Nothing like your last bus ride!
— Green Tortoise Company Motto

What is The Green Tortoise?

For many years I would try to explain how the Green Tortoise worked, but more often than not I just confused people. I found the only way to adequately explain it would be to dig out my pictures and show, rather than tell, what the trips were like. The pictures and captions below highlight some of the unique qualities of Tortoise travel.

The Green Tortoise is still running. While the older busses have long since been retired in favor of more modern coaches, the basic approach has not changed.

The Bus

The Green Tortoise experience starts with a bus.

First, the company would acquire old busses at auction. The older busses were often available cheaply, had rock-solid construction, and great character.

The bus pictured here was built in 1954 so it was already around 35 years old when I was driving it back in the late 80's.

Once purchased the busses then went through a complete overhaul.

Brian Cechony - All Rights Reserved
Brian Cechony - All Rights Reserved
Brian Cechony - All Rights Reserved

Custom Interior

The seats, luggage racks, etc. are all torn out and a custom interior is installed that creates places for the storage of luggage, food and equipment while maximizing the space and comfort of the passengers. A large, covered roof box on top of the bus adds more storage space without sacrificing passenger room.

When the bus is in "night mode" the passengers on the Tortoise lay down flat on thick, foam mattresses that are covered with clean, custom-fitted sheets. You can stretch out and sleep very comfortably.

If you've ever spent a sleepless night sitting up in a bus seat with an armrest poking in your side and your head bouncing off the window then you will appreciate Tortoise travel.

The ability to go to sleep in one place and wake up in another one several hundred miles away allows travelers to maximize both their travel dollars and their travel time.

Brian Cechony - All Rights Reserved
Brian Cechony - All Rights Reserved

Living on a Bus

The reason that you came on the trip is all the things that you see when you are off the bus, but one of the best things about a Tortoise trip is learning how to live on a bus for a week or two with 35 complete strangers. It's also one of the hardest.

Keeping everything organized is a key part of making this work, but over time everyone's things get all mixed together. Just prior to trip's end a "bus toss" is often needed. Everything inside the bus is tossed outside and each person claims their long-lost socks and sandals that have gone missing in the mayhem of the trip.

Brian Cechony - All Rights Reserved
Brian Cechony - All Rights Reserved

Cooking the Food

Every Green Tortoise bus comes with a full kitchen; 4'x8' tables, stoves, propane, water, utensils and equipment to cook several meals for the bus in the middle of nowhere.

The drivers plan the meals, shop for the food, and orchestrate the cooking, but it's the passengers who actually make it happen. Here too there is an unforeseen benefit. Working together to prepare a meal is a great way to get to know your fellow passengers, and the food you are eating always tastes better when you had a hand in preparing it.

Brian Cechony - All Rights Reserved
Brian Cechony - All Rights Reserved

Beautiful and Remote Destinations

The picture above is The Valley of the Gods in Southern Utah. The one below is a remote beach on the Bay of Conception in Baja, Mexico. Both of these places are wild, remote spots that have no running water, camp store, or Walmart for miles. They are each accessed via long, unpaved and largely unmarked roads. You would think twice about taking your car to these places, but the Tortoise visits them all the time — and gives the passengers an opportunity to see parts of North America that most tours would never go near.

Because a Green Tortoise bus is transportation, hotel, and restaurant all in one the trips are able to visit locations that are very remote and still have everything needed to enjoy the stay.

Brian Cechony - All Rights Reserved
Brian Cechony - All Rights Reserved

Tortoise Drivers

Each Tortoise journey has two drivers on board, which means that the drivers can switch off and the bus can safely and legally be traveling day and night. This comes in very handy when hauling across Texas or getting from San Francisco to Mexico quickly.

At least one driver will have been to the destination before and there is also a detailed Driver's Guide that contains notes and suggestions from past trips to make sure they know the best places to visit and how to get there.

Aside from driving the bus, the drivers are also responsible for all aspects of the trip; buying the food, orchestrating the meals, dealing with any mechanical issues, leading the tour, playing DJ and making sure 'the vibe' is good and that everyone is safe and having fun.

Brian Cechony - All Rights Reserved
Brian Cechony - All Rights Reserved

The Passengers

On every trip the most important factor is the passengers, and the quality of the group can either make or break a trip.

The Green Tortoise is featured in travel guides around the world as a safe, inexpensive and fun way to see America, so Americans often find themselves outnumbered by international travelers — in many ways The Green Tortoise is better known outside of America than within. (The most countries I've ever had represented on a single trip was 14.)

There's no age limit or nationality requirement however. A person who will enjoy the Tortoise is anyone who is open-minded, ready to try new things and has a spirit of adventure.

Brian Cechony - All Rights Reserved
Brian Cechony - All Rights Reserved

What Does the Green Tortoise Do?

Ultimately, the whole experience is about getting people out into the most beautiful places in North America, and doing so in a fun, safe, economical, and entirely unique fashion.

So, What is The Green Tortoise?

The Green Tortoise is:

  ... a hostel on wheels.

  ... nothing like your last bus ride.

  ... an incredibly fun way to see North America and meet people from all over the world.

  ... more fun than a few words and pictures can possibly describe...

Brian Cechony - All Rights Reserved