Greyhound bus driver heads wrong way: Where’s a GPS when you need one?

Greyhound bus drivers generally don’t make national news. Pilots who overshoot airports, however, end up having their story told over and over again on about every entertainment vehicle there is. How many places did you hear or read about the Northwest Airlines pilots who missed Minneapolis and didn’t figure out their mistake for 150 miles?

Now, how many of you heard about the Greyhound bus driver who headed the wrong way for more than an hour last week? Yep, last Saturday morning at about 7:14 a.m on October 31st, that’s exactly what happened–a bus driver went the wrong way for more than 70 miles.

Here’s an exclusive Gadling report that has yet to show up anywhere. Gadling knows because Gadling was there.

What started out to be a slam dunk from Cleveland’s bus station to Port Authority in Manhattan turned into a Twilight zone episode. For the band of riders who were heading to New York for a variety of reasons–like the R&B singer who was moving from Michigan to Manhattan to try to make a living, and the young man moving back to Hartford, Connecticut from Cincinnati, the bus was the cheapest travel option.

For this mother and her daughter, it was certainly the cheapest way for a last minute trip to NYC for a Halloween weekend that doubled as a 17th birthday present.

Each of us were initially thrilled to be on the spillover bus out of Cleveland. When there are too many passengers for one bus, another driver is called for a second bus. Riding on the second bus generally means more room.

When the second bus pulled out of the Cleveland terminal at 2:30 a.m. or so, the passengers, mostly with two seats to themselves, settled in for slumber. The bus’ interior lights were off creating an aura of cozy humanity as the bus headed to I-80 east for the trip straight to Manhattan. With the stop in Newark dropped because no one on the bus was going to Newark, this meant arriving ahead of the 11:15 a.m. schedule. Sweet!

At 6:55 a.m., the bus pulled into a truck stop near Milesburg, Pennsylvania. Most everyone got off in search of coffee and a toilet that didn’t move from side to side. Some huddled together for a quick smoke.

By 7:15 everyone was back on the bus, settling in for more shut eye as the sun began to rise. At 8:30 the dream come true ride ended.

The driver’s “Oh, my god! Oh, my god! I don’t believe this. We were almost there,” paired with her frustrated laughter–the kind of laughter one uses when there’s no other possible response because crying would be just too awful, woke up this Gadling rider. From the vantage point of three rows back from the driver on the right side of the bus, it was clear the driver was talking to herself.

Peering out the window looking to see what was up, the first thought was traffic caused by an accident. Nope. That wasn’t it. The highway was clear.

When the bus pulled off the highway, making a jog along a side road, the thought was another rest stop already?

Nope. That wasn’t it either. The driver swung the bus back onto the highway.

When an I-80 east sign appeared, so did a sinking feeling–and an urge to start moaning, “No, no, no!”

When the “Bellfonte 65 miles” (or so) sign appeared, it was clear what had happened. At Milesburg, the driver headed off on I-80 west instead of going east, thus driving back towards Cleveland. We had driven miles in the wrong direction past the State College turn off in the center of Pennsylvania where we had been before.

Unfortunately, it took the driver over an hour to figure out that she was heading away the wrong way.

We would not be arriving in New York City before 11:15. That’s when we’d be hitting the Poconos just in time for Saturday afternoon traffic.

The R&B singer’s friends who were at Port Authority to meet the bus called her wondering where she was after the first bus showed up on time. They told her that they had to go to work and would not be able to help her with her luggage after all.

By the time the bus pulled into Port Authority at 1:30, more than two hours behind schedule, five people felt steamed up enough to head to Greyhound customer service to complain. That meant filling out paperwork describing the event and leaving contact information.

For Gadling, the mistake meant two less hours in Manhattan. For others, it meant missed connections that ended up costing money and a travel headache they hadn’t counted on. The R&B singer had Greyhound comp her the price to store her luggage until she figured out how to get it to her new digs. When we left the customer service counter, the young guy was still trying to figure out how to get to Hartford and contact the people who were to meet him there. He was hoping Greyhound would put him on the train.

Greyhound customer service is going to let us know if they’ll be any ticket compensation once the incident is investigated. A voucher for future travel on Greyhound would be nice. You never know what kind of adventure you’re going to have when a bus pulls out of a station. I’m thinking about taking my son to Manhattan the middle of December to take in the holiday lights.

As for the ride back, the bus pulled into the Columbus, Ohio bus station right on time–7 a.m. on Monday morning.

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Cleveland in 36 hours and some

This past Sunday’s New York Times’ article “36 Hours in Cleveland” did the city proud. Writer Brett Sokol captured most of the must-sees of Cleveland’s many faces that range from the down home blue collar to the artsy and highbrow. I was particularly pleased to see a nod to Lilly Handmade Chocolates in the Tremont district. The pink-haired owner is a delight and the chocolates exquisite. Think manna from heaven. Please go there because I so want this upbeat business to succeed.

For anyone planning a few days trip to Cleveland, print off Sokol’s article as a basic guide but add to the itinerary. The places I’d add to round out the mix are top notch and next to the ones that Sokol highlights. You’ll have to add a few hours to fit everything in though, otherwise you’ll be racing through Cleveland without enough time to enjoy the view–or savor the food.

Even if you don’t want to pay admission to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, take time to enjoy the building. The atrium and gift shop are free. The building, an I.M. Pei creation, is one of my Cleveland favorites. Some hotels like the Embassy Suites may have a package deal where tickets to the museum are part of the deal. The view of Lake Erie from inside the museum is wonderful.

Next to Rock and Roll is the walkway that heads down to the lake. This is where artist Spencer Tunick set up his shots of naked people. At the end of the walkway you can catch a trip on the Good Time III, the sightseeing boat that travels up the Cuyahoga River. The tour passes under a series of Cleveland’s movable steel bridges that turn and raise to let tall boats through.

This part of Cleveland that edges Lake Erie is also where the Great Lakes Science Center and the Cleveland Browns Stadium are located. The science center boasts a wide range of hands-on exhibits that suit people of all ages. Along the outside wall of the Browns stadium are bronze relief plaques that pay tribute to Football Hall of Famers who played with the Browns.

Before you head to Lilly’s for a chocolate fix, if it’s a Sunday, go to Lucky’s Cafe for brunch. Lucky’s is also on Starkweather Avenue. Be prepared to hold your ground when it comes to getting a table. It’s first come, first serve. Don’t lose your place in line. If you’re with another person, one of you should stake out a table while the other person orders at the counter. The fruit salad with yogurt is absolutely gorgeous and sublime. Personally, I’d have them go sparingly on the honey.

At Lolita, Iron Chef Michael Symon’s restaurant, one of Sokol’s recommendations I second, order appetizers and a pizza for dinner. It’s one way to cut down on the price of a meal and still be able to savor Symon’s brand of creative cooking paired with a glass of wine.

Sokol’s choice of Sokolowiski’s University Inn as another meal location was a brilliant call as a way to contrast Cleveland’s upscale cutting edge creations with its comfort food and ethnic roots. Here I dug into the pirogies and cabbage rolls . Plus, as Sokol notes, the view of Cleveland from this restaurant encapsulates what makes the city unique.

Another area of the city that Sokol captured in his 36 hour spree is University Circle. Although it was “built on the backs of the working people,” as my husband, the son of an auto worker, is fond of saying, wealthy industrialists did put their money to excellent use. For example, The Cleveland Museum of Art, I think, is the grandest museum in Ohio–and it’s free. Recently renovated, the 1916 building is an architectural gem. October 4- January 18, 2010, Paul Gauguin: Paris features 75 of Gauguin’s paintings. Although the main museum is free, this special exhibit has an admission.

Nearby are the Cleveland Botanical Gardens and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Each are also worth a visit. The glass house at the botanical garden features a wonderful canopy walk that is a chance to pretend that you’ve gone to Costa Rica–the version without the rain as Katie recently experienced.

Another of my Cleveland favorites that garnered a Sokol nod is the Westside Market. Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous place. If you want to see the bounty of Cleveland’s ethnic heritage, it’s clearly evident in the mix of food stalls. Asian food newcomers have found their way here as well. Here you can pick something up to take on the road or chow down on there.

Ohio City, where the Westside Market is located, is a restaurant mecca. Within view from each other–most on West 25th Street are Phnom Penh, Bar Cento, and Nate’s Deli and Restaurant . Around the corner on Market Avenue are Great Lakes Brewing Company and Flying Fig. Each of these are excellent. Take your pick depending upon your mood, time of day, financial situation and appetite. There are more eateries than these, but these are the ones I’ve been to and can give a rousing thumbs up.

Along the Hudson: The Hudson River School and top places to see the paintings

Four hundred years ago, when Henry Hudson first saw the river that was named after him, I imagine he felt inspired by its beauty. The river not only captivated Hudson’s attention motivating him to take a look-see far up into its reaches, it has also inspired artists to capture its essence, literally and figuratively.

There are places along the Hudson River’s shores where you can imagine painters who developed The Hudson River School sitting with their canvas creating their masterpieces. Unlike how it sounds, The Hudson River School is not a place at all, but an art movement that occurred during the 19th century, and the first to be deemed American.

With the festivities happening in the towns and cities along the Hudson this year to celebrate it’s discovery, it seems fitting to give a nod to these artists who were inspired by the Hudson’s beauty and used its images as a metaphor to express ideas about what the United States represents. What are the themes? Discovery, exploration and settlement. Head west, and you’ll see these themes over and over again. These guys were onto something.

The scenes you see in the paintings, however, are not exactly as is. The artists took parts of scenery that they had sketched in their travels and put them together in such a way to make their point that nature, and people’s communion with it, are testaments to God’s glory. Communing with nature, therefore, is a way to experience God’s power.

The painting Kindred Spirits by Asher B. Durand is such an example. The two men in the painting are of the artist and Thomas Cole. You can read what the painting represented to Cole in this overview of The Hudson River School by Thomas Hampson.

As Hampson explains, such themes are also expressed in the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau who helped found Transcendentalism. To them, and to these artists, what better place to be a witness to the power of God and the human ability to feel and become empowered by it, than in the natural world found in the the American landscape?

Not only the Hudson River is depicted by Hudson River School artists, most notably Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand, but so are the White Mountains in New Hampshire and other areas of the Catskills.

For a close look at one of the later Hudson River School painters who helped develop the art movement called Luminism that developed from the Hudson River School, visit Olana, Frederic Edwin Church’s home along the Hudson River not far from Hudson, New York.

Here, Church and his wife raised their family and created a home that is a visual masterpiece. When I visited Olana, I was intrigued by Church’s treatment of the landscape. He had certain trees cut down along the river banks near his home to create a certain look to the scenery and better highlight the Hudson River’s beauty.

Olana is merely one place to see Hudson River School artwork. Several museums have pieces in their collections.

If you are walking in the mountains and along the river that were the inspiration for this artwork, see if the muse strikes you. Maybe another art movement is percolating.

Greyhound travel: A worthy option and travel tips for the ride.

When deciding how to get to New York City from Columbus at the last minute earlier this week, airfares were hefty, even for flights with connections that may or may not happen according to schedule. Fly to New York from Columbus and you’ll see what I mean. Frankly, when tossing in the realities of making my way through airport security, Greyhound was a better option. Last summer I traveled from New York to Columbus on the bus, and I’m still a fan of bus travel.

One advantage to bus travel was being able to leave at 11:25 p.m. Because it was a last minute trip, I had much to do before heading away from home for a few days. There wasn’t a flight that fit my needs.

Before embarking on a night bus, however, there are a few items to consider. Here are some tips to having a more restful, relaxing and enjoyable ride.

  1. Bring a neck pillow. Yes, I know a neck pillow looks sort of dumb, something that Mike could josh about in SkyMall Monday, but the one I brought along made a difference to how well I was able to sleep. Whether you’re in an aisle or a window seat, it works well.
  2. Bring socks if you’re wearing sandals. It feels good to slip off shoes. When my feet started getting cold I put socks on and was glad that I had them.
  3. Bring water. Unlike the airplane, you can buy water beforehand and bring it with you without a hassle.
  4. Bring something for listening to music. Sure, this might be obvious to most you Gadling readers, but I’m not a person who plugs into music. For this trip, though, I scrounged around the house for a portable CD player, bought a new pair of earplugs and grabbed some batteries along with a couple of CDs before I left the house. I only listened to a CD when I wanted to go to sleep. It helped relax me.
  5. Bring an apple or two. Apples travel well. Fresh fruit on a bus trip feels healthy.
  6. Bring a lightweight blanket–like maybe one you took from an airplane, by mistake. Or a shawl. The shawl I had was lightweight, but it helped give me a sense of comfort.
  7. Bring a few snacks. Even though you can buy snacks at rest stops, you may not find what you feel like eating and the rest stop may not have power. When we stopped in Pennsylvania, the electricity at the rest stop was out so I couldn’t get some of that yummy machine coffee I was so looking forward to.

Things to keep in mind:

  1. Keep your toothbrush and toothpaste handy in your carry-on bag. Brushing your teeth in the morning at the breakfast stop helps you feel fresh.
  2. If you do bring your toothbrush and toothpaste into the breakfast stop bathroom, don’t forget them there. Particularly if they are with your makeup bag. If you do that, be glad it wasn’t your money that you left behind. I know I’m glad.
  3. If the bus driver tells you not to get off the bus because it’s a quick stop, don’t get off the bus. One man got off in Newark, New Jersey and was left behind. People on the bus told his wife to tell him to take the Path train in order to meet up with her in Manhattan.If this happens to you, the Path train is on the second floor of the Newark terminal. At least, that’s what I heard.
  4. If you are stuck waiting for the transfer bus, like in Cleveland, Ohio at 3:00 a.m., for example, take the opportunity to people watch and be glad that there wasn’t enough room for everyone on the first bus. If you are on the 2nd bus, you might be lucky enough to sit by yourself. I was.
  5. And, best of all, enjoy the scenery as you roll by. Think about what it would be like on a wagon train. At least you have air-conditioning and a cushioned seat.It could be worse. You could be stuck in an airport wondering when your connecting flight will ever take off.
  6. One more thing. Even if you do put your bag under the bus, you can keep track of it since you are the one to transfer it from one bus to the next. After you pick it up after the luggage handler has set it next to the bus, put your suitcase in the line for the gate, chat with one of the people standing in line along with you, ask “Would you mind watching this for a second?” and then go to the bathroom. Everyone does this. At least they did in Cleveland.
  7. If there is an artist in you waiting to come out, release the muse. Look at these lovely sketches of people at the Cleveland bus terminal by Emily R. Feingold that I just came across.

I’ll be heading back to Columbus on another night bus tomorrow. Because it’s a bus ticket, as long as I’m heading from New York to Columbus, I can go on whichever bus suits my schedule.

Not a bad deal for $169 round trip, the cost for a last minute ticket. If I had purchased it a week earlier, it would have been cheaper.

An animated version of New York City shows a timeless quality

No matter how many ways New York City is depicted in film, there is always another view that offers a surprise. Here is a link to a video by New York artist and filmmaker Jeff Scher. He writes the blog The Animated Life for the New York Times. As he says about this particular 2:06 minutes of visual artistry he created in 1975, there is a timeless quality about New York.

What Scher made more than 30-years-ago looks similar to the essence of New York City today. That’s not true about many places.

A few years ago when I was on a six-hour walking tour of Cleveland, I thought about how that city had changed since the 1960s when the Terminal Tower was the 2nd tallest building in the world. It was the world that Ralphie of A Christmas Story went to on his visit to Santa Claus. Higbees where Ralphie gazed in the window at animated wonder has long closed. Downtown Cleveland on a Saturday morning along Euclid Ave. is not a crackling place. I really love Cleveland. I really do. I’d live there if I didn’t live here. But if you did a video 30-years-ago of Cleveland, it would not look the same as today’s version–at least not if you shot it downtown. Maybe it would, if you squinted and imagined people.

Scher’s vision of New York City is a jazzy rendition of a city that no matter what happens has a constancy that one can count on year after year. Jeremy is capturing much of it in his weekly series “Undiscovered New York.” Plus, Scher’s film is a cool art piece besides.

The photo is from another one of Scher’s blogs, Reasons to Be Glad. The blog has other shots of New York City that are examples of the variety of intersting angles out there.

A few years ago when I was on a six-hour walking tour of Cleveland, I thought about how that city had changed since the 1960s when the Terminal Towers was the 2nd tallest building in the world. It was the world that Ralphie of the movie A Christmas Story went to on his visit to Santa Claus. Higbees where Ralphie gazed in the window at animated wonder has long closed. Downtown Cleveland on a Saturday morning along Euclid Ave. is not a crackling place. I really love Cleveland. I really do. I’d live there if I didn’t live here. But if you did a video 30 years ago of Cleveland, it would not look the same as today’s version–at least not if you shot it downtown.

Scher’s vision of New York City is a jazzy rendition of a city that no matter what happens has a constancy that one can count on year after year. Plus, it’s a cool art piece besides. The photo of a bus and a taxi is another Scher creation and a feature of his blog “Reasons to Be Glad”.