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52 Hours on a Greyhound
January 2 January 11, 2002

The most obvious question to ask upon reading the title of this trip is, "Why on Earth would anyone choose to spend 52 consecutive hours on a Greyhound bus, especially in an era of cheap gas and discount plane fares?"  Or, perhaps more realistically for our readership, "What is you guys, a buncha idiots?"  Both valid questions, undoubtedly.

The two of us, like any red-blooded Americans, had long felt a yearning to visit all 50 states at some not-so-distant point in our lives.  Rob grew up a military brat, and, as such, was fortunate to have seen about 30 states during his youth.  Matt spent his whole childhood in Virginia, but got to visit other parts of the US during some family vacations and a Boy Scout trip to New Mexico.  Still, that left quite a bit of the country unseen by both of us.  With an eye toward winter break of our final year at the University of Virginia, we sought to remedy this situation with a trip out west.

The obvious means of accomplishing this goal, particularly in an era when gas was hovering just above $1.00/gal, was to drive.  However, lacking a car, we found this option insufficient to meet our needs.  Flying, long a popular choice for cross-country travel, would not allow us to check off the numerous states between airports.  Thoughts turned in the direction of public ground transportation, but Amtrak was too expensive and didn't provide convenient routes through certain required states on our lists.  The only remaining option was Greyhound, with stations conveniently located in Charlottesville, VA and Phoenix, AZ.  Comfort and customer service aren't high on Greyhound's list of priorities, but these were luxuries we couldn't afford on such an important mission.  Besides, we knew what the bus might lack in cheerful ambiance and sanitary restrooms would be more than made up for by quasi-human traveling companions and total lack of REM sleep.

Overall, the trip from Charlottesville to Phoenix totaled around 2300 miles, and amounted to 52 miserable hours aboard a Greyhound.  But, we got there, and more importantly, crossed several states off our respective lists along the way.  Once in Phoenix, we picked up a rental car and began the more enjoyable portion of the trip - 2353 miles in 70 hours through five national parks, four states, and two countries.  The highlights of our little jaunt included gawking at the unbelievable expanse of the Grand Canyon and the drop-dead gorgeous scenery in southern Utah, trekking to the lowest elevation in the western hemisphere (282 feet below sea level) in Death Valley, enjoying the 75 mph speed limits and the lax enforcement thereof in our little Daewoo Lanos, and getting stopped by Mexican police on a back street in Tijuana and searched for drugs in the middle of the night.

After returning the rental car in Phoenix, it was time to get on the damn bus again.  We headed first to Denver, and then to Oklahoma City, where we spent a total of about 30 hours in the company of friends, enjoying such extravagant accommodations as home-cooked food and warm showers.  After our stay in Oklahoma City, we hit the road for the final time, heading back to Charlottesville in our friend's car.  What may have seemed like a depressingly long haul under any other circumstances was, in comparison to the prospects of boarding another Greyhound, a pure delight for us: a 20-hour drive back to Virginia, interrupted only by a late night stop at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

In total seventeen states, two countries, and 7600 miles in nine days and six hours.

Detailed trip log and photos coming soon