Today’s Prompt – March 20th, 2023

You’re going on a cross-country trip. Airplane, train, bus, car, or bike?

I know the answer to today’s question is definitely not a bike. Unless it’s got a big motor. I’m certainly not riding a bicycle more than a few miles let alone that far…not with the option of the other three.

Next up…a bus. I have ridden buses for a few hours before, As a kid I rode the one in Colorado as a teenager to Denver – the trip I mentioned a few posts back about getting faced on the plane when I was about 13.

The next trip was heading to my first shows with The Statler Brothers. I left Kansas City on a Greyhound to rendezvous with the rest of the road crew in Des Moines, Iowa, where they would pick me up and then we’d head to my first show on the road. Pretty exciting!

I once saw a comedian do a bit where he talked about riding a bus from Minneapolis to Houston and it was a trip with “…a Who’s Who in mental illness.”. I had the same experience within just a few hours.

I got to my layover stop for a bus change. I think it was in Nebraska, perhaps Omaha. I had a few hours to kill so I decided to go outside and have a cigarette because I was a dumbass who smoked at the time.

It was summer so people were outside enjoying the weather, smoking and talking. One guy was traveling with his grandson.

The guy was a Vietnam War veteran. The reason I knew this was he threatened to kill one of the passengers. who was of Asian descent, and declared it would be just like the (insert plural racial slurs here) he did in ‘Nam. Whoa! WTF is this about?

Needless to say we were all stunned and there was a nervous quietness as everyone stepped back…and those with kids tucked them behind for safety. His grandson seemed ashamed. A rather interesting turn of events.

I got on the bus for Des Moines so it wouldn’t be long before my ride showed up – a semi truck pulling a trailer loaded with band instruments and sound & lighting gear and the start of an awesome year of being “on the road”!. I was pretty excited.

Our meetup time came & went. This is before cellphones came out (which started happening a few months later and for only this who could afford the extravagance). I had no idea why they were late.

At that time there were coin-operated TVs on some of the chairs in the waiting area. I had a few quarters in my pocket and apparently time to pass so I figured that’d be something to do. I popped a quarter in and kicked back for a quarter’s worth of entertainment.

It was then she came into my life.

As I watched TV I noticed the other passengers had gotten on their connecting buses so the place was empty except for me. And her.

I’m watching something on TV and out of the corner of my eye I notice this woman moving like a cat burglar, stealthily inching closer to me a seat at a time. I kept watching and she kept creeping closer. Pretty soon I am watching her more than the TV, not sure of her intentions.

She was an older woman, in her 70s or so, and probably homeless. No teeth and dressed in rags. This was in the mid-80s so (unfortunately) nothing was done to help these people – they were outcasts.

This woman ended up “sneaking” her way into the chair behind me; she wanted to watch TV. She would cackle with laughter as she watched over my shoulder – it was like watching TV in a chicken coop.

Despite her overwhelming lack of hygiene I just let her watch and cackle for no apparent reason until I ran out of quarters. I kept a cautionary eye open but figured she was probably harmless. I had never really been exposed to this stuff before but I wasn’t alarmed.

My ride finally arrived, hours late due to a tire blowout while heading down the highway to pick me up. With a semi you don’t just pop the trunk open to get the jack and spare out. You call a service truck; again this is pre-cellphone so it took even longer. We took off and I did my first show in, I believe, Quincy, IL

I did take one long bus trip on Greyhound and I swore I’d never do it again. Colorado to Tennessee. If you’ve never been to Paducah, KY at 2:00 AM, it is not a good place to say the least. I don’t know why bus stations are in the shittiest parts of town and are not closed to anyone but passengers. They let anyone in, the places don’t feel safe, and they are filthy. It’s cheap for a reason.

Yes, they were interesting experiences but I would not do another bus trip unless in a city to get around locally, which we did in Europe many times.

That leaves airplanes, trains and cars.

Unfortunately train travel in this country is lacking in many ways. It’s too expensive and not convenient with schedules and routes. In Europe you can go nearly anywhere on a train and it’s not possible to do that here in the U.S. I have ridden many trains on my trips to Europe (check my Europe adventures posts in January 2018 and February 2020) and loved it. I do wish it was possible here because I would definitely take the train often. However, this country is more geared toward cars and highways.

Flying and driving are the only real options for me. I use airplanes mostly just for the convenience of time when going domestically. When my parents were sick I drove 3-4 days between Washington state and KC many times and it was very taxing especially given the circumstances. I flew a lot as well due to time constraints. That got expensive.

Plus I can’t drive to Europe…even with the windows rolled up.

I think of the words “cross-country trip”, as in Today’s Prompt, as a road trip…and as the only way to go. I have been to many places and seen many things in 47 states on many highways – on family vacations, moving all over, and when working on the road.

Bottom line is it really comes down to what you want to accomplish. Save time? Fly. Slow travel and not have to worry about driving? Trains. Bus? No. I won’t even bother validating the bike option because it’s not one.

For me a road trip is the absolute best way to see the country. Stop when & where you want to see things and eat in new places. There’s so much to experience from road trips no matter where you drive. Driving in Ireland was an awesome experience in and of itself…and that was on top of the stuff we saw.

However, I can find adventure anywhere no matter the mode of travel!

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