Multi award-winning author Judy Alter writes the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series, the Blue Plate Café Mysteries, and The Oak Grove Mysteries. She returns to Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers today to talk about a very unique and luxurious form of travel she discovered. Learn more about Judy and her books at her website and her Judy’s Stew and Potluck with Judy blogs.
My Kind of Travel
I sink into a cushy, soft black leather chair, pull down the foot rest from the back of the seat in front of me, and push the chair back all the way until I am almost lying down. With a shawl over my shoulders, lulled by gentle bumps and sways, I am soon asleep. Almost without my knowing it, an attendant comes and gently puts a small blanket over my lap.
Where am I? In the first-class cabin of an airliner bound on a long overseas trip? No. I’m on a bus from Dallas to Houston. But it’s not just any bus. It’s billed as an “executive motor coach service.”
I’m not a natural traveler. I don’t like to fly and rarely do so unless someone is with me. I don’t drive on highways, freeways, etc. So sometimes getting to see my children, who are scattered around Texas, is problematic. My son in Tomball, northwest of Houston, wanted me to come for Mother’s Day weekend (also his wife’s birthday) but my local daughter said she simply couldn’t drive me even halfway and I didn’t want to ask Colin to make the trip. Then the travel-agent daughter found the Vonlane motor coach service. It goes from the Doubletree hotel near Love Field in Dallas to the Sheraton North in Houston, near Intercontinental, and from the Dallas Doubletree to Austin. My daughter made my reservation, securing me a seat in a single row at the back, near the restroom and service station.
There was much discussion during happy hour in my living room about appropriate attire to wear on an executive bus. My neighbor, a guy who hates leggings anyway, decreed I could not wear jeans or leggings. My daughter held out for a cute “outfit.” As it turned out, there were people in all kinds of clothes and I needn’t have worried. I didn’t see many who looked like executives.
A good friend drove me to Dallas, saw my luggage loaded and even came onto the bus to get me settled. In addition, to not being a good traveler, I’m also prone to anxiety in strange situations. But Teddy saw me and my computer to my seat. All was well, except for the moment when, waiting for the bus, he said, “Not to panic, but the keys got locked in the car.” All my luggage was also locked in that car. I told myself it would all work out and it did—maintenance people from the Doubletree opened the doors.
The ride to Houston was three-and-a-half hours (it takes between four and five to drive from Fort Worth where I live). I read, napped, checked email and drank two glasses of complimentary wine. Vonlane offers not only complimentary food and drink but wi-fi, headsets for those who want quiet, TV and radio, and electric outlets. The attendant will hang your coat or hanging suitcase in a closet.
We hit Houston at rush hour, and I decided I should use the restroom since when I got off my son would drive me 45 minutes to his house. That was my downfall—literally. I came out of the restroom and was talking with the attendant, probably talking with my hands and not holding on. The bus had to make a fairly sudden stop, and next thing I knew I was on my back in a confined space, like a marooned turtle. A nice young man tried to put his hands under my shoulders and lift me up, but I insisted I had to get on my knees—no small trick in the space, but once I was on my knees, I could pull myself up. A couple of bumps and bruises lasted a few days but no serious damage. I was impressed however that the CEO of the company immediately called the travel-agent daughter, and that was the only way she knew I fell. I talked to him later and said I knew he wanted to forestall a lawsuit. He said, “No, we genuinely care about our passengers.”
The ride back was over lunchtime. More wine and a delicious chicken salad on a croissant. More napping, reading, and watching the world roll by. Always a train lover, I’ve found my new way to travel. And it wasn’t as expensive as filling up an SUV tank would have been.
Desperate for Death
Just when Kelly's life has calmed, she faces yet another of life's puzzles. Except the pieces in this one don't fit. First the apartment behind her house is torched, then a string of bizarre "accidents" occur to set her off-balance. Who is stalking her? Where does the disappearance of a young girl and her disreputable boyfriend fit in? And why are two men using the same name? Is the surprise inheritance another part of the puzzle? At a time when she is most vulnerable, Kelly can't make the pieces fit. Before Kelly can get the whole picture, she helps the family of a hostage, rescues a kidnap victim and attends a wild and wonderful wedding.