Reconnecting In Maine

She was my childhood best friend and, at my persuasion, she moved in with me in New York from Pittsburgh. For nearly a year, we conquered even the most harrowing parts of city life together. She was a painter. We shared a studio space. We collaborated to create events that combined both music and art. When my band went on tour for the entire summer, she came with us and helped with driving and selling merchandise. But all of that concentrated time together backfired and by the end of that year, we had a falling out. She moved out of my apartment; she moved out of New York. She started a new life in Boston. She got a puppy. I sent her emails every now and then, hoping to maintain a thread of contact despite our mutual need for general distance. She always wrote back, even if it took a week or two. She came back to New York once for a night to visit her friends, including mutual friends. I saw her for a second, but the climate between the two of us was still tense and unforgiving. Twenty months of embarrassingly little communication passed and then I asked her to go to Maine with me.


Maine was the only continental U.S. state I hadn’t seen at the time. I read about an oceanside, dog-friendly resort just north of the Maine border and brainstormed a plan and presented it to her. After making sure she could get the time off from work, she agreed.

The cheap Chinatown buses that run nearly every hour from NYC to Boston and other major East Coast cities were means of regular travel for me. I arrived to the dumpy sidewalk corner where everyone waits for the bus thirty minutes early, luckily lugging only a backpack. I boarded a subtly bad-smelling bus and did what I always do on buses: alternated between staring out the window while listening to music and focusing intently on my laptop screen writing. She picked me up in downtown Boston. I was happy to see her – relieved even.

We went back to her house in Newton where I met her nearly 2-year-old Boxer and walked bemusedly into and through her strange home. She’d been living in a house that belonged to her godfather and she didn’t have to pay rent, but there was a catch: her godfather’s family stored anything they wanted in the house and on the property. A few rusted cars, all of which were out of commission, lined the driveway. I twisted through the maze between a handful of couches in the dark living room, passing an adjacent room that was so thick with the brush of dusty excess that it served no purpose other than storage. There were a few bedrooms upstairs and old mattresses were scattered throughout them. My eyes scanned each scene with rapidity, immediately finding items to remark on as if I were perusing the merchandise in a house-sized garage sale. The only section of the house she’d organized was the basement, which she had turned into an art studio. I asked her if she’d thought of ways to create more functional living spaces in the rest of the house, but she seemed to think that if she worked hard and made it look nice, that someone in her godfather’s family would suddenly notice the improvement and decide rent was owed. So she left it all the way it was.

We used her car to get to the resort in Maine, a place called The Cliff House Resort & Spa. Barring just a few wrong turns, it didn’t take us long to reach our destination. We pulled in late afternoon and were shown to our room. Our room belonged to the comparatively dingier side of the resort that contained the older building wherein dogs were permitted. No one else was staying in that wing of the hotel at the time and our balcony overlooked steep rock cliffs that dropped off into the Atlantic. It was perfect. We woke up at sunrise to walk the dog and stared out at the orange and pink beams of light over the ocean with gratitude. We stuffed ourselves with delicious seafood, blueberry pie and wine for three days. I had mussels, foie gras and raw oysters for the first time. When we weren’t eating, we were in the hot tub or the pool. When we weren’t soaking, we were getting massages or body wraps. We even had a masseuse come to our room and give the dog a massage, as if to prove to ourselves that such a service really did exist. He didn’t seem to like the massage at the time, but he fell asleep drooling as soon as the masseuse left – comatose. And when we weren’t doing any of those things, we talked. I had a crush on my now-husband at the time, but I wasn’t quick to admit it.

“I don’t know, E. Sounds to me like you like this guy,” she told me.

“Maybe,” I confessed.

Instead of taking the highway back to Boston, we decided to drive down the coast (I wrote about the drive for the Iconic Road Trips series earlier this summer). It took us roughly five extra hours to take this route, but it was worth it. We stopped for coffee (Seacoast Coffee Company) and photo-taking and got back to Boston with enough time left over to join her colleagues for a dinner at the restaurant where she worked before I boarded the 10 p.m. bus back to NYC. I hobbled onto the bus drunk, having taken too many generously poured, gratis glasses of wine from her manager. The bus smelled strongly of urine, as most Chinatown buses by nightfall do in my experience. I smiled, despite my gagging, at the small vacation I now had under my belt. I’d seen a new state, tried a handful of new things and made good with one of my oldest and closest friends. I woke up in Manhattan and took a taxi back home to Astoria.

Sam's Top 5 Things to Do in Maine

BusJunction helps prevent you from boarding a sketchy bus

Back in April we wrote about one-stop bus transport site BusJunction. Their service allows you to browse schedules of 14 different bus services, and purchase tickets on their site. Until now, you did not really have a good way of knowing just what kind of service you could expect.

With some of the horror stories of bus fires and buses losing their wheels on the highway, it’s reassuring to be able to make an informed decision before clicking “buy now”.

The reviews are provided by review site Yelp, which means you too can contribute to the collection of reviews after you’ve tried a bus line. Even if you don’t plan to take the bus any time soon, it is pretty entertaining to read the reviews, and get an idea of just how low-cost some of these bus lines are.

You’ll find BusJunction here
, and once you find a bus itinerary you like, simply click the star rating next to its name for the review.

Fung Wah bus adds New York – Providence route to their network

The Fung Wah Chinatown bus has long been a cheap and reliable way to get between New York and Boston, and as of June 15th, they will also operate a new route between New York Chinatown and downtown Providence, RI.

The 3 hour ride will cost $40 each way, and there are only 2 departure times in the schedule; 7am and 9am for Providence to New York and 4:15pm and 6:15pm for the reverse ride.

Despite the limited schedule, this is a cheap and simple way to get between these 2 cities, and certainly beats the hassle of flying.

If you are looking for simple way to find the best budget bus service, don’t forget to check out, or read our quick review of their service here.

Budget Travel: Hop on a bus

Depending upon the time frame you have to go from one point to the next, bus travel is a worthy option when looking for a bargain. Last summer, I opted for Greyhound as a way to get back from New York City to Columbus with my son. It was a perfect trip with few kinks. At the time, the bus fare was much cheaper than a flight, and I didn’t want to drive myself.

A few years back, I made a similar trip (from Cleveland to New York City) with my daughter when she was five with equally favorable results. And, well before that, I traveled with a friend for three months across the United States, criss-crossing from Kentucky to California–mostly by bus.

Here is a look at bus options in addition to Greyhound as a way to save money. Plus, a bus gives you the opportunity to watch the scenery glide by and hear songs like Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” playing in your head. [The photo posted by bobster1985 is of the Greyhound bus terminal circa 1936.]

First up, Greyhound: With a network that stretches across the United States to 2,300 different destinations, Greyhound is more likely to get you closer to the places you might want to go. If you’re heading to a major city, golden. If you have a small town in mind or a national park, lots of luck.

When my friend and I were mapping out our trip, we nixed several places because getting there was impossible, or too inconvenient. We also found out that the further west we went, the later a bus departed–or the earlier it arrived. However, we spent a whole day Salt Lake City and Denver without staying overnight by arriving early in the morning and leaving after midnight. Granted, it’s not a picnic at a bus stop in the middle of the night, but it’s not awful.

Because a Greyhound bus tickets can be purchased the day of a trip at the station, you can build flexibility into a vacation. When we bought our tickets, we figured out the route we wanted to take and the stops we could make in order to maximize our tickets. One leg went between Lexington, Kentucky to Racine, Wisconsin with stops in Louisville and Chicago.

For bigger savings, Greyhound has several budget options. Book ahead and on-line for up to a 20% discount. Right now, you can purchase a ticket 14-days in advance and get anywhere in the U.S. for no more than $99 one-way if you’re traveling on Monday through Thursday. At other times, a 14-days in advance purchase can get you a 35 % discount, and 7-days in advance can save 20%.

Unlike air travel, children, senior citizens and students also get discounts. Children under 2 can travel for free. Children ages 2-11 can get a ticket for 40% an adult rate. Seniors can get a 5 % discount. If you’re a student, with a Student Advantage Discount Card, you can save 15%.

Find out if you can get a Family & Friends companion fare. It’s still listed on the Greyhound website. If you’re traveling with another person, one person pays full fare, and the other person pays 50%. For a parent traveling with two children, each child pays 50%.

About Trailways and Peter Pan: Trailways is included in the Greyhound network. In many cases, you may be on Trailways bus for part of the trip and then switch to Greyhound. Greyhound specializes in coast to coast travel, while Trailways service is focused within distinct regions. A Trailways issued ticket is good on a Greyhound bus.

Peter Pan bus line operates in New England and is one way to get to smaller cities and towns. I’ve taken Peter Pan to Wooster, MA. Booking on-line offers cheaper ticket options. Like Trailways, Peter Pan dovetails with Greyhound.

Megabus: When Josh wrote about Megabus last October, a couple of people left comments giving a thumbs up to their experience. Touted as having bus fares as low as $1, bus fares go up as seats sell. As of last May, the company had served 1,000,000 passengers. The company now offers service to seventeen Midwest cities, seven West Coast cities, eight East Coast cities, and into Canada, however buses have very specific routes, so the reach may not be as wide as you need. You can also hop on a Megabus in Great Britain.

The map on the website shows the bus routes, and a drop down menu lets you know which destinations are connected to each other. For example, from Columbus, I can only go to Chicago, Cincinnati or Indianapolis on one ticket. From Chicago I can head to Minneapolis. In order to get to Memphis or Kansas City, other destinations, I’d have to go to Chicago first. If the price is right, why not? Otherwise take Greyhound.

When booking a Megabus ticket, you can block out several return date options if you want flexibility. As a point to be aware of, you can only bring one checked bag that doesn’t exceed 50 pounds, and one small carry-on bag. Greyhound allows for more.

Unlike Greyhound that operates out of bus stations, Megabus has specific bus stops that may or may not be near a bus station, but stops are clearly marked. Although most of Megabus’s business is done on-line, you can make reservations by calling their telephone reservation line.

I’ve never ridden a Megabus, but from the the description, they remind me of the more deluxe buses that went between Hsinchu, Taiwan where I used to live and Taipei–roomier than Greyhound and quicker because there are less pick-up points in between.

BoltBus: Grant took a BoltBus from Washington, D.C. to New York City last March and was generally pleased. Similar to Megabus, BoltBus offers an inexpensive option for going between Boston, NYC, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Ticket prices start as low as $1. Like Megabus, Boltbus also offers Wi-Fi access and plug-ins. Grant, though said that the Wi-Fi wasn’t working for him.

To buy a ticket, go to to purchase on-line. For the best deal, it’s recommended that you purchase tickets a couple weeks in advance. You can buy a ticket buy showing up the day of departure, but you’ll pay more and may not get a seat.

If you do buy a BoltBus ticket, be sure of your travel date because tickets are non-refundable. (Megabus allows you to change for a fee) Like on Greyhound and Megabus, children under the age of two can travel for free with an adult.

Chinatown Bus: Last year I found out about the “Chinese Bus” that leaves Columbus for New York City, every night (I think). Since then, I’ve discovered a vast network of buses that connect various cities to Chinatown. If you choose this option, book early on-line to make sure you get a seat, but be prepared that you may have to wait for another bus since buses fill up.

Like Boltbus, you can only buy a ticket on-line. Unlike Megabus, you must have a printed out boarding pass in order to get on the bus. Also, like Boltbus, tickets are non-refundable. (For more answers to questions you might have, click here.)

Departure cities range from Mobile, Alabama to Syracuse, New York and Spartanburg, South Carolina. This company also offers vacation package tours. There’s a three-day tour from NYC to Toronto that takes in Niagara Falls and Thousand Islands, for example. Excluding meals and admission fees, the tour costs $190 per person for a double occupancy room. If you buy two, the third person goes for free.

For a look at what traveling on a Chinatown Bus may be like, click here. One detail to know beforehand is that before you hop on one of these buses, make sure you are getting on the right one. Several leave from the same stop. Now, that really does sound like Taiwan.

An advantage of this bus over Greyhound is that it makes less stops so you can arrive at your destination more quickly. However, like Greyhound, departure times are hit and miss. The schedule, in a way, is a suggestion of when a bus might leave. Still, don’t arrive late or you might be out of luck.

Within the Chinatown bus offerings, The Fung-Wah Bus only travels between New York and Boston. You can either buy a ticket on-line or at the ticket office at 138 Canal Street.

Another company with the same service is Lucky Star. Currently, there is a promotion where you can pay $1 for a one-way fare, but this is first come, first serve.

For other bus company options, check out RK Chin, a journey through Chinatown. There are a few more you may want to consider.

How not to go to New York

I’m sitting on a bus right now, on my way home to Manhattan. I just spent the last two nights in Reading, PA with my wife’s family. What does this mean? I’m on a bus full of people who are making their annual trek to the “Big Apple.” Right next to me is a family trying to agree on what to do. You can tell it’s going to be a project from the stack of menus (Italian restaurants only) they have printed and are reviewing).

“I have no interest in shopping,” man says to woman, “you know, shopping for dresses and stuff.”

Next comment: “Aw come on … She wants to go ice skating.”

Finally: “I’m not saying I don’t want to spend time with you; I just don’t want to go shopping.”

Then, they give up for a while.

A bit of advice for anyone heading to New York anytime of year. While the city is big and can be intimidating, don’t over-engineer your visit. There is a lot you can discover just by walking around and getting lost (thay’s how I found Gramercy Park). Plan to have fun; don’t plan every movement.

If these people do anything else funny, I’ll let you know