waiting for her mum I surveyed the station car park.  There were loads of small groups of men just hanging around staring at everyone.  We got harrassed by some guy claiming to be a taxi driver, trying to get fares.  There was no sign of a taxi in the car park!  There wasn't much street lighting, it was very dark, and I was very grateful indeed not to be alone.

I arrived at the train station about 15 minutes later but my bad luck wasn't over yet!

At the railway station I went to get a ticket to Orange County- Fullerton where my hostel was, only to be informed that the last train had left 20 minutes earlier and there wasn't another one until 6.30am the following day. I rang the hostel and they said a taxi would cost hundreds of dollars and they closed at 11pm so even if I managed to get there, I wouldn't get in anyway as it was 10.45 by then.  I asked him to look up other hostels for me and he gave me the number for 3 places. 

My mobile eats money so I tried to use the public phones at the station, 2 weren't working and the remaining one got one my coins jammed in it so wouldn't work either!!  I was not amused!  I got out my mobile and after calling all 3 hostels was no further forward as they were all fully booked.

What do I do now?  Determined to remain calm despite the number of weirdos walking through the station and in my proximity, I was logically thinking what to do next.  I have a laptop so good thing to do was to log on and see if I could find a hostel that way.  I was a bit nervous of taking my laptop out in case it turned me into even more a mugging target but decided in the circumstances I didn't really have much choice.  It was then I discovered that LA main railway station had no wifi!!  I double checked by asking a passing member of staff who initially didn't know what I meant by wifi and then after the penny dropped, informed me they didn't have it but loads of people kept asking about it!  GRRRRRR

OK- remain calm, what else can you try?  Phone book- yellow pages.  I walked through the station to find a book and was relieved to see one near a different set of phone booths deeper into the station.  I turned to HOS and found that somebody had ripped out all the pages for hostels and hotels.  God damn it!!

I went to the ticket desk and asked them if they had a phone book and after a few minutes they got one for me.  It was intact, things were looking up!!  Then again maybe not! 

No hostels were listed, just hotels.  I scanned the pages but then quickly realised that as I didn't know the city at all I had no idea where any of the addresses were and they could have been 2 minutes away or they could have been 20 miles away. I asked the ticket desk staff if they knew of nearby hostels but they just knew of homeless shelters.

Eventually one of them recalled the station had a noticeboard at the other end which had hotels on it so she sent me there as it had a phone attached to it and you could call them free directly from it.  I made my way there and to my great relief it had a hostel listed on it.  It was now 11.30pm.

I picked up the receiver and pushed the red button beside the hostel name and got through and was told they had room. WOO HOO!!!!   I had to get a bus to the airport which very conveniently left from the train station and then there was a shuttle service from the airport to the hostel.  They even redeemed your bus fare on arrival.  Sounded perfect.

So, I walked to the other end of the station, through a dark tunnel which was not nice at all as I could see some guy hanging around in the middle of it which was quite alarming.  Thankfully he wasn't a mugger and I got to the other side unharmed!  A bus was leaving ten minutes later and I was finally on my way to a bed for the night.  There was a lovely couple from New Zealand on the bus so I chatted to them en route to the airport and that helped me take me mind off how tired I was and how not chuffed I was to say the least about the entire situation!!

At the airport I waited patiently for the shuttle bus and after several had done the rounds 4 or 5 times and I hadn't seen the hostel one I began to realise you probably had to phone for it to come and get you.  Forty minutes had passed by then.  The noticeboard had the hostel name and address on it which I had copied down but I realised I didn't have the phone number as all I had done before was push a button, I hadn't had to have the number.  The woman at the hostel hadn't said on the phone you had to call for the shuttle, so I didn't know I needed it.  This really was turning into a complete nightmare.

Getting very hacked off now I entered the nearest airport terminal to find not one member of staff there!  All the desks were closed and there was no information desk.  I found some phones but there were no phone books.  I called directory enquiries, was hung up on the first time, (you can imagine how much darker my mood was after that!) and the second time he told me there was no hostel listed under that name in LA.  This was getting seriously not funny. ( I found out later they have a different trading name which they would have been listed under.)

So, I switched on my laptop once more to find out that the airport didn't have wifi either!!  It was by then 12.30pm and I realised a sensible time of the morning back home.  So I called my Dad who I know has a computer that works!  He found listings for the hostel but couldn't find a phone number.  I gave up at that point and just thought sod it, I'm spending the night at the airport.  Then some guy along with an internet phone and we got chatting and he very kindly looked up the hostel and 6 listings later we found a phone number and he even let me use his phone to call them.  I was grateful for the kindness of strangers yet again that day.

Half an hour later I was picked up and finally at 1.30am I got to bed.

I was knackered, obviously, so I slept in until 10.30am and then checked out and had to make my way back to the railway station on the airport bus again so I could get the train to my hostel.  In busy traffic the bus took 45 minutes to get there and I had to wait 30 minutes for the next train.  The train to Fullerton took about an hour and then I had to get a local bus to get nearer to the hostel.  The bus driver took pity on me due to my luggage and the fact I didn't have a clue where I was going and didn't charge me for my fare! 

The bus stop was a 20 minute walk from the hostel which was really not fun.  It was 40 degrees, possibly more, and I was lugging my back pack, a rucksack and another bag.  The absolute killer was discovering the last part of the walk was up a very long steep hill- some sadist had a lot of fun building that hostel.  When I checked in the guy at the desk said I looked tired- no shit!!  Finally at about 2.30pm I got my bed in my room at my proper hostel.

I hope I never have to repeat a journey like that again!!!!!

So that is my tale of woe!!  I have emailed a complaint to Greyhound asking for a full refund for the Portland-LA segment of my journey and to be reimbursed the difference in hostel charges that I had to pay due to their late arrival.  It takes them 7-14 days to respond apparently so I wait with baited breath!!

On a much nicer subject the hostel at Fullerton was lovely.  It is very small, I think it has 20 beds total.  They have a lounge area which is really cosy and it's just like being in a house.  You can sit in the lounge or the conservatory and just chill out and relax.  The conservatory is surrounded by a very well kept garden and there were loads of squirrels and rabbits scampering around in it all day.  They were really lovely and fun to watch. 

The drawback with the hostel is the location.  If you are on a budget then it's too far out to do anything.  It costs a minimum of $14 to get into LA city centre each day ($22 at weekends) before you have even done or seen anything.  It was too much expense for me.  I also realised that my flight for Peru leaves from LA so I will just go a few days early and book into somewhere more central and see Hollywood etc then.

I therefore took the opportunity to enjoy the peace and quiet and catch up on my blog, read a couple of books from the hostel library and research things to do in LA for when I return in a few weeks time.

The one thing I did do though was go to Disneyland!!  It was 6 miles away from the hostel and I will probably never have the opportunity again so I had a "for everything else there's mastercard moment" and got out the plastic.  I'll worry about how I'm going to pay it off later!

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