So, I was getting on a Greyhound bus for the first time in 15 years. I have flown only slightly more in that time, generally preferring to drive. I was leaving Reno and heading to Oklahoma City, OK.
The trip was scheduled to take about 38 hours or so. I had stocked up with a bunch of cheap, non perishable food from the dollar store, and some meds and tissue, as the cold I picked up at the dead show had morphed into what google told me was likely a sinus infection. I have a hard time sleeping in moving vehicles anyway, so I was hoping the bus would be less than full and on time, as I had 4 transfers to make in order to make it on time.
My departure time was 7:30 PM on Thursday and was scheduled to arrive at 9:30 AM in Oklahoma City on Sunday. Here is a map of where my bus trip led me including all 4 transfer stops.
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Due to the current construction on that crazy ass mountain death road, 80, to the west of Reno (that goes through the Donner pass, yeah, THAT Donner pass), my very 1st bus was an hour late, immediately throwing my trip into turmoil. With 4 transfers that had only approximately 30 minute layover in each spot, I was not confident that I would make my 9:30 AM Saturday arrival. That was OK, as I had until 9 AM or so on Sunday to make it to Oklahoma City or I would miss my trip.
What trip you ask?
Stay tuned for the Oklahoma City edition of my blog to find out...
Anyway, the good news was the bus was so late Imaya was able to get off work and come say goodbye again at the bus station by the time my bus arrived. The bad news was my very 1st bus was late, potentially throwing the rest of my journey into disarray.
Well, when the bus finally arrived, my hopes of finding two unoccupied seats were dashed when the driver kept coming in and counting all of us in line to board... presumably to see if he had enough seats for everyone. I am not sure if everyone made it on, but I did.
Upon boarding, I looked for the best possible seatmate who would be next to me for the next 13 hours or so... no, not the woman with the baby... no, not the guy who hadn't bathed in 14 years, no, not the drooling woman... hey, an empty seat... it had a backpack and water bottle... I have a backpack and water bottle, he is prolly in the bathroom but surely we had some things in common, I will take that seat! I am sure will have a lot in common and share interesting stories and many laughs during our journey!
Well, he came out of the the bathroom, told me I was in his seat and announced he was an alcoholic the minute he sat down after he realized we were sharing a seat and there was no alternative. He was going from Reno to Florida, and whispered to me that he only had $1 on him for the trip. He wanted the window, which was fine by me except that he got piss drunk and had to pee every 5 miles or so. He then shared that he just got out of prison, not jail, but PRISON. I didn't ask why (I am not sure that I wanted to know) but I did ask for how long. "A few years" was all he said and I left it at that.
He said he had a headache, and having stocked up on dollar store meds, I gave him some aspirin. Since he only had $1.00 and no food, I gave him some of my dollar store food to help him out as well. He ate it and then proceeded to throw the trash right on the ground under me :/
I almost expected him to shank someone during the 1st hour so all the other passengers wouldn't fuck with him...
He then tried to sleep while I pulled out Imaya's Gameboy advance to kill some time. It didn't seem to matter to my seatmate that JR. hip hop star 2 seats ahead was playing some rap from his phone out loud and singing along boisterously, the guy in front of us was playing his video game as well, but my seatmate, at 9PM rudely and loudly asked me, 5 minutes after I started playing my game, "ARE YOU GOING TO PLAY THAT DAMN THING ALL NIGHT?"
I took my first risk of life and limb less than an hour into the trip by risking getting a shiv in the neck by saying "Yes." I paid for my seat and was hardly the most disturbing person on this very packed bus.
I wished that I didn't have a fear of flying at this point as plane tickets were only about $30 more from Reno to Oklahoma city, but I would have had to go from Reno to San Fransisco to Dallas, then finally to Oklahoma City. Even though I flew from LA to Norfolk, Virginia and back this year, that was 3,000 miles and only had one stop. 3 take offs and landings and layovers might have shaved 15 or so hours off of my trip, but I couldn't fathom that kind of air trip again so soon (with no phish Payoff), so I went with the bus, which was starting off on the wrong foot. Also, due to the amount of alcohol and tranquilizers I ingested to fly to Virginia, I almost was refused boarding on one of my flights, and only Imaya kept me steady and took care of me enough when I was oblivious to my surroundings.
So, being an hour late, at one of the truck stops we landed in for food (which would be the only type of food, save for one McDonald's, that we would be able to eat during my journey), I asked the bus driver if I would make my connection in Salt Lake City. He said that the driver of my next bus was alerted to our schedule and would be waiting for us due to the amount of passengers who were transferring to his bus. Well, it looks like I will be making my first transfer despite the late start... things were looking up!
And this time, indeed it was looking up! When we got to Salt Lake City, I was quickly ushered to my waiting bus. There were less than 1 person per 2 seats, which meant that I had my own seat all to myself. And I took advantage of my sinus infection to cough like a tuberculosis patient every new passenger we picked up to ensure I kept that seat to myself. I even threw in a snort here and there to simulate the terrifyingly deadly swine flu that all the kids are catching these days. And it worked, I had the seats to myself the entire trip from Salt Lake City, UT all the way to Grand Junction, CO.
I was wearing a Grateful Dead shirt that was semi covert, and a dude in his early 20's named Andreas picked up on it and was traveling on the same Route as me through Amarillo, TX, and we shared many a story about the shows we went to, the good times and the ordeals of traveling. He was heading back home to Texas from a 2 year stay in Oregon. He was an excellent traveling companion made better by the fact that he had his own seat and I had my own. Things were looking up, briefly.
Now the first bus driver out of Reno was a very pleasant gentleman who went out of his way to make the trip comfortable for his passengers, even going as far as singing "On the Road Again" when Jr. hip hop star demanded he turn on the radio from far in the back of the bus. The bus driver out of Salt Lake City was the exact opposite, nasty, sarcastic shit talker who wanted to make his passengers suffer. A real first class dickhead. At every stop he would give the precise time he was leaving and then just to hammer in the point, mention that "it will be 8 hours until the next bus comes around if you are not back on the bus," just to be a dick.
Well, I knew we were still behind schedule, so about half way between Salt Lake City and Grand Junction, I asked the driver whether we were going to make the connection. He replied that there were 27 of us picking up the bus from Grand Junction to Denver, so they would hold the bus for us. Things were still looking good!
I should have realized that this guy was too big of a dickhead for things to go well by the reaction I got from some of thew passengers on my way back to my seat. "He talked to you?" questioned one timid looking young man. "All he did was yell at me and tell me to sit down" said another, less timid looking dood. "He is a fucking asshole" said pretty much everyone else on my way back to my seat. "He isn't so bad" I naively thought to myself, "after all, he is holding our connection bus for us."
Arrival in Grand Junction was greeted by the driver warning everyone to quickly exit the bus and run into the station because this was an incredibly dangerous station and people have been killed there followed by the cold hard slap of reality just as I saw the driver quickly leave the bus and scurry quickly into the back while we were waiting in line at the front counter. "Yes, I know there are 27 people who needed to be on the Denver bus that just left," said the woman at the Greyhound counter, "but your driver didn't radio ahead and the Denver bus left 15 minutes ago. You will have to wait 5 more hours for the next one."
The asshole had found a way to royally fuck 27 people, apparently, just because he was a 1st class asshole with an incredibly small micropenis. I really hope karma kicks the living shit out of him, because I was unable to find the bastard to do it myself, and believe me, I would have not only because I hadn't slept yet and was sick, but because that fucktard deserved it... badly deserved it. If there is any justice in this world, I will meet that driver again sometime in this life in a very dark secluded alley where even the buzzards won't hear his screams...
Not only did 27 of us have to wait 5 extra hours in Grand Junction, but my connections in Denver and Amarillo were missed for sure and my deadline of 9 AM Sunday in Oklahoma City was now in question. I had scheduled myself to arrive in Oklahoma City almost 24 hours ahead of when I was required to be there because I am responsible and understood shit happens on Greyhound. Even then, somehow, one singlevevil vindictive douchebag put my arrival, even just on time, completely at risk.
Andreas and I charged our phones and my laptop at the station while we discussed what we were going to do for the next 5 hours. I wanted to find a bar, but Andreas was nervous that they wouldn't let us on the bus if we were drinking. I tried to convince him that bringing booze on the bus was prohibited but nobody said anything about drinking prior to getting on the bus.
I was so confident we could get hammered prior to boarding as long as we were not carrying, when I couldn't visually locate a bar, I asked one of the Greyhound employees where the nearest bar was. "In the alley behind the station, blue building," she said. And there we found Snowflakes bar and pool hall, which was bristling with activity that Friday afternoon. It looked like a giant warehouse converted with a giant bar, a blaring jukebox, a few tables and a few busy pool tables. Andreas went to go check on pitchers while I watched our beer at the table.
An old timer immediately came up to me and tried to sell me some weed. I asked him what kind and how much. "Kind bud," he answered, $20 an 1/8. It sounded too good to be true as that was at least $40 less an 1/8 than it should cost. Plus, I take risks but bringing herb into Texas was a bit too much of a risk for even me to take, so I offered to buy a joint for $5 which quickly ended our conversation. But still, I was impressed that even at my advancing age and short hair, I can still score pretty quickly in a strange town.
Anyway, after some pitchers of keystone (???), Andreas and I were back at the station and soon on the bus to Denver. The bus ride to Denver was kind of fun, with a seat for myself alone again, and a beautiful view. I sat behind a gentleman who had come to Colorado to shoot a rap music video. He astounded me by telling of last week, when he shared rehearsal space with Steve Kimock's new band, who Imaya and I had just seen in Hampton after Sunday night's Phish show. The driver let us know that the bus from Denver to Amerillo would be waiting for us. Almost back on schedule, and on my way, I was finally enjoying the trip, although still sick and unable to sleep.
The bus from Denver to Amarillo was the most empty yet, approximately 8 seats per person, which was funny, since when we tried to sleep, we all laid our legs across the aisle making the trek to the bathroom quite difficult for anyone at the front of the bus. But Denver to Amarillo was a great ride, where Heidi joined the party with Andreas and I. We enjoyed the trip through Colorado, New Mexico (I saw my 1st dormant volcano), and Texas. They were great traveling companions, but all good things must come to an end.
Amarillo arrived, and and my 2 new friends both headed to the bus into Dallas, I was headed on the bus to Oklahoma City. They had a 1 hour layover, I had a two hour layover. The broken down bus station in Amarillo soon filled up with a mostly unfriendly seeming group from a bus that emptied. I hadn't slept in 2 days and it was starting to take it's toll on me. I soon found out that that was my bus to Oklahoma City.
Being one of the last people on the bus, I had limited choices on seating. I tried to sit next to a woman, but she appeared to have 57 variety's of carry on bags. As she started adjusting the pile to apparently make room for me, I saw 2 out of 3 open seats in the last row. I went there and the dood invited me to sit. We were on our way.
Arrival in Oklahoma City was rather smooth at around 6 PM. I grabbed a cab to the hotel, where the driver informed me that I was in a 3.2 beer state. A quick diversion to a liquor store to pick up some real beer, Sierra Nevada, and I was at the hotel.
I was concerned that there would be issues checking in as I was relying on my boss for the next 2 weeks to reserve my room and he wouldn't be in until 10 PM or so, but there was my room, in my name, ready to go. I ran into Jason, one of the drivers fairly quickly, and he told me the group from last night's tour was going to dinner next door in about an hour. Since I was planning on going next door as well, I was invited to join the party. I was loopy from lack of sleep and a few beers, but the steak and lobster dinner was a welcome escape from the truck stop food I had been forced to survive on for the last couple days.
The Wyndem Hotel in Oklahoma City was interesting. Nice room, and a decent bar, but a couple of things were noteworthy. Laughter and screams of children were heard immediatly outside the window of my room. When I looked "outside," I realized that my window was not looking outside at all. It had a very large indoor pool on the interior of the hotel that the inisde rooms looked in on. Very interesting indeed.
The other notable thing about my room was that it had a big red warning card describing exactly what to do in the likely event of a tornado.
I was there, in the epicenter of tornado alley in the heart of tornado season. Logic be damned, if there was a twister... I would be one of those going towards that which makes people hide and run away.
The next two weeks could be very interesting indeed...