It had been some 40 years since I last took a Greyhound bus.
Remembering those journeys with three kids, a cat and a bag of fish, I could live another 40 years without going on a bus.
But wanting to see my daughter in Alberta, and not willing to drive alone when my husband was working – and flying via Vancouver and Calgary seemed ridiculous and expensive, I decided to take a bus.
The night bus was out of the question due to the passenger who had his head cut off while sleeping.
To avoid the 4 a.m. start at Trail (and a two-hour journey to Salmo through Castlegar and Nelson) I’d get my husband to drive me to Salmo.
The refundable ticket was $110. But since I was definitely going, I opted to save $10 and buy the non-refundable ticket. When I got home, my oldest daughter called and said, “Why didn’t you tell me? I’m off work all next week, I could have driven you?”
But I had the ticket; I was going on the bus.
The bus depot people told me to arrive “a good half hour” before the bus in case the driver was early. Well, my never-late-for-anything husband had us sitting at the Corner Gas in Salmo by 5:15 a.m.
I boarded the bus and sat across from an elderly woman. (Come to think of it, she could have been younger than me.)
It was a lovely, cool morning. The high big windows provided quite a different view of the familiar scenery. For the first time, I saw a sign identifying the Salmon River. So it must be true – Salmo is called Salmo because the N fell off the sign.
In Creston, all four of us passengers swarmed to the 7-11. A man recommended the ham and egg muffin. I was hungry so I bought one. It tasted pretty much like the paper it was wrapped in.
The number of passengers increased to 14. I think the bus holds about 60.
Women sat near each other at the front. Men drifted and spread out towards the back.
As we waited for the new driver to arrive, I listened to people talking outside the bus, sharing their worst bus experiences. (You never hear people at an airport talking about their worst flight experiences.)
A man said, “It used to cost $70 to go to Calgary from Creston. Now it’s $100.”
This made me feel pretty good. I just got to Creston for free.
A lady put her elderly father on the bus, noting that the gentleman only had 20 per cent vision. “Could someone make sure he changes buses in Cranbrook?” she asked.
Five young women got on; the Calgary traveller and the man I met in 7-11 who recommended the egg muffin.
He asked how the muffin was.
I say fine, and hope he keeps walking.
I barely closed my eyes and we were in Cranbrook.
An attractive young man with a do-it-yourself haircut was waiting to board the Calgary bus. He stood with a girl in her early 20s. She was wearing a warm sweater, a leather jacket, a scarf wrapped around her neck four times, hiking boots and shorts up to here. It’s July. Going to the Stampede, I guess.
I watched another young couple; remembering all those teary-eyed farewells when Dan worked at sea. But as the boy climbed onto the first step, she gave him a quick pat on the arm. Siblings.
A lady gets on the bus, dressed in a big flowery blouse with lots of bangles. Casino trip.
I suddenly remembered the blind man. Somehow he’d gotten off the bus without me seeing him.
The lady across from me was eating again. She consumed a banana a, a large bottle of juice, a sandwich, a muffin, a bag of sweets and at that moment, was munching on some nuts. She is reading The Soloist, and I wonder if it’s any good.
I settle back in my seat and reach for my book. Fernie, Sparwood, Pincher Creek, Fort MacLeod, Lethbridge.
I realized I’d been on the bus all that time and never spoke to a soul, other than the egg muffin man. (Lana Rodlie went 10 hours without talking to people? Was she asleep? Muzzled?)
What a peaceful, lovely journey it was.
Time: 10.5 hours.
Having all that time to myself: priceless.