Did you know it takes 24 hours to get from Santa Cruz to Los Angeles?

Maybe that’s only if you’re me. Here’s what happened to me between noon on Sunday and noon on Monday.

After spending a crazy weekend in Santa Cruz for our friend Bridgette’s wedding, five friends and I piled back into the van we drove up in on Friday and headed back home. Everything was going awesome and party van round two seemed to be underway until we got a few miles outside of Watsonville.

That’s when the transmission went out.

Suddenly, the van wouldn’t shift into third. We were quickly  approaching (well, coasting at 35mph or so) the absolute middle of nowhere until Kahlie, the driver of her mom’s van we had borrowed, made an executive decision and turned us back towards town. We ended up stopping at a gas station/market in Aromas where Kahlie, Robert and I checked the transmission fluid and other obvious quick fixes but to no avail. We briefly toyed with the notion of just coasting down the 101, but anyone who’s made that drive before knows it’s all smooth sailing until you hit the big hill in Camarillo. There’s no way we’d make it even halfway up; and it’d probably be best not to drive an obviously busted van 400 miles. We also thought about towing the van to Paso Robles where Kahlie and I both have family and where someone might be inclined to drive from LA and pick us all up. Upon review, that seemed completely impractical and very expensive.

So, phase one: get the van and everyone in it back to Bridgette’s house in Santa Cruz.

We obviously had to tow the van, but it’s illegal for us to be in the van while it’s being towed and tow trucks don’t tend to seat seven. We lucked out that Ashley had AAA+ which offers 100 free tow miles, so getting it all the way back to Santa Cruz wasn’t such a huge deal, financially. Taylor got on the phone with her friend Dave and was able to convince him to come pick up a couple people and drive them back to Santa Cruz and then Ashley told AAA we needed someone with a big enough cab to seat the rest of us. After about an hour and a half or so killing time in Aromas we were on our way back to the party.

Since we first broke down I had been on my iPhone trying to figure out the best way to get everyone back to LA; Amtrak, Greyhound, flying, etc. Taylor had gotten ahold of her friend Phil who was in Oakland and also heading back to LA that day and was able to secure rides for herself and Bianka and the four of us remaining (Ashley, Kahlie, Robert and myself) vowed to stick together. We resolved to catch the Greyhound leaving at 10:30 that night that would get us into Downtown LA around 7am. Not ideal, but it was really our only option.

So, phase two: get everyone tickets for the bus in hand and then get on the bus and on our way.

I’m familiar with Greyhound travel and know it can be pretty shady sometimes so I wanted to get everything as secure as possible as soon as possible. The second we got back to Bridgette’s I asked to borrow a computer and double checked the prices and schedules. We could purchase tickets online, but we’d have to print them out at home; or we could walk down to the bus station that was closing in 45 minutes and buy tickets there. When Bridgette told me she didn’t have a printer, I convinced Ashley and Kahlie to hustle down to the station with me so we could just get everything out of the way. The bus wasn’t leaving for another six hours, but I was taking no chances.

However, when we reached the station at 4:30pm, we found a sign that looked like this:

on a door that looked like this.

None of this boded well at all. Not only was the bus station (looking abandoned, as bus stations often do) closed when the sign on the door said it should be open, but as far as we could tell there was no such bus to LA leaving at 10:30 that night. [It was later discovered that the route to LA goes through San Jose, north of Santa Cruz, so that part of the sign did make sense.] Well, crap.

After a few minutes of aimless wandering and restrained panic we resolved to head back to the house and regroup. By now it was 5pm, so if we were getting tickets for that bus it would be online anyways.

We passed a FedEx Kinkos on the way and decided to just duck in and handle it there; that way we could get the tickets printed and could “relax” at the house with everyone watching the Superbowl.

The three of us sat down at a terminal and I put my card in the thing. I got all the way to the ticket purchasing screen before I realized, duh, my card was in the thing. Ashley bought her ticket, then Kahlie went ahead and got tickets for her and Robert. I ejected my card and Kahlie put hers in so I could hop back on and get my ticket. When I got to the fare selection screen there was a notice that said online ticketing was no longer available for that fare (or, as it turned out, any fare).



After several refreshes it became clear I might be fucked. I immediately hopped on the phone with Greyhound hoping to purchase a ticket over the phone. After the most superfluous key pad menu maze I’ve ever experienced I was thrust on hold for nearly half an hour listening to music from a silent movie before I was able to finally speak to a human.

I told her my situation, that my friends had all just purchased tickets online and that it was imperative I be on that bus with them. She put me back on hold to “check” for me. Check what, exactly? Check that the bus in question exists? That I’m not lying about the website? We’ll never know, because after a few more minutes on hold I was disconnected.

I felt myself slipping. I flung my phone onto the table, shot up out of my chair and took a moment. Regroup. Try again. Breaking something won’t get me on a bus.

I sat back down, picked my phone back up and redialed. Went through the menu again and I was back on hold. Luckily, I was only on hold for about ten minutes. Unfortunately, this new woman had nothing but bad and/or nonsensical news for me.

I told her what happened and she told me I could purchase a ticket over the phone. Eureka! It would cost more because it was over the phone. Lame. I asked her if I would be able to receive my ticket via email like the online tickets so I could print it out and she said no. I asked her how I’m supposed to acquire my phone-purchased ticket if the station is closed and she told me I couldn’t. Um? She said it was up to the discretion of the bus driver whether or not I would be let on after pleading my case. I double checked the facts: I can purchase a ticket over the phone that is impossible to pick up and after paying more money to do so there was no guarantee whatsoever, and from the sound of it not even a very good chance that I would actually be let on the bus? No deal! Over the course of our discussion she had taken a tone with me as if I was the stupid one for asking all these ridiculous questions about the simple acts of purchasing a ticket, receiving it and using it to get on a bus. So, I snapped. I told her she was useless when she said she hoped she was helpful, told her I would never choose Greyhound again after she asked that I do, and hung up defeated.

I then called Greyhound’s online support number. Already disillusioned with every customer [dis]service Greyhound had offered me so far, my expectations were fairly low; but nothing could have prepared me for what I heard on the other end of that line. My spirits raised a little when I was barely kept on hold, but then shattered when I discovered the person on the other side was one of the adults from Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies.


Um, hello?


I can’t understand you, could you adjust your mouthpiece?


Uh, hello?


I felt myself losing it again. I told Kahlie and Ashley what I experienced and Ashley gave it a go with identical results. FUCK. I guess that’s that.

When we left Bridgette’s it was sunny out; expecting a quick trip I hadn’t bothered with a jacket. Now it was a couple hours later, dark out and fucking freezing outside. Ashley and Kahlie took turns trying to keep me warm, but between being freezing and still without a ride home I was starting to get pretty verklempt. When we got back to the house I grabbed a beer and went out back for a moment alone while Ashley and Kahlie filled everyone in. I called my best friend and talked it out.

I was starting to think something was trying to keep from going home and maybe it was time to take it as the sign it clearly was and just try again the next day. But, there was still one more thing I could do.

I texted Taylor and asked her if there was any way at all I could ride bitch in Phil’s car. I had plenty of money for gas and didn’t mind the snug ride. About half an hour went by before Taylor called to tell me Phil wasn’t going to leave anyone behind in Santa Cruz and I was in as long as I had some money for gas and I could give Bianka a ride home when we got to the city. Thank fucking christ! Goin home!

Phil wasn’t planning to head back to LA until after midnight so I had a few hours to kill. I hung out in the living room with everyone, watching tv and drifting in and out of a much needed nap. He and his friend Mike arrived around 12:30 and the five of us piled into his Camry. I volunteered to ride bitch, being the smallest and the latecomer. It wasn’t comfortable, but it would only be for five hours and then at least I’d be home.

We started out heading south according to Mike’s directions. Phil was blasting a Meatloaf album to keep himself awake. This, also, was not ideal, but I had no intention of complaining. We were driving for almost an hour and got all the way to Seaside before we realized we were going the wrong fucking direction if we intended to take the 5 home.

On the drive back towards Castroville it came out that Phil had apparently taken some Xanax. Xanax is the furthest thing from a good idea for someone who’s already tired and responsible for driving four people from one side of a state to the other in the middle of the night. We didn’t make it to the 5 before Phil pulled off the road near a cliff in the middle of nowhere to take a power nap.

His power nap lasted an hour and a half before I was able to rouse anyone else in the car enough to suggest maybe someone else drive for a while. I offered, but Phil wouldn’t hear it. I’d spent the last almost two hours feeling claustrophobic and like I was suffocating in the small stuffy car unable to move my legs and the ability to keep my cool was rapidly decreasing with this nonsense. Bianka let me out and I got some freezing air; she switched spots with me and I felt better already knowing I’d be able to wiggle my feet for at least the next leg of the trip. Mike bullied Phil into getting us moving again and we were back on the road.

We made it to 5, but not quite to Fresno before he pulled off again. If I had to stay trapped in the backseat of a Camry in the middle of nowhere for two hours again, I was likely to kill someone. Probably Phil. By now it was five in the morning, we were nowhere near home, and at this rate we were going to hit rush hour traffic before we even got anywhere near LA. When I passed on this information to Taylor she laid a smackdown. She would be driving while Phil got the sleep he obviously needed in the backseat.

I emailed my boss from my phone to tell her I may or may not be at work.

With Taylor driving I was able to relax enough to doze off for a while. When I regained full awareness the sun was out, we were around Van Nuys, and we weren’t moving. Traffic. I went back to sleep.

Over the next FEW HOURS we trudged through traffic, dropped off Bianka in LA, went to Phil’s house (which, as it turns out, is right around the corner from my house), transferred to Mike’s car, and drove to San Pedro to Kahlie’s mom’s house where my car was. Then, I dropped off Taylor at her place in Downtown LB and finally made my way home after grabbing some Mexican food by my place. I got home at 12:30pm.

The trip back wasn’t the party van part two we had all been looking forward to, but we made the best of it. If I was going to be trapped in the middle of nowhere with some crazies, I’m glad it was them.


2 Responses to “Did you know it takes 24 hours to get from Santa Cruz to Los Angeles?”

  1. 1 Alex
    February 12, 2010 at 11.14am

    Good job keeping your cool; I really would have lost my shit. I’m a little offended you didn’t ask for help, though! I almost offered.

  2. 2 not your mom
    May 18, 2010 at 9.19am

    I’m glad you changed all the names of the people involved to protect their identities.

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