Alaska Bus Guy – not a bus, definitely an Alaska Guy though

I’m not much of a writer. Sometimes I have something and I don’t know where to put it so it ends up here. I got a message asking me to review my experience with Alaska Bus Guy. My experience was funny so I’m sharing.

My 2-star Review of Alaska Bus Guy LLC

I will generously give the ABG 2 stars, because it was an interesting “Alaskan” experience for us and we have a story to tell, but it was a pretty rough ride, haha.

Alaska Bus Guy had a strong web presence, so in 2010 my wife contacted him and setup a ride from Denali to Anchorage. While we were waiting for ABG, we met another traveler also headed to Anchorage, and we hit it off talking. He was worried about his bus being so close to his plane flight that he thought he might miss it, so we told him our bus was a direct trip and he chose to ride with us instead. It’s a good think we didn’t meet any other new friends, because when ABG arrived late, he was driving a Saturn Vue. We all paid him cash and the 3 of us hopped in, completely filling the 3 passenger seats and having to hold our bags on our laps. About 10 minutes into the 2+ hour drive, just as our legs were falling asleep with our bags on them…we heard a loud bang and the car coasted to a stop. We were in the middle of the Alaskan wild and we had just suffered what our driver Ron told us was “a catastrophic engine failure”.

Alaska Bus Guy Fiasco
Alaska Bus Guy’s Saturn Vue in it’s definitive state: broken down and spewing oil (plate blurred to protect the innocent)

Not to sound like it was the end of the world or anything…we’d been camping for days…but Alaska is a hard place and we didn’t plan on stopping there and we were all caught off guard by the whole thing. I think we’d expected some sort of support network for his business, like that he would have someone he could call to come get us, or at least be willing to hire a tow truck. It was obvious that the car would need a tow, there was oil spilled all over the road so at least the oil-pan was shot or worse. At this point in the story, Ron was having a bad day, as we all do from time to time. Our new friend Drew, who had been worried about making his flight from the beginning, was now realizing that he might not make it. I think at this point we were all still happy enough, and it seemed like Ron still intended to get us to Anchorage. Like I said, Alaska is rough and it’s probably really rough on cars, so we all understood that his car had failed him. He told us he had people that would come quickly and that Drew would make his flight, and we believed him. So we all took our bags and hitched a ride to a nearby gas station while we waited. Hindsight 20/20, we should have started hitching from that gas station right away, but Ron really mislead us by saying that help was coming…it was not.

Ron was making a lot of calls on his cell, so after 20 minutes we started to worry why he was still calling and shouting at the people on the other end. Were they really coming? He also didn’t want us to hear what was being said, he kept moving away from us when he was on the phone. Eventually I did overhear part of the conversation. He was fighting with the Saturn dealership in Anchorage. The Saturn Vue was not his, it was his friends car that he had borrowed for the day to drive us. He wanted the Saturn dealership to send a free tow truck 2 hours to come get us and for it to be covered under the cars warranty, which had expired several years prior. When he basically told them that he would not pay so they shouldn’t bother sending the truck, I lost hope in ABG. They had quoted him $200 to come get us and save the day, but instead he chose for us to stay stranded. That was our breaking point, haha.

After overhearing this, I confronted him about it. I asked him if he was willing to pay $200 for a tow truck, he admitted he was not. I told him we had each paid $80 to get to Anchorage, so the $200 tow would be cheaper than refunding us $240. He said he couldn’t refund us. We had all paid cash, which we reminded him. Drew had to go, so he started asking everyone at the pump for a ride. I continued to ask Ron why he couldn’t refund us, he still had the cash in his pocket and was refusing to use it to get us to our destination. So I just really felt like he didn’t try to fulfill the agreement in the end, once things really fell apart his only focus seemed to be getting the Saturn Vue home without spending anything. He said he would call other dealerships and eventually get a free tow to Anchorage and that was his plan for fulfilling the trip and keeping the cash. We could wait and eventually get there, or we could leave without the refund. As we talked, Ron kept getting more agitated and would preface everything with a story of recent hardship. Once again, Alaska is rough we were probably not just experiencing a bad day for ABG, but this was probably part of a bad month for ABG. I truly felt sorry for him.

At this stage it was clear that Ron was keeping the money and was not going to help us get to Anchorage. And because he hadn’t been upfront with us about help not being on the way, it had taken us 45 more minutes to realize we were on our own. Drew found an SUV willing to drive us, and we hopped in. The couple sat upfront, we sat in back, and our bags fit in the truck so our legs didn’t fall asleep. They brought Drew straight to the airport and us to our destination, really nice people, so I gave them $80 when they dropped us off. You see, Ron, it’s not about the $80, it’s about doing what you agree to do. Ron is probably a really nice guy when everything is working. He talked non-stop for the 10 minutes until we broke down…it was going to be a hilarious and educational ride. I could have seen this ending in a 5 star review. Even with the breakdown he could have handled it better and ended up with 4 stars. But when he refused to use a portion of the cash we’d paid him to fix the problem and still refused to refund us, he lost me. So really it’s a gamble, maybe during your trip Ron will borrow a more dependable car from a friend who does maintenance on it, and maybe everything goes fine. Just know that if you breakdown you are on your own, so don’t wait for Ron’s solution unless you know for sure it is on the way. And even if everything goes wrong, you’ll have experienced this weird guy’s world for an afternoon, which we think is probably worth 2 stars. We’ll never know if the Saturn Vue was revived or if Drew made his flight…but we did learn something that was reinforced through our trip…some Alaskans are crazy.