Cheap and Cheerless: tackling a 57-hour bus journey

Taking the cheapest way from Banff to Toronto, whilst breaking my own personal record on the amount of time on a bus, seemed like an ok idea and very cost-effective at only ~$200. The train wasn’t running when I needed it to, and the flight was going to be $322, plus $18 fare for a bus to Calgary. $140 is a lot when you’re trying to make your money stretch out, and as I didn’t have any deadline to get anywhere, I traded time for money and went with the Greyhound. That alone was a tough decision, after they lost my bag last time…but they’ve pretty much got the route locked down, so no other operators had an equivalent journey for me to take.

So the bus was definitely the right choice this time. I was convinced. But you can’t be right all of the time.

I wrote the odd fragmented note into a draft on Evernote, one of the apps that I recommend for travel when you’re not sure if you’re going to have an internet connection the whole time.

6hrs in

This isn’t so bad.

9hrs in

I’m snoozing a lot. I’m doing a pretty good impression of a nodding dog. Or was, up until I executed a perfect headbutt onto the edge of my MacBook. I’m awake now, with a deep red line on my forehead… I am quite awake now, a throbbing head will do that. Need coffee.

12hrs in

Is this a dream or am I still awake? Weird twilight in Sasketchewan doesn’t help – flat prairie could just be my mind running out of ideas in my dream. A single tree on an endless plain? Come on, that’s gotta be fake. “Kzzzzrt” the bus driver’s voice crackles onto the overhead speakers. No way…this is real?! That sky is blatantly photoshopped…

16hrs in

Ow wow. I need some fruit. My stash was NOT big enough, but I’m damned if I’m having a Timmy’s for breakfast. I found some bags of nuts at the services. Pretty salty, but at least they’re whole foods.

24hrs in

Couldn’t wait any longer. The serial gum chewing wasn’t cutting it. Brushing my teeth at a bus depot; new personal low. I both look and smell like I’ve been camping. In a bin.

36hrs in

If there’s an airport in the next town, I’m getting a plane to Toronto. Screw this. No come on, you’ve come this far. It’s just a bit of sleep deprivation kicking in, you’re fine. You’re right. Who said that?

40hrs in

Why isn’t my phone charging? What?! The power’s broken?? Damnit Greyhound! At least I got to sort through some older photos before the power went out. My primary form of entertainment currently is writing on Facebook about how terrible bus travel is.

48hrs in

So close… Need caffeine if I’m going to salvage my sleep pattern here. Day and night are becoming meaningless terms. Coffee and a greasy McDonald’s bagel is in order – healthy eating be damned. I NEED comfort food.

52hrs in

I’m going to have to burn these clothes…

56hrs in

I’m in Toronto! I walked up and down some streets unnecessarily for a while as I was phone less by the time I got here; battery flat by now obviously. Thanks Greyhound… So this is actually on my laptop when I arrived.

I need to get some sleep and a proper meal. Or, you know. Go on a bar crawl with some new friends I just met at the place I’m staying. That’s a tough one…

“You can’t wear a MacBook”

That’s my first thought, and I giggled to myself at the ridiculousness of the situation. It’s 3:30am, I have just arrived in Jasper, I have nowhere booked to stay, and the bus company has just lost my bag. I’ve been on a bus for 32hrs and I am in severe need of a shower and a change of clothes. That’s not going to happen – the bus driver tells me that it must be on the bus to Edmonton, and it won’t be back through Jasper until Saturday. I had all of the gadgetry of the modern-day flashpacker in my camera bag that I carried onto the bus, but only the increasingly pongy clothes on my back to wear.

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My mind flashes back to the connection at Prince George bus depot; I had the presence of snoozymind® to walk over to the last bus and check that there was nothing left on it, but was shooed away by a bag zombie who said that no customers could be near the coach during loading. At the time I wasn’t that bothered, and quite keen to get on the next bus and resume my snooze, but now I was now kicking myself for not pressing the matter and keeping eyes on my bag.

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I sat on a bench and got my Mac onto the WiFi at the closed train station. I had received an email from Mike at the WTF hostel, which I’d booked for the following night, saying that I could just grab a bed in the dorm when I get in as there are beds free. Top bloke. I headed there and got a few hours kip in.

Not Jasper train station (actually Dawson Creek), but I didn't have a photo of the Jasper one!

Not Jasper train station (actually Dawson Creek), but I didn’t have a photo of the Jasper one!

First thing in the morning I headed over to the Greyhound office at the train station, tooled up with indignant rage, ready to kick some metaphorical arse. I arrived to a see a little smiling old lady, who said

“Ah, Matthew? We’ve found your bag dear.”

Ah, bugger. That’s not what I was expecting. I was sort of looking forward to a ruck.

“Oh, uh, thanks!”

How, or where was a mystery to her, as it was left inside the door of the office when she got in in the morning. Regardless of how the bag fairy did her magic that night, the problem was solved. It was however a valuable experience, as I had to (for the second time this trip) go through a worst-case scenario checklist in my head.

Here are some tips for if you ever get into such a situation, and what to do upfront in order to mitigate the pain should it ever happen to you.

1. Know your cover

Are you covered by travel insurance? For total loss, just delays or both? The time that you need to know this is when you panic, that’s when you need to know if you can book into a hotel and relax until you’re thinking straight, or if you need to find a 24hr coffee place to sit in whilst you deal with the situation. Most importantly you need to check what your delayed baggage allowance is, so you know how much you can spend whilst delayed without being out of pocket in the long run.

2. Take photos of all of your stuff, including new things you buy on your travels

I was a bit anal about this and laid out all of my kit on a table before I left so that I could document what I was taking with me. But I didn’t always do this once I’d started to acquire things along the way, so if you treat yourself whilst away (to a new backpack for example) make sure that you take a photo and show off to your mates – it’ll actually come in handy if it ever goes missing and you need to prove that you owned it.

3. ALWAYS keep your passport with you when in transit. ANY form of transit.

This seems like a “duh” point, butI had been a bit lax in the previous few weeks. When I first arrived in Vancouver my passport was in a zipped pocket all the time, always on my person; I was in UK city mode. After that I had moved it to my documents folder which is too big for my camera bag so lives in my rucksack – I wasn’t crossing any national boundaries so it seemed overkill for a bus trip.

I had decided when I was in Whitehorse to rearrange my rucksack, as I had way too much crap that I didn’t need in there. In doing so I transferred my passport to my camera bag, as when I get to an airport eventually I’ll have to dig it out of my rucksack anyway and it’d save me some time in the future, as I tend to be that guy whose name gets the last call over the PA system. This turned out to be an excellent move.

It meant that when I was stranded in Alberta with nothing but gadgets, I had the “fly the **** home” option in my back pocket. That’s a nice thing to have.

4. Don’t panic

People are cool, and you can blog about it later. 😉

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 (as ever, the majority of these photos have nothing to do with the post, but they were taken in Jasper!)

Repairing “org.eclipse.mylyn.tasks.ui” Eclipse start-up freeze on Mac OSX

Excuse the shameless “fishing for a search string” title, but it just took me over an hour to find a fix for this so, so I’m paying it forward.

The problem

This issue appears as you start Eclipse after an incomplete shutdown on a previous session – i.e. if it was force closed. If you search for this problem you’ll see a lot of sledgehammer fixes suggested:

“Delete your workspace and reimport your projects.”

“Delete your metadata directory and reimport.”

“Delete all of the hidden files in your workspace.”

etc.

The very worst recommends completely removing Eclipse and starting again. To be clear DO NOT DO ANY OF THESE! The solution is far too aggressive, and it loses your workspace configuration settings.

The problem occurs because Eclipse quits before it is able to delete a hidden “.lock” file in the workspace metadata. Upon restart it scans the metadata and sees this lock file, and as there is no pending task to clear it in the current instance, it awaits a deletion that will never happen.

The fix

Force quit Eclipse from the Dock if it’s still hanging; the damage is done, you can’t make it worse by closing it.

Open up Terminal, and navigate to the folder that contains your Eclipse workspace, then use this line to remove the hidden file lock.

sudo rm workspace/.metadata/.lock

Next, launch Eclipse with the clean and refresh arguments, so that the instance knows to regenerate any metadata that looks weird.

cd /Users/YOUR USER NAME/Development/eclipse/Eclipse.app/Contents/MacOS
./eclipse -clean -refresh

That’s it!

If you think that this might happen a lot (or if you’re just really into scripting for fun… What?) you can record the above actions as an automator script, and create a shortcut to it in your Eclipse folder so you can quickly repair the problem again in future.

The credit for finding this fix should go to sulai on StackOverflow.com, as I learnt about it from his comment on this thread, so do head over there and up-vote their answer if it helps you.