If polled, most sensible folk would agree… taking a Greyhound bus is not the best way to start a memorable holiday vacation. Most Greyhound experiences start off with negative emotions building even before leaving the house. A slight hope of optimism may flicker on the way to the station, but when the car door closes and one is left alone, the dread wells up again. Uneasiness persists until sitting on the bus and underway because people know that there is the slight chance of getting mugged while waiting in line to purchase a ticket. Though uncomfortable at best, there is the option to find a strategic location to wait out the time until boarding. Then without fail, when entering a Greyhound bus the first thing seen are the forlorn faces of the passengers. Nobody wants to admit that Greyhound is the only viable economic option for transportation, but that fact is written in their faces.
Buses are transportation for the downtrodden and under privileged and comprise quite a variety, but typical cast of characters. The majority of passengers sit silently, try to close their eyes, or read books. Normal people try to act comfortable on the bus, but there’s always that guy ruining their serenity and sitting just across the aisle. He is the outspoken and inebriated lowlife who knows full well that his foul mouth may get his butt kicked off before his destination. Who is further back? The couple who secretly steals nips and passes a pint of the hard stuff quietly between themselves. At the very back are the resident criminals, bullies, and tough guys who stare down anyone attempting to use the restroom. Being California, of course a couple of the middle rows are filled by Mexicans who look like seasonal migrant workers with their families. The men sit respectfully wearing white cowboy hats, thick but well groomed mustaches, butterfly collar long sleeves, faded wrangler jeans, and work boots. It is all to classic.
Everybody is judged when getting on a bus and I was neither a well-to-do trust fund baby nor a complete vagabond, but more like a hard working something-in-the-middle type. I got on the bus with a mission bringing a certain kind of neo-hippy niche to the table. At the station my hopes and dreams barely fit in an oversized cardboard bike box crammed full of biking, camping, and climbing gear. A black medium sized backpack had Star Wars and Grateful Dead patches sown on the sides. My toes wiggled in a pair of new, high tech Tevas and fuzzy forest green fleece socks. Instead of pants I wore shiny black spandex tights under my favorite baggy orange cotton shorts sporting the logo of the Denver Broncos on one thigh. To top it all off was a shadowed face of a Stormtrooper on a black Empire Strikes Back t-shirt. It was a look that exuded a cool and carefree confidence though not the heart was skeptical at best. This was, of course, Greyhound.
We left Santa Rosa with stops in Napa, Davis, and Sacramento before pulling a red eye run into Reno. Once underway breaking the ice with strangers was easy. Appearances seem to stem conversation and I didn’t mind telling a few people my plans for this trip. The conversations were short and concise, but the sleepless night in Reno’s bus terminal was long and hard and left me groggy the next day. Before the 7 o’clock sunrise, five travelling souls and a driver boarded another bus southbound on Highway 395 for Carson City, San Bernardino, and all points in between. With a chance to relax, I fell asleep knowing there was a few hours to recuperate before starting a bicycle trip where the I intended to climb to the highest measured point in the states of Nevada and California and tour an amazing national park called Death Valley.
When I awoke, we had obviously entered higher country. The views out of tinted windows revealed rolling hills of the eastern bench of the Sierras that for the most part were devoid of vegetation, yet blanketed by a fresh foot of snow from a recent storm. In the blink of an eye, the bus had not only arrived in Lee Vining, but the driver had emptied its cargo hold of my possessions and disappeared forever. Like a rude awakening, I was left on the sidewalk next to a resturaunt in the cool warmth of the spring sun under brilliant blue skies and stringy white clouds. Yawning and stretching, it was time to gather my wits as well as this mess of gear before me. Things needed to be neatly loaded onto this relatively new bike that I intended to ride approximently 250 miles over the next couple weeks.
By the time Rose Pedal was prepped and assembled, the mass was mondo!! Without skimping on the essentials for climbing and camping, it was funny to see how they packed so succinctly. Mountaineering boots, snowshoes, crampons, ice axe, trekking poles, bivy sack, sleeping pad and bag, food, stove, and water all became one streamlined unit on the bike. Unlike me, she was awkwardly rear heavy and rearing to go.