Green Travel – Take the Bus

Riding the bus is good for the planet and your wallet.

Enjoy your vacation and cut your travel carbon emissions 55-77% by opting to take a bus instead of flying. Let’s embrace vacationing and protecting the planet.

On a recent vacation, my mother and I chose to travel by bus instead of flying. This post chronicles my experience riding on a long-distance Greyhound bus for the first time. It was better than I expected.

Getting from Point A to B

Last year, I told my mother I would be willing to take a vacation with her as long as it did not involve airplanes because flying has a huge environmental impact and I do not like any aspect of air travel.

A few months ago, she proposed the idea of going on motor coach tour that would take us to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks. I was excited about the prospect of visiting the national parks and looked forward to spending time with my mother.

With the decision made to go on the tour, we now needed to work out our travel logistics.

First, I would need to get from where I live in San Luis Obispo, CA to my mother’s home in Los Angeles several hundred miles to the south. We then needed to travel to Scottsdale, AZ where the tour began and later get back to Los Angeles from Las Vegas, NV where the tour ended. Lastly, I needed to get back home.

For the first and last legs of the trip, I could have driven my car, flown out of and into our small airport, or taken a bus. I chose to take the Amtrak train because I could stretch out and relax.

Getting to Phoenix and back to Los Angeles on the Greyhound bus seemed feasible so we booked the tour, bought our bus tickets, and arranged for transportation from Phoenix to Scottsdale.

Riding the Greyhound Bus

At 7:30 a.m. on the morning of our Phoenix-bound Greyhound trip, one of my mother’s friends dropped us off at the tiny Claremont bus station a few miles away from her house. Check in was easily accomplished but I had forgotten the free voucher for my second piece of luggage so I had to pay $15 for it.

The bus originated in Los Angeles and made one stop before arriving in Claremont several minutes past its target arrival time of 8:05 a.m. A few people got off and then the bus driver checked our tickets and loaded our luggage under the bus.

We walked to the third row and I managed to shove the tote bag carrying our lunch through the bungee cords into the overhead storage rack, which in not as roomy as airplane overhead bins. We kept our filled reusable water bottles and a knapsack containing snacks, reading material, and outerwear at our seats. I anticipated the air conditioning might make it cold on the bus but it was a pleasant temperature throughout the trip.

The safety belt equipped leather seats were about as comfortable as airplane seats with a tiny bit more legroom. The seat could recline, but like on an airplane if you reclined more than a little bit it would be unpleasant for the person behind you. There were two electrical outlets in each 2-seat row and free Wi-Fi throughout the bus. The windows were large and tinted. We settled in for the seven-hour ride, which would take us through mostly desert terrain on our way to Phoenix.

San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm Near Palm Springs, CA
San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm Near Palm Springs, CA – Photo Kit Conn

There was an onboard restroom, which we did not use. Perhaps I should have at least looked at it for research purposes but I supposed it was like an airplane lavatory, minuscule and sometimes not too clean.

As I looked about, I noticed that the bus driver cockpit was backed by what looked like a thick plexiglass divider and that a full height plexiglass gate had been pulled across the aisle separating the driver from the passengers.

A mother and her small daughter were sitting across the aisle entertaining themselves with a collection of dolls outfitted as various Disney characters. The background noise increased as the day wore on and more people boarded the bus but it was still a lot quieter than an airplane.

In Riverside, the man who had been sleeping in one of the front row seats got off the bus so my mother and I moved up front. Being in the front row made the journey more enjoyable but I think the third row would have been okay too.

Our first chance to leave the bus for a few minutes was at the San Bernardino station. I got off to use the restroom and stretch my legs. The station was larger and could accommodate several buses letting off and taking on passengers at the same time. We were the only bus at the station but it was busy with people at the counter and milling about the waiting room.

Our final stop before reaching Phoenix was for a lunch break in hot and windy Blythe near the Arizona state line. The Blythe bus station consisted of a few picnic tables outside of a gas station with a sizable minimart. I wrestled our lunch out of the overhead rack and we ate it outside while trying to keep everything from flying away.

After lunch, we gained one more passenger, a woman lugging an inordinate amount of carry-on totes and bags. The bus driver informed us that if all went well we would arrive in Phoenix on time in a little more than two hours.

Entering Arizona from California on Interstate 10
Entering Arizona from California on Interstate 10 – Photo Brandy Jenkins

The rest of the journey was uneventful and we did arrive in Phoenix on time at about 3:15 p.m. Our luggage was immediately available right next to the bus. The Phoenix station was large with space for about a dozen buses and inside there was even a security line. We met our ride outside the entrance and headed to the Scottsdale hotel where we would later meet our tour group.

From the time we left my mother’s house in the morning until we exited the Phoenix bus station with our luggage, we had invested about 8 hours in traveling by bus. Had we flown, getting to the airport, waiting, flying, and collecting our luggage would have taken at about 4 hours or more if the flight was delayed. So either way, we would have devoted a day to travel.

Unseen circumstances foiled our plan to take the Greyhound from Las Vegas back to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, my mother became ill during the tour and a long bus ride home with a layover in San Bernardino did not seem like it would be good for her wellbeing so we ended up flying from Las Vegas to Ontario and taking a cab to her house.

In the end, even though we did not completely accomplish our goal of no air travel, we had a good time and did substantially lower our travel environmental footprint. I also discovered that bus travel is more pleasant than I anticipated.

The next time you are planning a vacation, consider the taking the bus. It is good for the planet and your wallet.

Featured Image at Top: Greyhound Bus Interior with Passengers – Photo by Greyhound Lines

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Walking – Pedometer versus Fitness Tracker

Be healthy and green. Walk more, drive less.

Walking is good for your health and the planet. A pedometer or fitness tracker can be fun and help you stay accountable to yourself.

For our early ancestors, walking was an integral part of daily life and they walked everywhere. Getting from point A to point B contributed to staying fit and healthy and did not involve polluting the environment.

Nowadays, it seems like many people view walking as something to avoid if possible by driving places they could easily walk to in 10 or 15 minutes or sitting in idling cars waiting for the closest parking space. To compound matters, a lot of people work at sedentary jobs requiring sitting for long periods.

Fortunately, human beings are adaptable and we are able to learn new habits and renew previous ones. If you have gotten out of the habit of walking, you can choose to make walking part of your daily life, again.

A pedometer or fitness tracker can help you stay on track and give you a sense of accomplishment. Hopefully, the information below will help you determine if a pedometer or fitness tracker might be right for you and what type of product and features will help you fulfill your walking goals.

Pedometer Overview ($25 to $35)

Omron Alvita Ultimate Pedometer in GreyThe main function of a pedometer is to count your steps and estimate the distance you travel in a day. Most models will also estimate the number of aerobic (heartbeat-raising) minutes you walk and calories you burn, display the time, and hold seven days worth of memory.

Pedometer Set Up

Before setting up your pedometer, you will need to calculate your stride by walking 10 steps, measuring the distance with a tape measure, and dividing by 10. Repeat this process several times to make sure you are walking with your normal stride or it will skew your data. As an example, my normal walking stride is 210” divided by 10 = 21” or 1’-9.”

To set up your pedometer you enter the time and your height, weight, and stride. Then stick it in your pocket or clip it onto your waistband and start walking.

Pedometer Accuracy

The mechanism a pedometer uses to track steps seems to work best when you mostly walk on level ground. They tend to undercount steps when you are walking up or down stairs or hiking up and down hills. Also, keep in mind that your calories burned figure is a ballpark estimate based on limited information.

Fitness Tracker Overview ($50 to $250)

Fitness trackers function as pedometers with a few or a lot of additional features, such as estimating the number of staircases you climb, monitoring your heart rate, tracking your sleep patterns, logging all types of exercise, keeping track of your food and water intake, and integrating into your social media accounts. Some have GPS, texting and email, and alerts, like vibrating to let you know you have been sitting too long.

Fitness trackers use wireless technology to communicate with your smartphone and/or computer. This makes it easy to store, compare, and share your data and achievements.

Important Note – your smartphone needs to be a certain version or above to integrate with your fitness tracker. However, you can just sync your fitness tracker with your computer and track your data online.

Fitness Tracker Set Up

To get started with setting up your fitness tracker, you download the appropriate smartphone and computer apps. Then you create a profile and enter the same information you would for a pedometer. If you choose, enter your exercise and weight goals. Some trackers do not require you enter your stride length, but it is more accurate if you do.

Depending on the product you purchased, put it in your pocket, clip it onto your waistband, or strap it to your wrist and start walking.

Fitness Tracker Accuracy

Fitness trackers usually have more advanced mechanisms and sensors than pedometers so they seem to track steps and calories burned more accurately.

Pedometer versus Fitness Tracker

I bought my first pedometer in January 2010 to help me accomplish my New Year’s resolution of incorporating more walking into my day with a goal of walking 10,000 steps each day. It worked!

Fast forward to early 2016. I was nearing the end of a grueling year of treatment for breast cancer and I was ready to undertake the challenge of regaining my pre-cancer fitness level. It was hard work and I wanted to get “credit” for every step, including walking up and down the stairs in my 2-story house, so I decided to switch to a more accurate step counting fitness tracker.

After conducting research online and reading user reviews, I bought two fitness trackers to try out. I chose the Microsoft Band 2 because it seemed to have the most sophisticated mechanisms for counting steps and I selected the Fitbit One because it is tiny.

Microsoft Band 2 Review

I wore the Band 2 on my wrist for over a year and I even wore it while I slept for a few months. It was interesting to know how many staircases I climbed each day, how many hours of deep sleep I got, and what my heart beat rate was after doing a strenuous task, but it was unnecessary. Wearing something on my wrist was uncomfortable while typing on a computer keyboard and while sleeping.

Microsoft Band 2 Wireless Fitness Tracker

The Band 2 ($249.99) does count steps accurately but I wasted money on features I do not need or use. Microsoft has since discontinued this product.

Fit Bit One Review

I switched to the Fitbit One, which easily fits in my pocket. Although it will track sleep, I have not used the sleep wristband and do not intend to. I enjoy the little flower on the display screen that grows and shrinks depending on my activity level, but it is not necessary.

Fitbit One Wireless Fitness TrackerLike the Band 2, the FitBit One ($99.99) counts steps accurately and has features I do not need or use. However, being able to view my progress on my computer helps me stay motivated and earning badges is fun.

The Bottom Line

A pedometer is an inexpensive tool that can help you build more walking into your daily routine and then stick with it. If you do not walk up and down a lot of stairs or hills or are not that concerned with counting every step, a pedometer is a good choice.

Unless you are a professional athlete or a serious exercise enthusiast, many fitness tracker features might seem cool when you are reading about them but end up being unnecessary. If you want accurate step counting, data tracking, and/or like sharing on social media, a fitness tracker might work best for you.

Me, I am sticking with the Fitbit One because I want “credit” for every step.

Hopefully, the information above will help you decide whether to buy a pedometer or fitness tracker and what things to think about before you do buy one. The bottom line is that walking more and driving less is good for you and the planet.

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