We used a one-way Uhaul to move everything that we owned to Battle Creek, so we needed a way to get back to Chicago. Typically, we would take the Amtrak but for some reason the tickets were extremely expensive. Looking for cheaper options, I found the Indian Trails bus.
Since we’ll be taking buses a lot on our around the world trip, we figured that we would dip our toes into bus travel before we left.
We were impressed that the bus was pretty much on time when it arrived in Battle Creek. Once we boarded we were happy that the bus was nearly brand new, equipped with free wi-fi, a power outlet, seat belts and footrests. While it was cold, we expected that as most places keep the air cooler than we prefer it.
The bus was quite empty which was nice since we were easily able to get 2 seats together. Once we hit Kalamazoo, a college town, the bus began to fill up more, and by the time we hit Benton Harbor, every seat was filled.
While we started out enthusiastic, our enthusiasm waned as we were on the bus longer. Even though the bus was new, the seats were not built for comfort and the seat belts were extremely tight across our chests, especially when we moved.
About 15 minutes after we boarded, the driver stopped for lunch. While this is fine, it was not part of the schedule and the driver allocated a full 25 minutes for everyone to eat. Very few people on the bus actually ate and the 25 minutes allocated was more than enough time. I was hoping that the driver would see this and leave earlier but she did not – we had to wait the full 25 minutes.
The trend of long stops continued. At each stop, the driver would get off and smoke a cigarette before she would get anyone boarded on the bus. This extended the estimated 10 minute stops to 20 minutes or more which continued to add time to our journey. The driver did not seem set on her schedule which was frustrating to us, and anyone else that wanted to get back to Chicago as close to on-schedule as possible. There were a number of people who were connecting to other busses in Chicago and I’m sure that this was very stressful for them.
We made it to Chicago in 5 hours, 2 hours longer than it would take if we had rented a car and 30 minutes longer than scheduled. We were dropped off at the Greyhound transit center, not Union Station as our ticket said. We were told that if we wanted to be dropped off at Union Station it would be an hour wait before the bus would leave again. While it was frustrating, we know Chicago and were able to catch a CTA bus to our final destination. I could imagine that this would be stressful for someone who is not familiar with the city.
Choosing between the Indian trails bus and the Amtrak is picking the lesser of 2 evils in my mind. Neither is particularly fast or stays on their posted schedule but they both get you where you need to go for a reasonable price.
As much as I despise the Amtrak, I prefer the train over the bus if the pricing were the same. The seats on the train are more comfortable and you are able to walk around and stretch your legs.