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double-decking

MegaBus or bust: What it's like to travel through Texas like the English

With the exception of James Bond, the Beatles and Mr. Bean, no British import has been embraced by we rebellious American’s quite like the double-decker bus. But what started as the go-to automobile for celebrity home tours is now the bane of Greyhound’s existence, and it’s all thanks to a tea-and-crumpet transit company called Megabus.

Now I’m sure you’ve already read about their $1* fares (*plus a $.50 processing fee) or watched their pleasantly plump mascot eclipse your car, so I won’t bore you with the backstory. Instead, I will tell you how and why you should choose Megabus the next time you’re traveling to Dallas, San Antonio or Houston.

That’s right, I said Houston. Although they have removed that route from the website, some carrier still runs a Houston trip from the Megabus lot. Contact the Dobie Mall at 512-505-0133 for more information, because this story isn’t about Houston. Dallas was my destination, and I got there and back for $18.50.

To put that in perspective, my Megabus trip cost $7.50 less than a ONE-WAY Greyhound ticket, approximately $25 less than you’ll pay at the pump and around $220 less than it would take to get deep cavity searched by a TSA agent, because only a crazy person would fly from Austin to Dallas on a commercial airplane.

Economically speaking, Megabus is a no brainer, but low fares aren’t the only feather in Megabus’ bowler cap. Let’s talk convenience.

Now sure, their website may be about as eye catching as Nanny McPhee, but despite its blemishes, you’ll finish booking your trip faster than you can purchased the book you’ll be reading from Amazon.

Just remember the English Proverb, “The early bird catcheth the worm.” In this case the worm is that heavily promoted $1* fare, and you probably won’t catcheth that unless you buy your ticket a month in advance. The young chap standing next to me in the boarding line claimed his procrastination cost him over $40.

Speaking of the boarding line, Megabus’ pick-up/drop-off zone has even fewer bells and whistles than the website. It’s literally an empty lot between the Dobie Mall and a parking garage. If it weren’t for a burnt-orange serpent of homesick UT students, I probably would have missed it. And if you’re traveling during the heat of summer, you may want to pull a Mary Poppins and carry an umbrella. Aside from a four-person tailgating tent, there’s nothing keeping you from baking under the sun like a Shepherd's Pie in an oven.

As far as the actual ride is concerned, Megabus is basically the Southwest Airlines of the road. The seating is unassigned, the employees are courteous and the “pilots” are hilarious. Our driver started the trip by tricking us into thinking we were headed to Texarkana. After evoking an appreciative laugh from everyone who wasn’t already listening to their iPod or drooling on their window, the driver popped in Gone With the Wind and pulled onto I-35. (True story.)

But just like Kate Middleton’s breasts, even the greatest things have imperfections. In Megabus’ case, it’s the free Wi-Fi. Yes, it’s offered, but it’s harder to access than the Austin City Limits presale.

If you own a wireless hotspot, or abducted one from SXSW, you may want to bring it/him/her with you. My only other Beef Wellington with Megabus is their Dallas drop-off/pick-up spot — which isn’t even in Dallas. It’s actually right next to a Grand Prairie gun store. Whether you’re pro-2nd Amendment or not, I think we can all agree there are better locations to de-board a bus, especially at night.

Aside from the shoddy Internet connection and shooting range welcome, I was more than impressed by my first Megabus experience.

So thanks, Great Britain. I will merrily ride your double-decker to and from “Dallas” once again. 

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