During our Greyhound trip from Minneapolis to Chicago, we broke down in the middle of Timbuktu due to ‘unknown reasons’. As a result, we were stuck waiting in a car park for three hours for other coaches to come rescue us.
The driver finally rounded us up and announced that he was distributing everybody onto the new coaches in ticket order. “What about us?!” we shrieked in sheer panic. We didn’t have paper tickets as we used our 60 Day Discovery Pass to get on board. The driver quickly assured us though that he would find us a place… and a place we got! We were seated right at the front with the driver and his companion, like the queens of the Greyhound!
Alice chose this moment to add a little philosophy to our lives… “With a dash of humour and a drop of optimism, we can overcome anything!” Yeah okay then, Ginny. Towards the end of the journey, we got caught up in terrible traffic, which added yet more time onto the original ten hours. It was here that I could see Chicago from afar and I just knew that I was going to love this place; I could feel it in my bones. Fifteen hours later, we arrived!
It could be because we noisily stumbled in past midnight with our dead weight rucksacks, but the women in our dorm instantly hated us. The following morning we tried to be friendly and make an effort, but all we got in return was blank stares.
During our time in Chicago, Alice spectacularly navigated us around the city which has incredible architecture with mixes of the old with the new. We also visited the Museum of History and walked along the Michigan River which was lovely – I want to live in Chicago! Of course, we tried the famous Chicago-style hot dog which looked exciting, but it’s nothing special.
That night we found an Irish pub which made my life. There was a machine which dispensed free popcorn which Alice and I abused; I think we must have had around four or five massive bowls of the stuff. Clearly stuffing our faces works a charm because we got talking to US Army lads about God knows what; I was probably interrogating them on their Navy SEAL potential.
Back at the hostel, the abundance of free drinks suddenly hit their peak as we ran up and down the corridors like maniacs, bouncing of the walls and screaming so loud that the night guard came upstairs to have a word. Soon after, we crept back into our room where everyone was sleeping and began to whisper. However, the leader of the pack suddenly screamed, “GIRLS, IT IS 2 O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING, IF YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE A CONVERSATION, TAKE IT OUTSIDE!” Quite a reasonable request really, but we still had a strop about it before climbing into bed.
Around 20 seconds later, Alice ninja jumped out of the top bunk, whacking my head on the way down as she ran out of the room. I got up to follow, and found her throwing up in the bathroom. I began to hold her hair back while trying to stop myself from gagging when Alice gasped, ‘NO JEMMA, go save yourself! Get out of here!” Well, I learnt my lesson in San Antonio and got out of there pronto.
The following morning, we had hangovers from hell. In fact, Alice’s words when she opened her eyes were “is this what death feels like?” That rubbish con of travelling when you get the nagging feeling that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you can’t waste a second, so we had to guilt trip ourselves into being active. We decided on the Chicago Institute of Art which happened to be a great choice as there are benches in every gallery, so we turned it into a survival game; walk around the room feigning interest in the pretty pictures and we earn ourselves a sit down. I’m surprised neither of us vomited in an ancient vase. We also went to have a look at the Buckingham Fountain, and as a reward for doing so well, we treated ourselves to a meal in Greek Town.
Our next Greyhound trip was later that night so we made our way back to the hostel to grab our stuff, where I’ll add here that the weather was perfect. While checking out, the receptionist warned us about the incoming tornado, and told us to be safe when walking to the station. Considering the weather was fine five minutes ago, we thought nothing of it, but lo and behold, we were almost thrown of our feet by the wind force as we opened the door to get out. We were champions! Picture it: dark sky, ferocious winds, lashing it down with rain and deafening clanks of thunder and lightning. Now picture us, toddling along with our rucksack weighing us down with no protective clothing on at all to shade us from the elements. We did pass a couple of other backpackers in the same predicament though so a nod of mutual acknowledgment was in order.