Dispatches from the Greyhound
I've travelled over 28 hours on the bus in the past 2 weeks. Pretty glad I didn't go to Winnipeg last Tuesday night. I wasn't worried as I boarded the Greyhound in Edmonton late last night because a teenager rooted through my dirty laundry (and everyone else's). And the murderer is police custody.
I had to retrieve my car in Chase, B.C. a couple weeks ago so I hopped on the bus in Red Deer in the evening and arrived the next morning. I enjoyed the view of the mountains as we approached Calgary at dusk.
Bus depots are certainly an intriguing place. People from every walk of life are laying on the floor, drinking bad coffee from vending machines and anxiously waiting with their luggage at vague boarding gates. Everyone tends to keep to themselves as there aren't a lot of children to break the ice.
In Calgary a woman interrupted my Tetris game to tell me that she was on a trip to see her mother on her deathbed. Her fear was that she would get there after her mom had slipped into a coma. We visited until it was time to line up and then again hours later at our layover in Salmon Arm.
The bus driver thought somehow that not everyone would fit onto the bus bound for Vancouver from Calgary, but I ended up with two seats to myself. The buses aren't built for comfort. I managed a couple hours sleep switching between fetal and sprawled out positions. The greatest discomfort however came from our bus driver who would leave the lights on for our 10 minute stops (every 45 minutes or so).
I remember hearing my sister-in-law, April, talking about her cross-country bus trip. She did a fabulous imitation of the drivers as they announced each stop and the rules of conduct on board the bus. Each fragmented phrase was held together with raspy breathing into the microphone. Our driver often told us that if we missed reboarding (I never disembarked for the courtesy smoke time) the bus that we shouldn't worry, another bus would be on its way in 14 hours.
Dreary and dehydrated at dawn, I sat in the Greyhound station in Salmon Arm, BC. I leafed through a free seniors newspaper then asked the desk worker if she knew of a free internet hotspot nearby. A warehouse worker shouted out that the Best Western next door did. I guess I could have tested the frequencies myself because sure enough, I had a free connection on my iPod Touch and was able to check my email and send a message to my wife.
My second trip was substantially longer, but far more direct with just a 50 minute layover in Prince George. After buying my last minute ticket, I sat playing Tetris. A hooded, overweight and sweaty young man plunked down beside me and told me the security was freaking him out. I asked him why. He exasperatingly recounted some incoherent story about the guard smoking up on his off time. Then he turned and looked at me. "You're not the guy I was talking to before, are you?" Nope. He quickly got up and left.
Everyone on the bus had their own pair of velvet seats for the night ride through the Rockies. I had stayed up very late the two previous nights so I had a hard time drifting off, especially with an overweight teen snoring behind me. I listened to some tunes I hadn't listened to in a long time on my iPod and slept between Hinton and Jasper.
Arriving in Smithers a few minutes late in the mid-afternoon, I was greeted by a payphone that was torn to shreds (bears?). Amber eventually came to get me. I was whisked off to Tyhee Lake where I chased my children in the grass.