Section: Features

GoBus offers cheap but solitary rides around Ohio

GoBus offers cheap but solitary rides around Ohio

Photo by Kristen Huffman

Six o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the worst times of the week to be up.

Think about it: At around 4 or 5 a.m., chances are the few people you see have been partying the whole night. But at six? Those are the poor souls who have just woken up.

On a recent October morning, I was one of those poor souls.

After dragging myself out of bed, showering and printing my tickets, it was 6:45 a.m. — GoBus time.

GoBus is an organization created under the Ohio Rural Intercity Bus Program, a government initiative designed to provide cheap transportation to major cities for those living in rural areas. It came to Kenyon this semester and offers daily trips to several destinations around central Ohio at a $10 fare each way. Students looking for a ride to Columbus can get dropped off at Port Columbus International Airport or the Greyhound bus station downtown. GoBus will even bring students to Gambier from as far away as Cleveland and Cincinnati, though you should expect at least eight hours of travel time, multiple transfers and ticket prices of up to $45, depending on the date.

You’ve probably seen the GoBus cruising through Gambier or stopped outside McBride Residence Hall. Chances are, you’ve only seen it dropping off, rather than picking up. Though the buses coming from Columbus arrive at the relatively reasonable times of 12:30 p.m. and 5:34 p.m., those that leave depart at 6:45 a.m. and 9:20 p.m., which ensure you’ll either be waking up too early or arriving way too late.

Hardly peak travel hours, I know.

But nevertheless, there I was, down $20 and ready to leave Knox County for the first time since move-in day.

“You’re the first one to ride this bus,” the ponytailed driver said as he took my ticket. “This bus is brand new. We got it yesterday.”

An honor, indeed.

The driver, who would only give his first name, Rocco, was my only companion for the two-hour drive. Well, he and the two friends I talked into wasting valuable homework time to accompany me.

The road to being a GoBus driver, it turns out, is a long one. Take Rocco. He quit his job as a mechanic and started working for Lakefront Lines, the transportation company with which GoBus contracts. Through them, he got a job driving those minibuses you always see shuttling senior citizens around. Then, he graduated to driving school buses for the city of Cleveland, a job he still does when not at the helm of a charter bus.

Rocco’s day starts at 3:30 a.m. in Cleveland, and he arrives at his first stop in Wooster around 5:30. He then drives to Berlin, stops in Gambier and Mount Vernon, heads to Newark and continues on to his final stops in Columbus.

By the time he hits Columbus, it’s around 9 a.m. At 9:02, he leaves the station, turns around and does the whole thing over again.

“When I first started this route, it was pretty tedious,” Rocco said. “It was challenging because you have a big bus on a tiny road. Now, I find it relaxing, but I’ve only been at this for three months.”

Aside from me, Rocco and my two friends who were getting some much-needed shut-eye in the back, the bus was still empty by the time we reached Newark about 40 minutes later and one stop in.

According to Rocco, this is how it usually is.

“The most I’ve ever had is 30,” Rocco said. “The least I’ve ever had — well, it’s just been me. And it usually leans more towards the latter than the former.”

You can expect your company, when you get it, to be mostly students from Kenyon and the College of Wooster returning from or going to an airport or bus station, interspersed with commuters who don’t mind the ridiculous hours. Also, the occasional Amish person, according to Rocco.

The ride does a great job representing Ohio’s special brand of flat, corn-filled nothingness. Don’t get me wrong: the ride’s beautiful. But if you’ve made it even once, don’t expect to be entertained by the scenery for long.

So, the ride may be boring and the company (excluding those actively operating heavy machinery) is usually nonexistent, but for a private charter bus to Columbus, the price is right.

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