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A Bus-Bound San Diego
Comic-Con Adventure

Greyhound photo by Mark Eggrole and used under the terms of a Creative Commons license.

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Ryan Scott taking a selfie on his Greyhound bus ride to San Diego Comicon.
An Arizonan Tries To Save Some Cash By Taking A Bus To San Diego Comic-Con, And Describes The Bumpy, Awkward, Piss-Stenched Life On The Open Road

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By Ryan Scott
Modern Times Magazine

July 28, 2016 — There are very few things that mean as much to fans of geekdom and pop culture as San Diego Comic-Con. In recent years, it has become virtually impossible to gain access to the nerd-culture Super Bowl, but a lucky percentage of fans get the chance to go for the first time every year.

This year, I was one of those fans. After five years of attempting to get a pass through the convoluted ticketing system, my nerd dreams finally came true.

But that was just the first part of my journey.

Being that I don’t live in or around San Diego, I had to figure out how I was going to make my journey there. My initial thought was to drive, because I quite enjoy that drive and it would allow me to have my car with me. But, I drive a 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback, and it has more than a few miles on it already. So, I decided to explore my other options. As I was about to pull the trigger on doing a standby ticket for a flight, the thought occurred to me to see what a Greyhound bus would cost. As it turns out, it was super cheap. So, I decided to go down that route.

The main selling point for this decision was the fact that a round trip ticket cost a grand total of $89. That is pretty much less than I would have paid in gas alone, plus I wouldn’t be putting miles on my already old car. On top of the cost savings, the pictures of the bus on the website made the seats look very comfortable. As an added bonus, the Greyhound website heavily advertised free Wi-Fi on all of their busses as well as power outlets at every seat.

I was sold!

So, my plan became that instead of driving myself and being worn out once I got to Comic-Con, I could get a bunch of work done on the trip and have someone drive me there. Neat, right? Sure, the trip would be nine hours long with a bunch of stops, as opposed to six with me driving, but it seemed worth it given the amenities and the savings.

But the saying “you get what you pay for” is almost always true and that was absolutely the case with my experience taking a Greyhound to San Diego Comic-Con.

The Mesa bus station where my adventure started looked about as dirty, old and depressing as one might expect. But hey, it isn’t like Mesa is exactly a booming metropolis, so I wrote that off and remained very optimistic about my sweet deal. I checked my bag and readied my carry on. I was shocked when I finally got on the bus and realized it was nearly empty. So, I took a seat near the back, figuring I could probably steal two seats for myself and sprawl out during the trip. That worked out, for the most part.

I sat in the back figuring I would be bothered less during the long trip. Again, that was for the most part, true.

The seats on the bus, on the other hand, looked more worn out than a topless dancer nearing retirement age, and they were equally as comfortable. But I managed to make the best of it, at least on the way to SDCC. My big mistake? I sat next to the bathroom.

So, my trip progressed and when I finally decided to pull out my laptop to do some work, I realized that the free Wi-Fi that was advertised was anemic at best. There was so very little bandwidth that my laptop could barely stay connected and even a simple text-based page from the early 1990s struggled to load. So much for getting work done. Not only that, but the convenient power outlets that were also heavily advertised were about as loose as the pants of a person who just lost 20 pounds. Needless to say, things refused to stay plugged in. The struggle was real-ish. But the lack of Wi-Fi was the least of my problems.

I resigned myself to doing offline stuff on my laptop and tried to enjoy the ride, but then the smell happened. About three hours into the ride, the bus started to instantly and inexplicably, smell like a filthy litter box. I say inexplicably because literally nobody had used the bathroom the entire trip. Where did the pee smell come from? Why? Why was it so pungent? This became the bane of my existence for the next six hours and it was the only thing I can remember from my trip there. I resorted to sniffing my travel sized bottle of mouthwash and rubbing trace amounts of deodorant on my palm to sniff for solace.

Six long hours later, I arrived in downtown San Diego.

Four long, tiring, exciting, overwhelming days later, I headed back to the bus station for my 10:30 p.m. bus back home.

Do I have to admit that I wasn’t looking forward to it?

My experience at the Mesa station was organized, simple, and the opposite of chaotic. The San Diego Greyhound station was the definition of chaotic. There were probably 100 people crowded around waiting for various busses in a completely disorganized mess. It was truly surprising. On the way there, I figured I had discovered some hidden gem of an idea that nobody taking the trip to SDCC would have thought to do. On the way back, I realized that was foolish.

This bus was absolutely packed to the brim and somehow, the seats were even more uncomfortable than the trip there. However, I was truly, genuinely exhausted and figured I would just try to sleep the whole way home. I am known to be able to sleep pretty much anywhere and don’t have trouble staying asleep when I put my mind to it. Sleeping on this bus was a true struggle. One might say impossible.

The ride back was more of a stale human smell, as opposed to the pee smell from the last trip.

That, actually, was a major upgrade.

Again, the Wi-Fi situation was truly abysmal, so I just decided to try and struggle to sleep for 7 hours. Why 7 hours do you ask? Because I had a very frustrating transfer at the Phoenix station to another bus that would finally take me back to my original destination at the Mesa station. The word frustrating doesn’t even begin to cover it.

The final transfer went smoothly and the bus en route to Mesa was very empty. When I finally got there my checked bag was given to me in the exact condition I handed it to them, and my trip was finally over.

The verdict? A Greyhound bus is a great deal in terms of sparing your wallet some grief. As far as everything else goes, though, I noticed that there is always going to be some sort of frustration. It is not fast, overly convenient, comfortable or predictable. But hey, I got there and back safely, and I didn’t have to go through TSA.

So, thank you/screw you Greyhound.
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