Barhopping by way of public transportation proves that the journey can be just as entertaining as the destination — without the hassle of parallel parking, long walks and a potential Gotcha appearance. Are there tradeoffs? We join Richmond revelers Saturday, June 16, for a night on the free To the Bottom and Back bus.
9 p.m.: Await the GRTC bus at Williamsburg and Darbytown roads while questioning if leaving my car in the driveway was a huge mistake. I'll be standing here until 9:17 p.m., so I thumb through a few phone apps that convinced me this was doable in the first place. I have routes, times, fares and real-time tracking of the 2BNB bus. I've got this. Onward!
9:22: GRTC drops us off at 17th Street in Shockoe Bottom, where we skip over to Rosie Connolly's for a delicious pint and grub. In less than 10 minutes we encounter a bedazzled bachelorette party. I tweet my followers to ask whether it's appropriate to punch irritating people. It isn't, so I concentrate on where to catch the 2BNB bus to the Fan.
10:23: After overzealous arm-flailing that later proves unnecessary, my first attempt to catch the 2BNB bus is a success. All hail the genius tracking app. The bus's founder, Jim Porter, happens to be aboard and assures us that the empty bus soon will fill up. This thing is incredibly clean. Nary a spot of vomit in sight. Impressive.
10:35 pm: Arrive at Sticky Rice. Staffers are tending to the leftover dinner crowd, but the bar folk are scarce. As we near the bottom of our glass and a fascinating discussion about Eddie Murphy's love of Elvis, I locate the 2BNB bus on my iPhone and realize it's go time if we want to catch it out front.
Two Interns and a Mormon
11:14: Our first sloshy riders. Two interns from an undisclosed company and their friend. Blasted guy explains his pal is Mormon and mortified that he's being made to ride "the drunk bus." Aforementioned Mormon says, "I would have rather walked 45 minutes downtown." He doesn't do cabs and believes this to be a shameful mode of transportation.
11:17: We blow through Carytown. No takers.
11:21: Road block because of an accident and we're redirected. Boozed intern exclaims, "We're being kidnapped!" Mormon reminds them, "We should have walked."
11:34: Traffic near the Virginia Commonwealth University campus provides the opportunity to chat with Porter again. "People don't fight on this bus," he says, "and when a lady gets on, she's respected." I believe him. He's a swell guy.
The Requisite Vomit
11:38: Shockoe Slip. We have a barfer! Right out the window onto the street in front of the Tobacco Company. Not a drop or chunk inside. Seamless execution. Well played, sir.
11:45: Bottom air is thick with drunken din. Vibe on the bus, however, is relaxed. All are praying the barfer doesn't blow again.
Midnight: Dapper dude wearing a bow tie hops aboard on Main Street near the Jefferson Hotel. He says he's coming from a wedding and drops $20 in the donation can. Porter is stoked: "Do you see that? Man, that's awesome."
12:09 a.m.: A trail of bubbles beckons us to stop at the Main Street corner near F.W. Sullivan's, where a pack of gussied-up girls boards and is ready to throw down en route to Europa down in Shockoe. Clearly, another bachelorette party.
12:15: Rihanna's "We Found Love" is cranked. One of the two guys that got on after the girl party has lost his shirt by the left turn at Thompson Street, and now dances in the aisle with one of them. "Get on the pole!" one of the 2BNB coordinators yells over the speaker. (Yes, there is a pole in the bus.) And so they do.
12:16: Bouncing-bus dance party. People on the sidewalk cheer on the green machine.
12:18: Carytown bar blitz: New York Deli. Weezie's. Babe's. A friend says he doesn't envy me tonight given the assignment. I proclaim I may never drive again. How many drinks have I had?
1:51: Constant motion and beverages have blurred time and last call has passed. Back on the bus where the radio reassures us "It's Five O'clock Somewhere."
2: We can barely go two blocks before more revelers board. Drunken friends who parted ways at the beginning of the night are reunited. Our driver, a retired Chesterfield County school bus operator, notes: "Drunks are easier to handle than kindergarteners."
2:08: Off 2BNB in Shockoe Slip and homeward bound. Manage to immediately hail (yes, hail) a cab near Siné Irish Pub that's willing to take us to Fulton. Luck of the Irish.
2:20: Delightfully buzzed and around the city five times for less than $15. Did I score tonight? You bet.