When I landed in Los Angeles I was a five-hour flight from home, which is why climbing on a Greyhound for 72 hours of sitting bolt upright instead took enormous willpower.
I’m glad I did, though.
It was all part of a continuum; it stitched my long journey together. I was rolling through America just like I’d rolled through Columbia and Ecuador and Peru. Just like I’d bumped across Tanzania and Kenya and India and China. It was the same road, the same piece of thread, the same world. Vladivostok and Ulaan Baatar felt connected to Kansas. Except those three days on Greyhound were the worst of my whole trip. It wasn’t the buses – they were clean and more or less on time and not all that uncomfortable. It was the people, the place, the food. America seemed lifeless, cracking, angry.
I stepped off the bus for a moment when we stopped in Vail, Colorado and the driver just shut the door and pretended to leave. He made me run after him and bang on the door. “I didn’t tell you to get out!” he barked. An hour later, when he stopped to put chains on the tires, we had words again. “I don’t like you!” he said. “Stay away from me!”
My fellow passengers were listless, droopy, lacking in dignity. One driver told me the buses were busiest around the first of every month, when government checks went out. Only the poorest of the poor in America travel across the country by bus, and the poor in America appear more beaten down than any beggar in India.
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Carl Hoffman is traveling for The Lunatic Express, to be published by Broadway Books in 2009. He is a contributing editor at Na…
One of the opportunities afforded by writing a book like Lunatic is to put a long journey into perspective and to look back over my notes.
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