From Madison to LA

As many of my Twitter followers already know, I took a daring (read: stupid) trans-national trip via Greyhound bus from Madison to LA for the Rose Bowl game. Since being back I’ve been bombarded by a number of people asking, “how’d it go?” To save myself some time, I’ve decided to construct a comprehensive recap of my insane trip of a lifetime.

Modest Beginnings

It began simply enough. Kyle Busch and I arrived at the Greyhound bus stop on West Washington with more hope and excitement than many could understand. Despite just about all our friends and family giving detailed accounts of how horrible it was going to be, we were still excited. In fact, the only thing that seemed daunting was the 46 hour trip time (at least, that’s how long I think it was supposed to be, the timezones mess me up though). To pass the 46 hours I planned to stream every episode of Arrested Development, Season Six of The Office and the newest season of Weeds from my Netflix account, because the buses were equipped with WiFi and electrical outlets.

The bus arrived right on time. We said our goodbyes and headed aboard. To my surprise all the seats were leather and offered pretty decent leg room, the seats reclined way more than expected and each person had their own outlet. Pretty awesome right? Well, at the time, it was. About two seconds later though, I realized the outlets didn’t work, and the WiFi could have been wireless dial-up for all I know. I did bring books as a back-up plan, so it wasn’t the end of the world. Busch and I just talked all the way to Chicago anyways.

Chicago and rat-tails

And Chicago was precisely the place where the crazies began to get on board. We had a two hour layover at the Chicago Greyhound station and each moment we were there became more random.

Across the station sat a man looking like misery itself. His face was gaunt and tired. He periodically held his head in his hands, breathing and moaning loudly. His body rocked forwards and backwards in the chair. I stared at him for a moment before another man crossed my line of vision.

This man had long blonde hair tied into a rat-tail running down the back of his oversized trench coat. He appeared to glide across the floor because the coat covered his shoes for the most part. I leaned over to Busch and whispered, “he’s got the uniform of a public flasher.” He sauntered around the station for a few minutes before going into the bathroom. Obviously my mind raced with weird thoughts of what he was doing in there…

Near the bathroom sat an elderly man, looking innocent in that “he’s-an-old-man” sort of way. His wife sat next to him, staring straight ahead, momentarily closing her eyes to rest. He was totally normal except for when he randomly pulled a video camera out of his bag and started pointing it around. After watching him for about 10 minutes, I noticed he would pull out the camera every few minutes, shoot about five seconds of footage and then put it away, satisfied with whatever he’d captured. I’ll name him “Boris” considering he’ll appear again in this story.

After the two-hour layover, we boarded the bus we would be on until Denver. Both Busch and I were still upbeat, more enthralled by the characters we encountered than annoyed or scared of them. Plus, we were boarding a new bus with (hopefully) working WiFi and outlets.

Get off ma lawn!

The WiFi and outlets didn’t work. At all. Nothing. Being the American that I am, I thought this was a slight injustice and decided to complain (first on my Twitter account, just to test the waters I guess). When we approached the next stop in Nowhere, Illinois, I asked the bus driver why they didn’t work. He gave me a simple answer, “If they don’t work, they don’t work.” Oh, really? Thanks.

Although, merely quoting him is not enough to describe this royally rude, angry, bitter old man. I’ll name him Rufus.

Rufus had salt and pepper hair slicked back across his head, covering various bald spots along the way. His face was long, wrinkled and his cheeks jiggled briefly after he spoke. Rufus’ words rolled out with a Southern drawl, but were tinged with a sense of absolute contempt for whatever he was talking about. The words sort of dripped out slowly like oil and were frequently followed by wads of spittle (I assumed his spit just wanted to get away from him as soon as possible).  If my above description of him isn’t enough for your imagination to envision, just imagine a man in his seventies, screaming “GET OFF MA LAWN!” in a Southern accent…wearing a bus driver’s uniform…driving a bus.

Here are some of his meaningful quotes to the passengers of his bus on the way to Omaha:

“If I see one thing sitting in that aisle I’ll just throw it out. I don’t care what.”
(Referring to the WiFi and outlets not working) “I flipped the switch. Not my problem if it doesn’t work now.”
“Who’s shining a damn flashlight around back there? If I see it one more time in my mirror I’m gonna pull over and throw it right out the window.”
“If you’re not back in 10 minutes I’ll leave you right here, I don’t care.”

Omaha to Denver

Arriving in Omaha was a relief. (I’m sure that is the only time I will ever say that in my life.) Although, when we arrived it was around 2am and most people were asleep. Rufus lovingly brought them awake by turning on the lights and saying, “Gotta clean the bus. Everyone off. You have to get off the bus now.”

I think Busch’s expression sums up the feeling of waking up at 2am in Omaha…

Everyone groggily raced into the station, trying to find coveted outlets to charge dying phones. One man was so desperate he sat in the men’s bathroom while his phone and laptop charged.

Small celebrations were shared between passengers when they realized Rufus was leaving. Boris filmed some footage of the station and then stood in the isle filming people sleeping. It was odd.
Anyways, from Omaha we were going to go straight through the night and into Colorado.

This is the part of the trip that is boring (except to Boris who continued filming the unbelievable flat landscape as we drove through Nebraska. Also his wife allegedly had horrible gas problems, and she kept ripping horrible farts for over an hour. She also kept spraying perfume on top of them probably trying to diffuse their potency.)

I’ll just fill this part with pretty pictures from a sunrise over rural Nebraska.

So I was in Denver…

This is precisely where the trip just fell apart. Both in terms of being on schedule and the absolutely insane people who then boarded.

My first order of business in Denver was to brush my teeth. It’d been a day and my mouth felt like a dog had been licking my gums all night. I went into the bathroom, awkwardly brushed my teeth (I’d never brushed my teeth in a public restroom before) and walked out.
Immediately after walking out, a man franticly asked me, “You seen my rings?” “Uhh…no.”
“My gold rings? I was washing my hands and they were right there and now they’re gone!”
“Sorry, didn’t see them”

I’ll name this man Inglewood, considering that’s where he’s from. Inglewood, from that moment on, dedicated the next 30 or so hours to this single event. Everything he spoke about was somehow tied to him losing his rings. Besides going to almost everyone in the bus station seeing if they’d seen his rings, he also spent hours calling the majority of his contact list, repeating the story verbatim to each person. Every conversation started like this: “Yo whattup my nigga? So I was in Denver and was washing my hands…” You can imagine how it continues. He would then wrap up his story and say he had to go. Where was he going? He was calling more people to tell them about the story. He did all this while complaining he had no idea why his cellphone battery kept dying on him.

Besides Inglewood, a woman I’ll name Nelly also boarded in Denver. Why the name Nelly? Well, since the bus was idling for over an hour in 50 degree weather in Denver, the bus was quite hot when we boarded.
“I’m going to start stripping if we don’t turn this heat off!” Nelly screamed from the back of the bus. “I’m taking off my clothes right now!”

Pretty much everyone abhorred the idea of her doing this. Except for one equally crazy individual sitting next to Busch. I’ll name him Peter. “I got some singles!” Laughing, “You gotta work for it though girl.” Imagine this coming from a socially awkward, overweight middle-aged man, and you get a sense of the chaos developing around me. I just threw my head in my hands and laughed. Laughed because I slept about 3 hours, there were 26 hours left and I was in disbelief.

Briefly after Nelly’s outburst, the man sitting next to me quietly began a conversation on his cellphone that gradually grew louder after he found out his girlfriend cheated on him while he was in jail. He yelled and whispered, yelled and whispered for the next hour. When he hung up, he turned toward me and stared for a second.
“My girl been cheatin’ on me? You believe that? You BELIEVE THAT?!”
In my head I thought, please don’t kill me. Thankfully, something else came out of my mouth, not sure what it was though. Whatever it was, it led me to ask him when he’d gotten out of jail. His answer? Three weeks.

Let’s recap. I’m sitting next to a recent convict whose girlfriend just cheated on him. Busch is sitting next to an odd middle-aged man, willing to sacrifice money to see a 40-year-old overweight woman who is clearly bipolar strip on a bus. Two seats behind me is Nelly, who is prone to fits of yelling. And directly behind me and to my right is Inglewood, who hasn’t stopped watching homemade rap videos at full volume without headphones in-between calls to explain his story. Pure chaos.

Weather Delays

By the time night set in, the cast of characters had settled down and we made our way pleasantly through the Rocky Mountains without a hitch. I didn’t get to take any photos though because I was sitting in the aisle, and wasn’t too keen on trying reach across the convict for a photo op.

Our first stop after making it through the Rockies was a gas station in Utah out of a horror movie. There wasn’t a light for miles, just headlights faintly in the distance on the one highway running through southern Utah.

About half the passengers exited the bus for a break. I bought some water and found a TV playing Sportscenter. Busch followed me in moments later where he told me the driver wasn’t planning on leaving the gas station until the next morning. It was 10pm. Ugh.

Apparently there was a “17 car pile-up” ahead due to a blizzard or something. Specifics aren’t something Greyhound is good at. The driver then gave us a delay of two to six hours, telling us to “sit tight.”

Everyone did just that. Inglewood rushed to claim an outlet to charge his phone (he hadn’t exhausted his contact list yet and needed to tell more people.) Boris stayed on the bus for no foreseeable reason. Convict was on the phone with his girlfriend again. Nelly fell asleep. I decided to get some work done now that I had an outlet for my laptop to work.

About an hour later, the driver storms in, declaring that, “we’re good to go.” In my head I thought, 17 car pile-up? Cleaned up in an hour? What?

The supposed pile-up was only a mile up the road, but after going about 10 minutes it became clear to me the driver most likely made it up. There were no police cars. No ambulances. No sign of anything. My hypothesis is the bus driver didn’t want to drive through any snow. And by snow I mean maybe two inches. He drove for hours well under the speed limit, riding the rumblestrips because he claimed he couldn’t see anything. I would have killed to have a driver from the Midwest who knows what snow is like.

On top of the weather delays, Inglewood and Nelly presented two interesting problems. Since the rush to get on the bus had everyone disorganized, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when Nelly yelled out, “I forgot my anti-psychotics. I’ll do my best to behave everyone.” She then let out her laugh which can only be compared to a witch being boiled in oil.

Meanwhile, Inglewood, with a fresh charge of battery, was listening to music video after music video on his phone’s speakers. Not only were the videos horrible because they were produced by a friend of his, but the painful attempts of his phone’s speakers to mimic something resembling bass was too much to handle. I was, however, too much of a coward to say anything. Instead, he played those videos straight into the night, where I somehow fell asleep around 3am.

What Happens In Vegas Isn’t Very Fun

It has been over 40 hours since I left Madison. I haven’t slept much. We’re closing in on arriving in LA. My hope and excitement are coming back. Plus, Vegas is cool, right? Well, Vegas is cool at night. We rolled into Vegas at 7am. The only things left on the street in Vegas at 7am are trash and people who feel like trash, desperately trying to avoid daylight and guilt.

Also just before arriving in Vegas we were notified we were going to be delayed again because of mudslides in California. We were also stopped at some random police checkpoint where we sat for nearly 30 minutes while people circled our bus and then let us go. As they circled, Nelly opined on the state of our government officials while Inglewood whispered to himself about them finding the weed he had with him.

Needless to say, my hope was gone. This was my breaking point.

When we finally left Vegas, we were told our bus was changing over to “local” instead of “express.” Meaning instead of arriving around noon in LA, we would drive around downtown LA acting as a sort of metro bus, not arriving until 4pm (10 hours later than our itinerary).

Final Stretch

Mudslides? I saw mud. I saw sliding. But neither of them were ever together. Either Greyhound made that up, or I just missed them.

Anyways, fast forward through driving through the boring Southern California desert and we’re in downtown LA. Literally, miles away from the Greyhound station when we hit downtown LA’s infamous traffic. Bumper to bumper. Not moving. Inglewood is playing music videos. Nelly is discussing her alcohol abuse awkwardly with a passenger next to her. I’m doing everything not to bang my head on the seat in front of me.

I want to read a book, but my book was stolen from me. That’s right, a book. Someone stole my book. Most bizarre thievery I’ve ever personally witnessed. Instead I stared out the window while the sun set over LA. Faint fumes of exhaust passed through the vented air of the bus. Boris vigorously filmed the state of the traffic jam.

Suddenly a verbal fight broke out between a passenger and the bus driver. The driver slammed on the brakes in the middle of changing lanes on the highway and told her to sit down. When she kept talking back, Inglewood shouted from the back, “Yo sit down lady!” Then to the driver he yelled, “Step on it man! We all drugdealers and gangbangers back here. We have places to be!” He then pointed at us, “These kids gotta get to the Rose Bowl, let’s go!”

We arrived at our final destination about 20 minutes later. No one’s face getting off that bus signified anything resembling accomplishment, but they should have. We completed a 56 hour trek through rain, ice and snow. Through made up stories of car accidents and forgotten anti-psychotics.

Anyone who rides the Greyhound from Madison to LA deserves a standing ovation and a plaque upon arrival.

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2 thoughts on “From Madison to LA

  1. So since I’m related to you, you want me to bookmark your blog. And you also want a plaque and standing ovation. Good thing your birthday is coming up.

    I want to read the blogger who wrote about that creepy kid who just kept snapping pictures on this long Greyhound bus ride….the kid who even took pictures of a guy sitting on the floor in the bathroom. Call him…Bucky?

  2. Fortunately, I was way too intimidated to take any photos while on the bus…too many things could go wrong or become awkward. I only broke out my camera once off the bus, except for one picture I quickly snapped out the window.

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