Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Go Greyhound, and leave the driving to us!

I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't interested in buses. Yes, you heard that right: interested in buses. Such an interest is definitely off the beaten path, but what can I say? Many times over the years, I've wondered why something like buses would fascinate me the way that they do. The same goes for my interest in trains and even planes. They all have something in common, though: they take people somewhere.

When I was growing up, we hardly went anywhere. Taking a 35-mile trip to Thousand Oaks to visit family was about the longest drive that we took, and that was only once or twice a year. Otherwise, going somewhere much farther than that was very rare. I don't know why we didn't take trips, but we didn't.

When I was about five or six, my grandma asked me if I wanted to take a bus ride with her after church one Sunday. Grandma didn't drive so she used the RTD to get to where she wanted or needed to be. All these years later, I don't recall for sure where we went, but I believe it was to downtown Los Angeles. I remember seeing Angel's Flight still in operation at its original location and asking Grandma if we could ride it. She said no because she didn't think it looked very safe. I did finally ride Angel's Flight, but that was many, many years later after it had closed and reopened in its current location a half block away.

I came to associate buses with going places that we didn't go to as a family. At one point, we lived in a house that was on the turnaround loop for two RTD bus lines, so buses passed our house often. I looked forward to watching them go by. By the time I was a teenager and we lived in the house my mom currently lives in, I would ride the 16 or 74 line so I could go by our old house on the bus.

North Hollywood also had Greyhound and Continental Trailways service just a block away from our old house. I always wondered what it would be like to take a bus on a long trip. It took till 1974, but my brother and I got to ride a Continental Trailways bus out to Blythe, CA, after my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Jim moved from Thousand Oaks to Lake Havasu City, AZ. They came and picked us up in Blythe and took us the rest of the way to their house. A week later, they drove us back to Blythe to catch the bus home.

A couple of years later, I made a friend at a church camp who lived in Camarillo. I didn't have a car at the time, so I caught a Greyhound bus in North Hollywood and rode to Camarillo for the weekend. Good times indeed.

It's been years since I've taken any long bus trips. While I still like to get out and see the state and would like to see even more of our country, I've found that I'd really prefer to take a train or fly. But who knows...maybe I'll jump on a bus sometime and make a week out of it.

Some years ago, Greyhound took over Continental Trailways, leaving the U.S. with one major bus company. Greyhound is still going, though it has cut back considerably because it can't compete with the speed of air travel or the comfort of travel by rail. But you can't beat the fare if you're not in a hurry or concerned about accommodations.

Greyhound is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2014 and has been touring some of its classic vehicles around the country. I happened to learn that their Los Angeles stop would take place the weekend before Christmas 2014 in the parking lot at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Since that place is already a regular stop of mine, I figured that taking a run out there to see some classic buses was something of a no-brainer.

I started with the oldest vehicle in the display, a 1937 Supercoach, built by Yellow Coach, a division of General Motors.

Most of the other buses on display were open for anyone to climb aboard, but this bus and one other were not open except by permission from the people in charge. I asked nicely and had one of the guys escort me aboard. While inside, I got a couple of pictures which give a good idea of what bus passengers experienced back in the day.

Standing in the front of the bus looking toward the rear.
Standing in the rear of the bus looking toward the front.

There was an information sign posted just outside the door of the bus. Here's the one for this 1937 Supercoach. You may have to zoom in to read it.

Next up was the 1948 ACF Brill coach.

Again, I was escorted inside and got to take a couple of photos.

Looking toward the rear.
Looking toward the front.

One thing noticeable about the 1948 ACF Brill is that it has larger windows than the 1937 Supercoach. Here is the information sign about this bus.

I didn't feel like I had to take a look inside the newer buses, being that having ridden them, I already knew what to expect. Here are two shots of buses that are newer than the ones I just covered, but not the newest in Greyhound's fleet. First up, a 1968 MCI MC-7.

Here's a shot of a 1984 MCI MC-9.

One thing that I thought was clever was how the fleet number on each of these buses was the model year of that particular bus. In revenue service, these buses were assigned numbers by Greyhound, though I couldn't tell you what their actual numbers were or how they were derived.

While I didn't go into either of the MCI buses, I did go inside one of Greyhound's newest vehicles, a brand new Prevost coach. Here it is as seen from the front, complete with an electronic destination sign and decked out in Greyhound's latest paint scheme:

Here's a look inside. And it's not your imagination—these seats are equipped with three-point restraints, just like in your car!

Looking toward the rear.
Looking toward the front.

Before leaving, I had to take a look inside one bus that had been converted to a rolling Greyhound museum. I chose not to take too many pictures inside due to reflection on the glass of the exhibits, but featured were uniforms worn by drivers over the years, lots of photos and information about Greyhound, and some models of various Greyhound buses. I was able to take decent pictures of the models, as reflection on the glass wasn't much of a problem here for some reason.

So there you have it. As they used to say in their ad, go Greyhound, and leave the driving to us!