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[personal profile] zdashamber
Various people have asked that I write out how it was to take the bus from Albuquerque (hereafter ABQ, because of all the damn names) to Oakland. Some of you may first be interested in Why someone would do such a thing. Answer: I waited to get plane tickets for Thanksgiving until 6-7 weeks before, and the trip was going to be uber expensive. So I flew in a day before, stayed in a Super 8 for $40, and then joined up with my parents and went to my sister's house for the last year she'll be there teaching on the rez in southern New Mexico. It was a fun damn time... We wandered around and hunted rocks, which is one of my family's great joys.

Anyway, to get back to the Bay Area, the choice was either $300 for a plane ticket, or $90 on Greyhound. I needed to leave ABQ Saturday evening to coordinate with my parents, but I didn't really need to get to the Bay Area until Sunday evening, so I decided to give the bus another try.

My one previous experience on Greyhound was in college, when Silent E and I went down to her parents's place in San Diego for Thanksgiving, and then I think drove back, though I've forgotten how a car came into the picture. On that trip, the bus got stuck in an hours-long traffic jam south of San Jose, and so we missed the connecting bus in LA, and so her parents had to get us at 2 or 3 in the morning at a cold empty station. Also, the lights were broken on the bus, so my plan to spend the trip doing Physics homework was scotched and we instead played 20 questions and everyone on the bus probably hated us. That was also the trip where the Pacific nearly killed me for swimming in November, and I think on the way back we tried to take Highway 1 for the scenicness and learned that it's not scenic through LA and is in fact a street with stopsigns and driveways, so around 8 PM when we finally escaped we took tiny back highways through werewolf territory to I-5 and thence finally home.

Anyway, so this time I brought a LED headlamp, which turned out to be a great tool that I used both on the bus (where the lights were completely inadequate for reading) and the plane (where the lights were crazy glareful). I really recommend you get a LED headlamp that can be turned to point at various angles... It's great to have a flashlight when you travel, and headlamps have a small form factor. I also brought two wool shawls, and snacks.

5:10 PM: at station in ABQ. Clean, not too hard to find, pretty simple. Getting on the bus: turns out you should in fact show up at the station 40 minutes early. The bus boarded at 30 minutes, and actually left 10 minutes early. I headed for open seats, and towards the back found some, piled my stuff in the seat next to me and looked coldly at later passengers and retained 2 seats for myself, one of about 7 people on the bus who managed that.

Also got on the bus at that time: a guy who introduced himself to the person he sat with as "Frank" and said he'd been visiting a monastery. He seemed like he might talk, and he was in a seat catty-corner from mine, and I hoped he wouldn't be all chatting all night. He moved to a different seat in the back. There were a few people coughing, but mostly no one looked really sick. Mostly old and middle-aged people on the bus with about 20% in their 30s; mix of black and hispanic with perhaps about 25% white. (There were maybe a few Asians, and later on on the Phoenix to LA bus there were more.)

The driver, Scott, said as we left that we all knew the drill, and asked us to not swear or crack our gum, and aside from that just be respectful of the other passengers. I was one of two lights on in the bus, reading, which never got me carsick as it usually eventually does in a car; the bus was more massive and less jittery, or I'm older. An hour or so in, someone in the back lit a cigarette for a bit; "We can smell you," someone else in the back said to the air. An hour or so after that, someone in the back lit up some pot.

vents on GreyhoundI was sitting next to what looked like some kind of retrofitted onetime door in the side of the bus, and it was very cold, like outside air was leaking in, though there was cold air coming out of the inside air vents, too. One of the vents over my seat had been stopped up by someone jamming a soda can into it; I stopped up the other by poking a tube of rolled paper into it and folding the end over. I was wearing my neon-camo fleece Andes hat and the headlamp and my big old homeless-looking military surplus coat, and wrapped in both wool shawls, and I was still cold. On the other hand, the getup helped bounce people off from sitting next to me. (Seemed like people would mostly sit next to people of their own race, when faced with a sea of dontsitwithme dontsitwithme faces.) I generally stayed put at the smoking/break stops, since I didn't want to get stuff to drink, or to have to lose my seat.

Coming in to Flagstaff I heard someone mention something about snow. I prop myself up and look; oddly enough, there is a 2-3 inches of frozen crystalline water all over everything. Explains some of the cold.

It are snow let me in

Frank had a lighter that looked like a marshmallow gun in the brief glances I got. Early 30s normal-looking black guy. He would occasionally say things out loud. He came back to the seat catty-corner to me. "Is that a woman or a man," he once asked someone and I felt like it was about me. "I would never suck a woman's dick!" he announced loudly as we were on the way out of Flagstaff. Uncomfortable laughter. Repeated himself a couple times. There are plenty of schitzo people in the Bay Area and some ride the BART, and I was pretty tired, so it struck me as something regrettable to be endured.

Eventually I noticed, as I lay on my back on the seat trying to sleep, that there wasn't a cold draft coming though the bus any more. We were stopped. There were emergency vehicles going by us. It was lit up like Christmas about 350 feet ahead, every flashing light color except green. What with the bus stopped, eventually I headed forward to ask for more heat in the back, and Scott poked the temperature up to like 78... The front of the bus was much warmer than the back.

We waited. "FUCKING BITCH," announced Frank, his voice like it started pointed at me and ended pointed up towards the front. "Fucking orthodox Christian bitch. Not going to make it to LA." I wasn't looking. Everyone in the back of the bus had that notlooking feeling. We are teflon. We're all just trying to sleep here. "FUCKING BITCH."

After an hour or so, 1-2 in the morning, the driver comes on and lets us know that there's an accident ahead, involving a DPS officer, with semi jackknifed across the highway and a probable fatality. They were saying the highway was going to be closed for 8-10 hours. We wait some more. The bus moves forward slowly for the first time in awhile. More moving. People in the front looking at the accident. We turn a bit; I can see that there are about 9 cop cars and some tow trucks and both sides of the highway are closed, with crime tape across our side, and the semi is in fact on its side across both lanes, its cab and tail on different angles. The bus heads smoothly over the 30 feet of ground between the two sides of the highway, and we head back to Flagstaff.

I head in to the station there. There's a skinny white guy in the front seat with a chihuahua; he's friendly, telling a girl about how he was an army medic, so when the litter was born and this was the runt and it wasn't breathing, they ran to him and he did mouth-to-mouth on it and got it breathing, and so they gave it to him when it was weaned. It does in fact turn out to be an extremely well-trained dog; I'm with it all the way to LA and it never barks or messes or does anything but endure along with the rest of us. Back to my seat. Wait. Frank says "FUCKING BITCH." I look. "You won't make it to the end. You put the evil eye on me," he says to me, then goes back to facing front. I stop looking. He gets off again. I collect my stuff and move seats, to the front of the bus where there are several women with two seats. I figure when they come back I will sit with one of them. An old black lady offers to let me sit next to her. Frank comes back, doesn't notice, though eventually he announces, "Sorry woman, I'm sorry". But not to me because I'm teflon.

no outlets in FlagstaffWander into the station to see if I can charge my iPhone. The chihuahua guys says aside to me, "We're waiting for the cops to come and take that guy off the bus." I wander over to the ticket counter to see if there's a more direct bus that will pass through here to Oakland. I see a cop, and I fade back, because Frank is also in the station and I want to be behind a pillar. Scott talks to the cop, motions towards Frank who seems to not notice; the other cop appears. Frank heads back to the bus. I think he gets his stuff and bolts, but maybe the cops get him; either way, that's the last of that bit.

I'm still determined to sit in the front where it's warm. People come back to the bus; an alternate route has been found (guy at the front counter said I should ask at a more major station). I get bounced by a large hispanic lady (she held out nearly to the end, only getting a seat mate when the whole bus was full). Turns out that one of the single people in the front got off, so I get the seat second from the front on the left for the rest of the trip. Lie down, sorta doze; chihuahua guy who I think is named Mike chats with a hispanic lady my age who is sitting with her mom who doesn't speak English; nice low accompaniment to the dozing; they exchange Facebook info before she leaves in Riverside.

Dawn, and I can see palm trees. We had been on I-40... Maybe we went to LA! No. They have palm trees in Phoenix. We get out for a bus cleaning for 30-40 minutes that turns into an hour or so. The Phoenix bus station has a device charging station.

Phoenix charging station

Back on, still with both seats to myself, some more dozing, to Quartzite where we take on people and I'm to a single seat, but I get to choose seatmate as nice quiet lady. Stuck in traffic in California for a couple hours. iPhone has internet, can check possible bus schedules. Talk with an middle-aged hispanic guy who needs to get to San Jose for his job that starts at 5 in the morning; he will be SOL. Talk with a 35ish black guy who travels Riverside to Kentucky and back by bus for the past 3 years; Frank was the only crazy guy he's seen.

Get to LA at 5, too late for 3:45 bus that would have gotten me to Oakland at midnight. (Original bus would have gotten me to Oakland at 6:30.) Marisa is on her way to a birthday party, Ian is at Disneyland, I'm too tired to remember D, so I just hang for 5 hours at the bus station. The LA station is less 3rd world than last time I was there; pretty decent, really. Get a Ray Charles CD and a hamburger, charge iPhone again. Call work and leave messages that I will not be in in the morning and maybe not all day. The line of bags for the 10 PM express bus to the Bay Area is about 40 long by the time I notice and join it. Black lady makes sure that hispanic guy who moved her bag isn't trying to cut her out of the line. Jackass fashion-dressed Australian white college girls in front of me try her words on, "That my bag," and giggle. I keep mouth shut.

Get on bus, one of two, looking at the line I don't know if two will be enough, even with both packed full. Bus is not a Greyhound; the seats and aisles are narrower, too narrow, and there is so little leg room that my knees hurt and I have no idea how anyone taller than me survived. And when it turns on, I see there are TV screens in the corners... But they wouldn't...

This is where the whole thing gets truly hellish.

They play loud DVDs at us.

We can't escape.

I drag my ear plugs out and wrap my head in a scarf. Still hard to sleep. I can't get info on what busses will be available at 5 AM in Oakland; all-nighters not listed on AC Transit page, transit.511.org breaks on iPhone. DVD (Prince Caspian) ends before we stop in Coalinga at 1 in the morning or so for a half-hour break. Someone doesn't get back on the bus; they look for 6 minutes and then leave him. Perhaps that was enough pacification of the masses on this bus, I think hopefully?


They play Cars at us, at 1:40 in the morning.

Then when it is scratched, or maybe I dozed, they put in Transformers.

So it's nice that the ending wasn't spoiled on Cars because I might want to watch it some day, on a screen that I couldn't block out with my thumb. Though I was surprised for a moment that no one had mentioned to me that Optimus Prime had made a cameo in Cars.

"This is Oakland," I start up, rip out earplugs, unwrap scarf. "The station is closed, so if you don't have a ride, you should go on to San Francisco." OH HELL NO. Get me off this thing. Free! Into cool air! Break 20 into 5s for late-30s hispanic guy, then just give him $2 for bus fare (he only takes $1), then when it seems like busses aren't running he decides to go to SF and take BART and gives the $1 back. Find way around station. 4 college students get into only taxi, don't begrudge them. Look at stop for bus info to help out middle-aged hispanic guy; show 20-some south asian guy map on iPhone of how to get to 19th St BART from here. Walk to stop on San Pablo at Grand which has Nextbus lighted sign; next bus in 42 minutes? Fuck that. Start walking.

Walk by Vicky's house, at she is not awake at 4:30 AM. Walk home (2.2 miles, nice temperature). Bad part of town, but no one awake. See more cars than on trip from ABQ to reservation (like, 7). Cross paths with one early-30s black guy who asks for money for BART. Give him some money.

Get home 5:10 AM. Total trip: 36 hours.

Take long, long shower because I was so stanky. Happy that I washed sheets before I left. Go to bed. Wake up 4 PM, see sun for half an hour.

Taking bus: not super great.

Date: 2009-12-01 08:07 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Makes my whiney-assed tale of my trip from LA to Watsonville (fellow passengers hacking out their lungs as overflow from the clogged toilet surged up and down the aisle of the bus) seem like a jaunt on the Concorde. Glad you survied it.

Date: 2009-12-02 02:31 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
It is, indeed, Elaine (who has achieved total password overload and is now "anonymous" everywhere).
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