I had my route planned out from Baton Rouge to New Orleans – walk down the River Road on river left. Visit Houmas House Plantation. Cross over the Mississippi River on Hwy 70 bridge to river right. Visit Oak Alley and Laura plantations. Then on to New Orleans. Google Maps says the distance is 82 miles. Sticking my thumb out I figured I could get to Houmas House by midday, visit the other two plantations on day two, and reach New Orleans sometime on the third day.
I don’t normally need an alarm clock; I’m up without one between 4:00 and 5:00 every morning. Except this particular morning. Slept in to 5:50. Sunrise coming just after 7:00 and I wanted to get an early start. Breakfast started at 6:00. A couple eggs and a cup of coffee. Check the weather. 36 frickin’ degrees and rain in the forecast. Back to the room to pack, looking out the window at the clouds and rain; just a light drizzle. Rain jacket, rain cover for my pack. This won’t be a problem.
I made it less than half a block from the hotel when the sky opened up and dumped down hard. Taking cover under a store awning I started considering my options. Step one: get back to the hotel lobby. Step two: get another cup of hot coffee. Step three: get on Greyhound’s website to check the bus schedule. Step four: check hostelworld.com to see what is available that night in New Orleans. Go!
The bus was scheduled to depart at 1:10 PM and we actually pulled out of the station two minutes early, but the bus stalled in the middle of the street. Personally, I think the newly-hired driving just didn’t give it enough gas, but she chose to return to the station to have it checked out.
Which is the greater adventure; hiking through the wilderness or taking a Greyhound bus?
Spending an extra hour in a bus station affords one the opportunity to observe people and try to guess “their story”. Remember George Carlin’s routine about playing spy in the airport? I’ve done it in airports around the world, but playing the game in a bus station adds a whole new twist. Pretty sure I didn’t see any spies though. Things I did notice included …
Pulling a cell phone out of your pocket will frequently attract someone who wants to borrow it to make one quick call. The first guy to borrow mine made two calls; the first to beg someone to go to Walmart to wire him $60 so he could find a place to stay and some food when he arrived, the second to beg someone else to pick him up at the station when he arrived. It was pretty obvious that both said no.
Despite the NO SMOKING signs and the diesel fuel warning signs, some passengers really really really need a cigarette. They will stand outside the bus, next to, but oblivious to the signs, to get every last drag they can out of that cigarette. And they will already have one in their mouth with lighter in hand as they exit the bus before they take that last step down to the pavement.
Kudos go out to the woman who manages the Greyhound station in Baton Rouge. She has the patience of a saint. I watched as one person after another approached her with petty problems, unable to make it through the simplest of life’s problems without assistance. To make matters worse, bus routes going north were being cancelled due to icy road conditions. People were starting to pile up in the station and this woman continued helping everyone she could with a warm and sincere smile.
Nonetheless, I was glad I was heading south to New Orleans. The ride was uneventful.
From the New Orleans Greyhound/Amtrak terminal I walked about a mile to catch a street car on Canal Street, which took me within a block of the India House Backpackers Hostel. An old converted mansion painted bright yellow. Not sure about its age, but I do know that it doesn’t have insulation or central heating. Very happy to have a warm sleeping bag.