On the Megabus

When we finally decided on Philadelphia as our Girlie Weekend destination, my mom said, “Why don’t we take the Megabus?” She says it was Dad’s idea.

This sounded like a great plan to me. In general, I don’t mind driving, even long distances, but I could see how a long car ride with my mother could be problematic. Mostly because of my music choices.

But on the Megabus, I could listen to what ever I wanted (which mostly turned out to be M.I.A., Wilco, Pearl Jam, and Arcade Fire), plus tweet, look at the Philadelphia guide book I had purchased for the trip, and read my book, A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin.

So I made the reservations, and we were ready to ride.

Here is what you should know if you’re going to ride the Megabus:

1. If you want the really, really low rates (I have heard of people riding for as low as $5), you have to make reservations way in advance. My mother and I didn’t ride for low, low rates of $1 or $5.

2. You don’t have a lot of room on a Megabus. About the same as if you were riding on a plane. Minus the overhead compartments. Mom and I were perfectly comfortable, for the most part — I could’ve used a little more leg room, natch.

3. You can bring food, drinks, and electronics on the bus. Most seats even offer an outlet or two if you want to charge your phone or save your laptop batteries. Mom and I had water, snacks — including cheese and crackers, complete with a cutting board — and even white wine.

4. The Megabus between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia makes two stops, one at Harrisburg to let people off and pick people up, and one at Sideling Hill on the PA Turnpike for a rest/snack/stretch-your-legs stop. It is about a 5-and-a-half-hour drive with these stops.

Generally speaking, I would endorse the Megabus. Aside from a slight hiccough leaving Philadelphia on Sunday, it was a perfectly acceptable experience: affordable and pretty comfortable. And, let’s face it, being able to read a book for as long as I wanted was pretty sweet. The pros (not having to drive, pay for gas, worry about traffic) far outweighed the cons.

The cons primarily consisted of other passengers: loud music (yes, they had earbuds in, but the volume was cranked), a whiny toddler (I felt bad for him and for his stressed-out mama), a smelly seatmate (briefly — I changed seats), and bare feet.

I am sure that most of you all have lovely, smooth, well cared for, not-smelly feet. But even so, I don’t want to be exposed to them on public transportation. I would no more take off my shoes on a bus or a plane than I would sit in one of those seats in the buff. It’s unsanitary and unappetizing.

Two more things you should know:

In Harrisburg and Philadelphia, the bus stops were out in the open — no shelter, no building, no nothing. In Harrisburg, they pick up/drop off in a mall parking lot, and in Philadelphia, you’re on the sidewalk across from the 30th Street Station. This means if the weather is inclement, you’re in it. I was a little worried that we were going to get rained on before our trip back to Pittsburgh, but instead we stood out in the sun and the heat. Which was all fine and good, but, yeah, HOT.

Megabus seating is first come, first serve. If you want your pick of seats or you are traveling with a seatmate, get to your stop a good 30 to 40 minutes before departure. Otherwise, it’s a crap shoot of diminishing returns.

Finally, this:

Leaving Philadelphia, they put us on a bus that did not have working air conditioning. I’m not quite clear how that happened, but for the 20 to 30 minutes we were on that bus, it sucked. A lot.

They turned us around and got us a new bus, but that put us about 2 hours behind our original timing, meaning we got into Pittsburgh at 11 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. When we unloaded and reloaded, Mom and I ended up being among the last people getting back on the bus, and this is when I ended up with a smelly seatmate (I’m sure I was no rose by this point, either, but it was clear this kid was a least a shower behind). Fortunately, there were enough empty seats that I was able to move.

Clearly, taking any kind of transportation that is not your own car has its own risks. I would gladly take the Megabus again, depending on my traveling companions. (If I were going somewhere on my own, I would probably just drive). But it’s not a bad idea, and for this weekend, it really worked out just fine.

Girlie Weekend: The Highlights

I could go on and on (and on and on) about what a fun, fabulous, and relaxing time we had in Philadelphia.

I will spare you the “on and on”, but suffice to say: It was excellent.

Here are the highlights:

1. My sister found her wedding dress.

This was a big reason for the trip: access to shopping, especially boutiques. Where she lives in North Carolina is not very big-city, bright-lights. As a matter of fact, she originally suggested we all meet in NYC, but that was way out of our collective budgets. We converged in Philadelphia instead.

After wandering into and out of several stores, we walked into MaxStudio. Dr. Sis tried on several dresses, and settled on the perfect one. It really is lovely.

2. I found my best woman dress, also at MaxStudio. Completely and totally second in importance to Dr. Sis’ dress, but still nice to have checked off the wedding to-do list. I don’t have a lot of opportunity for leisurely shopping, so it was nice to be able to capitalize on the time spent doing it girlie weekend.

3. Juju Organics Spa and Salon: OMG. Let me repeat that, so you understand how much I mean it: OMG.

If you are going to or live in (or near) Philadelphia: GO TO THIS SPA. The salon is separate, just a couple of doors down from the spa, and it’s where my Mom and Jess (Dr. Sis’ MOH) had their pedicures (and in my mom’s case, manicure). I can’t speak to the experience there, although Dr. Sis and I headed there after our services and were offered wine, so that’s good, right?

The ambience at the spa is immediately relaxing and lovely. It is very quiet. Dr. Sis had a 90-minute deep tissue massage that had her floating on air afterward. I had a facial with microdermabrasion, and I wanted to marry my aesthetician and bring her home with me. It was heavenly. I had never had microdermabrasion, and I intend to find a spa in Pittsburgh that does it chemical-free because after my facial my skin felt and looked wonderful. My hour-long service also included scalp and hand massage. Honest to God, it was one of the most lovely things I have ever had happen to my body.

4. On Saturday night, I had possibly the greatest meal of my life at Tinto Wine Bar. Mucho thanks to Joe (my college buddy and former South Side roommate, owner and operator of Alfa in Philadelphia) who got us reservations for an early dinner. Every last tapas that came out of the kitchen, including our shared dessert, was better than the last; the service was wonderful; and we had a lovely bottle of white wine (the grape was Albarino, but I completely forget the label). We ate and drank and laughed for two hours. It was delightful in just about every way.

5. Getting to see Joe when we finally made our way to Alfa after dinner, and having Miss @MamaPhan (who blogs over here  drive all the way to Philly to join us for a drink. It was great to meet her after this time of knowing her online, and she gave my sister the low-down on real estate procedures. (Dr. Sis and her fiance are buying a property  in NC.) And I haven’t seen Joe since he drove Dan and I across the Verranzano-Narrows Bridge for our flight to Italy for our honeymoon.

Like I said, I could go on and on. The company was stellar, we actually accomplished wedding-related stuff, and I got to discover a city I had never visited in depth before. Yeah, yeah, I missed the kids (eventually) and my husband (actually almost immediately upon checking into our hotel room), but sometimes, you just gotta get away.

For those of you who are curious, and who watched me provide #megabusupdates on Twitter, that post is coming up soon! Stay tuned, as they say.

Top 10 Things I Learned Girlie Weekend

10. Telling your 3-and-a-half-year-old that you have to go get her present is a good way to have her forgive you in advance for leaving for three days and three nights (hence the importance of the horses). I asked Monkey what kind of present she wanted from Mommy’s vacation. We decided on a stuffed horse (not coincidentally). “Where is it, Mommy?” she asked. “I have to go get it,” I told her. This seemed to appease her.

9. (Okay, I kind of already knew this, but): Not having to make decisions for anyone else for a few days is lovely. The biggest decisions we faced: should we shop or go to the beach first? Where shall we eat? What will I have to drink? Can I finish this book before I go to bed? And none of those decisions were based someone’s melt-down point. (Well, L did need sustenance suddenly on Saturday afternoon, but I am fairly certain she was not going to throw herself on the ground and start screaming about it.)

8. Beet, chickpea, and pistachio salad is very tasty. Figs with gorgonzola, balsamic syrup, and walnuts is exceptional. Wild mushrooms in a brandy cream sauce with rosemary on crostini is heavenly. (Here’s a PDF of lupo di mare‘s menu.) Not having to fix or eat mac ‘n’ cheese or PB&J: priceless.

7. I suck at the horse ride game at Brigadoon. A, J, & L are such pros; they won multiple horses each. Monkey and Bun say, “Thanks!” (In a unique twist, Monkey has named her horse “Bun”. Bun’s horse is called “Wagoness”.)

6. When you take two showers a day, you need the requisite amount of underwear. (I told them I was standing in for Angel and the red panties.)

5. The best way to enjoy Grotto Pizza is on the beach with your girlfriends and a 32-ounce pop (soda for those of you not in southwestern Pennsylvania).

4. I won the in-law lottery.

3. I would like to vacation in Rehoboth Beach with my husband and daughters.

2. Three days and three nights is the perfect amount of time — I got to relax, and by Sunday I was looking forward to returning home and being with DearDR, Monkey, and Bun.

1. As J says, “Girlie Weekend is like Christmas,” i.e. it only comes once a year — but it comes every year! It is a lot less stressful and expensive than Christmas, though.

Girlfriends

I had this awesome post for last Thursday all ready to go. It was about how much I was looking forward to Girlie Weekend, and cute stories about my kids, and how Monkey was doing about me going on vacation (not so good), and so on. And it was going to include these pictures:


Aren’t they cute?

But due to forgetting to email it to myself, and a half day of work, a pedicure, and a bikini wax on Thursday, and issues WordPress has with Safari, and not getting home until 3 p.m., and not being completely packed, and needing to get to the airport — well, it just didn’t get here. Too bad, because it was a good post.

But then I went away for 3 nights and 3 days, without children and a spouse.

There was some of this:

And plenty of this:

And this was nice:

And we got some horses at Brigadoon (the horses were important):

And Whack-A-Mole!:

And this was the view from the hotel, as it is every year at Girlie Weekend:

And we laughed a lot, and shopped a lot, and had a gorgeous meal at lupo di mare, and I was clearly told what was “blog-able”, and I cannot thank these three enough for making it a great weekend.

I have much more to say about all of this, but it is Vacation Recovery Day, and I have tons of laundry to do, and I’m taking Monkey to the dermatologist in about an hour. So I gotta scoot.

Girlie Weekend rocked. Thanks, A, L & J. You guys are three of the best. (We missed a number of attendees, among them Misfit Hausfrau, who at least we managed to have dinner with on Thursday.)

Can’t wait until next year.