By bus through the Mojave Desert via Barstow to LA

Trip Start Aug 26, 1994
Trip End Sep 18, 1994

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Flag of United States  , Nevada
Sunday, March 9, 2003

DAY 22 FRI The next day I caught a taxi to the Greyhound terminal. The man behind the counter told me that I did not have a reservation and would be on standby. I joined the wrong queue and passed the time watching my fellow passengers-to-be, all of whom seemed to be accustomed to interminable waiting. It eventually dawned on me that I was standing in front of the wrong door and I hastily dragged my belongings to the Los Angeles line. Fortunately there were not many people catching the LA Express and I was one of the first on board. I sat up the front so that I could look out the large front window. Across the aisle and behind the driver sat Billy Maxwell, a septuagenarian but large gent dressed in a red checked shirt and bib and braces as though he was on leave from the film "Deliverance". Billy was a little senile and talked loudly to an imaginary travelling companion for the entire five hour trip. The driver turned to him several times and politely asked him to keep his voice down. "Sir, I must ask you to KEEP YOUR VOICE DOWN".

Our driver had the unfortunate habit of holding his microphone so close to his mouth that one could only hear a muffled rumble when he made the occasional important announcement. I never did learn where the emergency exits and life rafts were located, and most of his jokes "mumble mumble mumble, eh eh eh!" went over my head. We stopped at a general store in Baker, a quaintly named town with nothing to recommend it other than the honesty of its shopkeepers. I purchased a Baby Ruth and orange drink but neglected to take my change. The young man behind the counter gave it to one of the passengers who returned it to me as we reboarded the bus.

At Barstow in the middle of the Mojave we stopped for a break. What a dump! Billy Maxwell was a train-counting freak, and as Barstow was also a railway town, he was in his element. Spotting a Sante Fe freight train he exclaimed, "Santa Fe, Santa Fe, that's twenny eight, that's twenny eight trains! Eh, eh, eh". Billy laughed a lot for reasons which were a little obscure. "Union Pacific, that's twenny nine, goonness me, twenny nine trains!" While we were parked in Barstow a freight train passed which Billy counted as number thirty. Some time later, when we were back on the road, we caught up to and passed the same train. Billy counted it as thirty one. I almost pointed out to him that he had already counted it but stopped myself in the nick of time.

1. Barstow - a desert gem (?)

Despite the five hour journey I was sorry when we finally arrived in Los Angeles at 4.15pm (you should have seen the peak hour traffic going the other way!). I asked the driver for directions to the Santa Monica Greyhound. He told me that the last bus of the day left in fifteen minutes and that I wouldn't catch it as it would take fifteen minutes for my backpack to be unpacked. South Central Los Angeles did not look too welcoming, so I caught a taxi back to the hostel. I didn't realise it was so far! I watched with growing horror as the meter crawled towards its final $32 charge (my remaining cash was only a few dollars more).

That night, after a light dinner of prawns and noodles (just add water), I took two Las Vegas sleeping pills and lay down on my bunk to read. I still couldn't get to sleep until 1am, mainly because people kept knocking at the door of my room looking for Joel, my black English room mate.
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