May 1998 trip Through the Northwest US
Seven minutes late and we're waiting for the driver. They help a blind guy into the front seat. That's good because Greyhound has a bad reputation for accommodating disabled people. This is the Dallas to LA run so they're moving pretty good. This is the first time I've used an Ameripass so I'm pretty excited to see how it works.
7:11 PM and we're off. The store lights are on and there's a scatter of pink clouds across the sky. They looks good though and I hope the weather holds. We head down Congress heading out of town toward Phoenix. I've ridden and driven this stretch of I-10 so very many times yet I still get a little shiver of excitement to be heading out.
In almost three hours we're getting ready to leave Phoenix and I'm on the front seat on the KT bus. It's a nice bus with the overheads that have the covers that come down instead of those elastic cords to hold things in. It's so much easier to get bags in without the elastic cords. The Phoenix bus station is busting as usual since it gets so much transfer business and the Miami to Los Angeles run which comes through several times a day. This is where they clean the buses on the long runs so everyone has to get off for an hour. There are also several runs each day to Las Vegas, like the one I'm on now.
It's nearly 10 PM when we pull out and it's dark outside but quiet and cozy inside the bus. The bus is just comfortably full and I have the front seat to myself. Oh, joy, since this is a night run and I'm hoping to get some sleep. We head out on I-10 and then north to US-60/93 for the first stop at Youngtown. Then Wickenburg, where US-60 leaves us and heads southwest toward I-10, and Wikieup and north to I-40 where we head west about 20 miles to Kingman. From what I can see in the dark between dozing, this is an interesting run as we head out of the low desert and up onto the Mogollon rim.
At Kingman we stop at a truck stop and go around back to the small Greyhound office in the back. From here we leave I-40, which jogs south, and go west on AZ-68 to Bullhead City where we cross the Colorado River into Laughlin NV. The bus stop is at a casino and then we continue west on NV-163 till we hit US-93/95 and turn north to Las Vegas.
When we arrive in Las Vegas people are already lined up for the Salt Lake City bus so I can't get any coffee, which I really need. There are too many people and I'm the last one on the bus. It's turning light as we pull out of Las Vegas and head northeast to Salt Lake City on I-15. The land is high desert and quite bare. Just before we enter Arizona we stop at a casino in Mesquite NV. Waiting for us are some DEA agents who check the baggage compartment with dogs and go through our carry on luggage as well as asking each of us where we are from and requesting identification from some people. Evidently we are clean and are allowed to leave after about fifteen minutes. The driver gets off for coffee but we have to stay on the bus.
We're on the Mormon route to California that goes from Salt Lake City to California. Of course, we're going the opposite direction than the pioneers. This is the trail that many people tried, thinking that they would avoid the fate of the Donner party. Unfortunately, they ended up in the desert, some even in Death Valley. When we spent Christmas as Death Valley a few years ago, the rangers told the story of the party that came through at Christmas. They were not in a festive mood, it seems, by the time they got that far.
Soon after we enter Arizona and cut through the northeast corner through the Virgin River gorge. It shows as scenic on the map and certainly is. We can see the river below us as we wind through deep walls of rock. The only way you can get to this piece of Arizona by road is from Utah or Nevada.
I'm sitting next to a lady who is going to visit her daughter and grandchildren in Salt Lake City. She and her husband have retired in Las Vegas after travelling around in a trailer for several years. This is the first time she's gone on the bus by herself and her husband wrote down everything for her. Quite a few people have retired in Las Vegas and you can see the mobile home parks stretching around it as in so many desert towns. She's a very nice person to sit next to and we talk about travelling as we go along. We both agree that we cannot understand people who don't want to travel and see the world.
We continue on I-15 into Utah and stop at a McDonalds at St George for breakfast. Oh that coffee tastes good. The driver told one lady to not get back on, evidently because she was drunk and had trashed the bathroom. St George is not a good place to get kicked off the bus as the only way to get out of there without a car is to wait for the next bus. Well, maybe she'll have sobered up by that time. It is good that they are so hard line on drinking and people who are otherwise a hassle. A bus is just too close quarters to spend several hours with a drunk.
We wind our way between snow covered mountains and see several exits for Zion National Park and then Bryce and the other national parks further east. We start to see more grass and some evergreens. The Cedar City bus stop is at a Food Mart and we all try to use the restroom in 10 minutes since the one on the bus was trashed. None of the bus stops are big enough to have the equipment to clean the bathroom.
At Beaver we stop at El Bambi Café. Yep, El Bambi! Beaver is an old town with the stone buildings in the center and a little tumble-down on the edges. We are here longer than expected as the driver is waiting for the second bus to catch up. It doesn't arrive and we go on.
We continue on through little passes of scrub and small evergreens and drop into emerald green fields. It's cool up here but still very dry and dependent on irrigation. At Fillmore we stop at a Shell station and café for our lunch stop. The second bus was ahead of us and already here and some people shift to the other bus as it isn't as full. The waitresses and cook in the café are working double fast to get us all taken care of before we have to leave. It's difficult in some of the small towns as they don't have enough customers the rest of the day to make it worthwhile to hire more people.
We are running through high, long valleys with the intermittent irrigated fields and the mountains rising up on each side. Before Provo we see a little of Utah Lake. Many people on the bus are surprised as they thought this was the Great Salt Lake. It's still pretty big. At Provo there is a real bus station. This is a neat, clean little town that you see so much throughout the areas the Mormons settled. Everyone gets off and stretches before continuing on into Salt Lake City.
Traffic gets slower as we head out of Provo and there is contruction. At least we are going into Salt Lake City on a Friday afternoon, instead of out of it. It starts to rain and then to pour. There is quite a bit more construction and traffic gets quite slow. We pass some drifts of hail where I-80 come in though we don't actually get pelted by it. Still we're only five minutes late coming into Salt Lake City.
I call the hostel to make sure there's room and end up taking a taxi as there is construction all around the bus station for the light rail they're building for the winter olympics in 2002. I stayed at the Avenues Hostel at 107 F Street. This is in a very safe, domestic residential area. The houses are great and everything is nice and clean. Even the hostel is pretty clean. It's a little strange, but more because of the people there than the hostel itself. There seemed to be a strange mixture of people, including some who had been there awhile, and most spent their time in a dark television room watching sports on a big television, or an action movie. The fact that the second night I was there I had the proverbial roommate from hell probably didn't help give me a great impression, though that certainly wasn't the hostels fault. First she wanted to borrow my soap, and my deodorant, and complained about everything and then she kept we awake most of the night hacking and coughing.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed Salt Lake City. It is a very pretty, clean city. I think that I would be bored if I stayed long, but for one day it was great. I went on a volkswalk which took me past the geneology library, through Temple Square, and yes the Mormon temple is great, up a lot of hills to the state capital and wound around some beautiful neighborhoods. I finished footsore, but happy.
As the Oregon trail and the Mormon Trail other such trails were part of my tentative agenda, I enjoyed seeing the monument to the Handcarts that were hauled out with people power one summer. Not one of Brigham Young's better ideas. Many of them died, though I must admire their courage and faith while still apalled at the sacrifices they made. I also went to the Pioneer museum and enjoyed seeing an actual handcart. They had several but the man telling me about them would only guarantee the one as truly genuine. There was also an old trolley there which I liked.
The state capitol had cherry trees blooming around it and was quite beautiful. They have some magnificent murals painted on the inside of the dome. The front of the building was torn up, probably more of the facelift being done for the 2002 Winter Olympics. There was a monument to the Mormon Brigade which I was interested in as they are also a part of the history of Arizona.
All in all, a beautiful day and beautiful weather. The mountains still had snow on them but the temperature in the city was comfortable. I had a light jacket on in the morning but by the afternoon I had to take it off. This was the first time I had been in Salt Lake City so I enjoyed seeing all the things that I had heard about. I took a tour of the Temple square which had absolutely gorgeous flowers blooming. It was fun actually being in the Tabernacle as I had seen it on TV when hearing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It was a lot smaller than I thought. One thing that did amaze me was that the Mormons couldn't get hardwood for the benches so they hand painted the pine to look like the more expensive wood.
Of course, I had to look in the geneological library. My goodness it was just full of people busily looking through massive books and checking out the computer databases. My son has used the computer resources as an LDS center near where he lives and it is enormous. I just tip toed around trying to look like I belonged and was grateful that this wasn't the interest that I developed. I enjoy finding out about my family, but some of these geneologists are real fanatics. The only ones, I understand, who are more obsessive about their ancestors than the Mormons are the southerners trying to prove they really are related to General Lee.
I also just rode around town on the buses for a couple hours. They have a pretty comprehensive bus system, but the metropolitan area is so spread out it's still a bit thin. The one thing I did want to do that I didn't get to was get out to the Great Salt Lake. Oh, well, next time.
I'm up bright and early on Sunday, before anyone else, and the payphone does not work, and the nearest store is several blocks. Thank goodness for cell phones! Mine is an antiquated one that I only use for emergencies, but it does come in handy. The taxi was soon there to whisk me off to the bus station. It starts raining on the way downtown. This is an omen.
I get the seat behind the driver, all by myself. I love it! I can see the road rolling out ahead and spread out all my stuff. I have my camera and my notepad beside me so I can jump out when we stop and take pictures, and write about where we are. It is really pouring as we head out. US-89 keeps merging and leaving I-15. I-84 is multiplexed with I-15 till we get close to the Idaho border. It's nice to be back on the bus.
It looks like the midwest. There are lots of green grass and deciduous trees. The towns look like little midwest towns, they're all so clean and neat. When I go through a LDS area in the west it always seems neater and cleaner. I couldn't be a mormon but they do keep things nice. We get to Ogden which has a nice square in the downtown. It's still raining so I just stick my head out of the door of the bus.
We head on up I-15 through neatly planted fields with the green plants just showing. We pass close to the Great Salt Lake but the rain is pulling a grey wall down to the west so I can't see very much. The cattle grazing by the road seem to enjoy it.
We stop at the Trailside General Store in Brigham City. Every one runs through the rain to get a junk food breakfast and the smokers have a smoke. Everything is dripping outside making the green so much greener and the skies gray. We can't even see very far because the rain is coming down so hard. In the bus it's feels cozy, but the temperature is a bit chilly. The driver turns up the thermostat when we request it.
As we catch glimpses of mountains to our right, the driver calls someone on his cell phone to wish her a Happy Mothers Day. I had forgotten it was Mothers Day. Well, I find out when I get home that my kids were trying to call me. I had mentioned I was going on a trip, but, I guess, I wasn't clear about when. I love them dearly, but I'm glad I am travelling. The 'travelling mom' my daughter called me.
Now I-15 leaves us and heads north as we go northeast on I-84 towards Idaho. We've passed a couple of exits for the Golden Spike National Monument. I look on the map and it is to the west on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. I thought it was further north in Idaho or Wyoming. I would enjoying going to see it some day.
We're driving by rounded hills that are covered with green vegetation and with black earth in the fields. We soon enter the hills and drive through the misty landscape. Yellow and brick colored dirt start to show up. We cross into Idaho and the sun peaks through the rain. Everything seems wilder and scruffier in Idaho.
We exit I-84 and head south on ID-27 to Burley, crossing the Snake River just south of the interstate. It's spread out out here and travelling leisurely. The bus stop is a little house in a residential area. An little old lady runs it and sells snacks in her living room where she has a counter set up, and there's free coffee in the kitchen. So cool!
Just before Burley, I-86, which connects with I-15, came in from the west. With it came the route of the Oregon Trail. We'll follow along with the Oregon Trail to Portland. I-84 rarely is exactly on the same route but it's always close by. The Snake River will also follow fairly closely till we cross the Oregon border where the Snake heads north along the Idaho/Oregon border.
We're back in farm country and even in the rain the irrigators are going. We pass two little, yellow biplanes in a barn - cropdusters? We turn south on US-93 to Twin Falls and cross the Snake again. Here it has narrowed to a deep gorge. We are multiplexed with US-30 for a little ways. US-30 came in from I-86 and follows I-84, except for excursions like this one, till after we enter Oregon. A couple of people get on at Twin Falls.
We pass some feedlots and then nice black and white cows in meadows, then brown ones and then black ones. Lots of cows. There are a lava outcroppings, but we're too far away to see the main fields which show on the map. We pass the Malad gorge which has a waterfall in the distance.
We stop at Bliss for lunch at the Roadrunners Cafe. I mail postcards. The mailbox is a roadside mailbox sitting on the counter. It's an older truck stop cafe with a little store attached. Everyone bustles about to take care of the whole busload of people. It's still raining and things look a little glum. It's nice to get back on the bus where it's warm and dry.
We pick up US-26 at Bliss and now have three highways multiplexed, I-84, US-30 and US-26. The Snake wanders along with us and we cross it a couple of times. It's wide and wandering in a wide u-shaped valley. Before we reach Mountainhome, I-84 separates from the Snake River till we cross it again at the Oregon border.
Mountain Home is at a Shell station and we don't get off the bus, so just a quick picture from the door. This is the home of the Mountain Home Air Force Base, but it's several miles south of town so we don't see it. We pick up US-20 which will also follow us till the Oregon border.
We follow the rain on into Boise, ID with some mountains visible through the rain. The town is gray in the rain and quiet, as all downtowns are on rainy afternoons, especially on Sundays. I walk a few blocks to the motel and drop my bags, then walk around town looking for someplace to buy milk. Trying to buy milk in a downtown on a rainy Sunday afternoon is not the easiest thing. I finally find a quick stop place. Boise has a nice downtown but it is still raining and on the news that night I hear that a tornado touched down nearby. Ok, I'll go on and leave seeing Boise till another time.
I'm at the bus station the next morning while it's still pitch black. I wait for the bus to come in from Salt Lake City. The passengers get off bleary eyed and wait for the bus to be cleaned. Several of them are very upset as their luggage was left somewhere. Finally we all get on. They had to add a second section so there's plenty of room and I snag the front seat again.
We stop at Caldwell, but no picture. Too wet and too early. We ride through rolling hills where everything is misty and green. It's rather nice in the warm bus with coffee to drink. There are irrigation ditches, red barns and an exit for Fruitland as we cross the Oregon border. It does look like fruit trees along the interstate. We also cross the Snake River for the last time at the border and head northwest, along with the Oregon trail. US-20 and US-26 leave us shortly after we cross into Oregon, but US-30 will stay multiplexed with I-84 all the way into Portland, and then beyond. We ride near the Snake again at Farewell Bend and then leave it for the last time as the pioneers did.
We start seeing drift fences and the driver says that there are four months of snow along her. The railroad also follows along with us and the hills are getting higher. We pass a mining operation and, later a "Pan for Gold" sign. The railroad track goes through a tunnel.
We stop at Rattlesnake Springs rest stop. It's nice to stop at someplace that is in the country. This was also a stop on the Oregon Trail and we look down the same valley that they did, only now the travellers come in buses and trucks and cars.
We follow the valley past a cement plant and then we look down from an overpass and see a school bus. It's 7:00 AM on a Monday morning and the kids are heading off to school. Where there is irrigation, there is a lush, emerald green. Everywhere else there is a more arid look. Evergreens spot the hills but they're rather small. We stop at Baker City for breakfast. They have quite a bit of information on the Oregon Trail. There is an Oregon Trail Regional Museum and the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center and a historic trolley tour. I will have to come back since I enjoy that kind of stuff, but not enough time on this trip. We stretch our legs and several of us hit the McDonald down the street (still one of the best breakfasts). There are cattails and birds in the ditch between the restaurant and the highway.
We pass the 45th parallel which is halfway between the equator and the north pole. We see drift fences, snow zone sign and info about chains. We're high and have gone through a few passes. It is beautiful. There are rounded hills covered with new green grass. Evergreens still dot the hills and it looks like the Swiss alps with sagebrush. We stop at La Grande which looks like a farm town with little frame houses and stores with farm equipment. The bus stop is back in the residential area in a little frame house. The owner proudly shows the driver the storage shed he built for the express packages.
According to the lady that got on there, the owner only has five or six chairs and two are marked "cat" and are strictly reserved for his cats. She said that when her daughter picks her up there, she refuses to come into the house and waits in the car.
We pass Hilgard Juction State Park and are in big pine country and climbing steadily. We cross the summit of the Blue Mountains. Soon we're into a real downgrade and dropping fast. The country is spread out before us in green and red patchwork. The trucks below and above us look like toys. Little yellow flowers grow on the sheer cuts. We pass through the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
We enter Pendleton, which is nearly hidden from the interstate in a valley. We ride down a main street with brick buildings and pull into the bus station. There are several other buses there as this is a transfer point for buses heading north into Washington. One of them is the Wizard of Oz bus that is used for promotions.
We're multiplexed with US-395 for a while after Pendleton and then it leaves to head north and we continue northwest toward the Columbia River. The fields are green and brown modern art. The hills beyond the cultivated fields are pink and earthen pottery colors. We pass by the Umatilla nerve gas storage site. We can see the storage bunkers across the fields. These have recently been in the news as they try to find someplace else for them. This is a little scary to have them so close to a busy interstate and so near a major river.
We reach the Columbia River soon after we pass Boardman and head west toward Portland. The Columbia is wide and looks slow, but I'm sure that's deceptive. I understand it is a very dangerous river. Even with the many dams it is still an extremely powerful river. We have a bit of sun, or, at least, very thin clouds. We're lower now and back to sagebrush and brown grass. It's ironic that next to so many rivers, the land is arid and dry. We're on terraces now. I-84 east is above us and below us is the railroad and then the river.
Our next stop is Arlington which has the distinction of being where Doc Severinson is from. Across the street from the bus stop is a nice little park that looks toward the Columbia River.
We are well into the Columbia Gorge now. The driver says that it is a no building zone and it is beautiful. We pass the John Day Dam, which is the first Columbia dam that I've seen. It is magnificent. The next stop is Biggs which is at a truck stop. This is a lunch stop and we stop for about half an hour. The hills above us are brown and arid. Across the Columbia River the hills are also dry. Another passenger tells me that beyond the brown hills on the Washington side that we can see, are the irrigated orchards that bring us our peaches and apples.
We see a Castle across the river, halfway up the mountain. According to one passenger this was built by a european prince for his wife, but she didn't like it so it was never lived in. I later heard a different version, the details of which I don't recall now, but it is now a museum.
We soon enter a Scenic Area and are facing the Cascades. The Dalles is a pretty town spread out over the hills. The dam looks like it is sideways. So huge! Past The Dalles the evergreen come right down to the river. I can see the railroad on the other side of the river go through several tunnels. A guy sitting behind me says that he's keeping an eye out for a town on the north side that you can only reach by the railroad. He said that he heard they liked it that way and were not real happy to have outsiders there.
The passengers are all quite chatty on this run and the driver tells about things along the way. He's applied to work on Portland's transit system as he is tired of being away from home all the time. He said he's been driving for Greyhound for ten years now and while he has enjoyed it he is ready to stay home.
The Hood River bus station is way up on the hill. It takes some pretty good driving to wind our way up the hill. It's great place for a town. The views are spectacular and the flowers are looking gorgeous. There are masses of yellow scotch broom everywhere. We've passed the rain shadow and everything is green now.
We continue on through thich pines and then see some waterfalls falling great distances down the hills. The driver and native Oregonians are well into a discussion of why Oregon is so great, and that they take much better care of their environment than, you know, Washington. We see some smoke across the river and I'm told that they're buring slash from logging which would not be allowed in Oregon. The talk inevitably shifts to how they do hope that too many Californians don't move up here and ruin the place.
Everyone is very friendly and make sure I see all the points of interest. We see Mutnomah Fall, awesome, and then Bonneville dam. I must confess that while I realize we went a little overboard in the dam building, they are magnifent structures. I always enjoy going down in a dam to see all the engineering that went into them. We pass a lovely little town on a hill and see both pristine nature and logging.
Soon we're pulling into Portland. It is an industrial town. While it's cleaned itself up and is one of the nicer cities I've ever been in, you can still see the industrial and logging underpinnings that built it. Nearly everyone I have met that lives here say they wouldn't live anywhere else. They have a well designed transit station. The Greyhound station and the train station are just across the street from each other, and the city buses will take you downtown free as this is in the free zone.
Soon I'm at the hostel and waiting on the porch as it is 4:30 PM and the hostel opens at 5:00 PM. This is an excellent hostel, except for the lockout all day. They get quite a broad spectrum of hostellers. Unlike many of the hostels in the big cities, they get more Americans than foreigners as Portland draws quite a few people because of it's cool reputation. There are some bicyclists as Portland is on a cross country bike route.
I woke up the next morning after a good night's sleep. This is a friendly hostel, but well and firmly run. I breakfasted from a bin of free bread that they get from some bakery. It's still pouring outside and I still have the urge to roam, so I'm heading down the coast to San Francisco. It's a bit of a rush as the hostel office doesn't open till 8:00 AM and the bus leaves at 9:00 AM. They keep your hostel card to make sure you turn in the linens. I turn in the sheets, grab my card and head out the door to catch the city bus to downtown and then a second bus for the few blocks to the Greyhound bus station.
While waiting for the city bus I chatted with a guy waiting to catch the bus to work. He loved Portland also, but worried about the public schools that his kid goes to. There's just a light load on the bus, probably because it's after 8:00 and the rush is over. The city seems to be built of brick and stone. The downtown is delightful. It's one of the nicest downtowns I've seen, in fact, it's almost too nice. We're so used to ugly downtowns that when we see a very nice one it seems fake.
The bus is only half full. This run has more stops than any other Greyhound schedule. It is a local down the Oregon and California coasts. We head out on I-5 to OR-99W just before Tigard. The bus stop is at a very bright blue locksmith shop.
I jump out to take a couple of quick pictures and the driver asks what I'm doing. I tell him I'm taking pictures of all the bus stops I can and writing about the bus trips. He asks if I'm with Greyhound and I tell him, no, I just have strange hobbies. He says that he'll tell me that we'll stop at the smallest bus station in the US and about there being the most stops on this run.
We pass New England houses with peaked roofs and wood siding. The scotch broom is everywhere, coating the land with gold. Everything is green and the desert plants are gone. We're on the rainy side of the Cascades now, and it is certainly raining.
The Newburg bus stop is at Trophies and Engravings. We pass a great looking wooden railroad bridge and it looks like we are in wine country. There are grape vines in the fields and roses in the yards. We pass a sign for Erath Vineyards, fruit trees and sheep. There is a christmas tree farm and greenhouses.
At McMinnville we make a long drive on the highway through town. It splits into two one way streets. The bus stop is at the Baker Street Market. We all jump out to get coffee and snacks. The food is advertised along with the bus and keno. We leave OR-99W, which heads south, and keep on the same heading on OR-18.
There is a fruit stand which is closed (too early in the season, perhaps) and the new planted sprouts are barely peaking through the brown dirt. Queen Anne's Lace is everywhere and masses of flowers around houses and red barns. The landscape is low, rolling hills.
Sheridan is a flag stop and we just drive through the parking lot of Cheers restaurant. The driver stops down the road, nearer to the interchange, to let off one man so he won't have to walk as far in the rain. We pass another winery and the mountains spread before us in the mist. Everything looks rural English countryside pretty, but it could be the rain that gives that impression.
We see the Yamhill River (what a great name) and OR-22 joins us for four miles before it heads off northwest. We pass the Spirit Mountain Casino, a lumber mill and a bicyclist pedaling along with a day pack and full panniers. The shoulders are nice for pedaling. We're getting into the coast mountains and trees start to close in on both sides. There are bright green shrubs near the ground and tall evergreens above.
We pass through Tillamook county and enter Lincoln county. Everything seems even wetter than before. There's a sign cautioning about log trucks and stony creek beside the road and vacation homes in the trees. The land starts to flatten out and soon there are meadows with cows, cafes and auto repair shops with junk behind them.
We reach US-101 and head south. We pass another casino and come over a hill and see the ocean. I always enjoy the first time I see the ocean on a trip. It's gray and chilly looking, but still great. More scotch broom by seaside houses with wood siding and white trim. There is a long strip of restaurants, herb shops, feed stores and beach resorts.
The Lincoln City bus stop is in the parking lot of the Elks Lodge. At the other end of the parking is the senior citizens center. I run over to a grocery store to get something for lunch and then try to call a San Francisco hostel to see if they have any openings. The Fort Mason hostel, the only one I have time to call, has been booked up for days.
We go by a flat inlet with hummocks and marshes. There are flat pads of marsh grass. There is a break in a cliff with a sand beach and surf beating against the scattered rocks. Depoe Bay has a large resort under contruction and pads for RV hookups. Bicyclists with raingear are riding along through the rain. The highway is pretty good and not crowded, though I expect that will change on weekends.
We go out to the sand and surf and swing back to lush greenery in hills and valleys. It's raining harder and the bus station at Newport is still locked. The boarding passengers are huddling under the eaves. I find out that there is also a bus coming in from Albany. The lady who runs the station drives up, she was held up at her other job. Operating a bus station in these little towns isn't really a full time job. I have time to grab some postcards and use a real bathroom.
We cross the Yaquina Bay bridge. The bike lane seems to be continuous along the route we've been following. It would be fun to bike, if it ever stops raining, and stop at all the state parks along the way. According to the signs this is the "Oregon Coast Bike Route".
The Waldport bus stop is a Texaco station, across the street from an interesting looking Flea Market. Yachats is a flag stop and we don't stop. We pass the northbound bus to Portland at 2:00 PM. The driver pulls into a pull over and lets me take a picture of the seals below on the rocks.
The driver is very nice and points out interesting places as we go along. He says that he's hoping to retire in a year or two and drive school buses. Then he and his wife can spend the summers riding around the country on their motorcycles. It is getting harder to find boring older people.
The Florence stop is only 30 seconds at the Oregon Coast Baker and Coffee Cafe. Rhodendron are blooming everywhere. We are stopped for construction and then go over a drawbridge on the Smith River. I do believe I was stopped at this drawbridge four years ago when I drove this section. I can see the sand dunes made of cream colored sand with clumps of grass.
South of Florence we pass by the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. We can see the sea at times but it looks a bit dreary and cold to be doing much recreating by the seashore. The next stop is Reedsport where the bus stop is at the Moo Mall Cafe. Really neat! We just have time to jump down and stretch our legs.
There is a long bridge over Coos Bay. The bus stop at Coos Bay is behind the Tioga Hotel. This looks to be an old old hotel that has fallen on hard times. There is lumber piled across the street, next to the water.
Bandon is another flag stop. We drove a tiny, windy road into there. A little further down the road we see some llamas (?) and then meadows with cows and sheep. The Port Orford bus stop is at a Circle K where we can grab some more snacks. It's getting later in the day and after talking with the driver and another passenger I decide to break at Crescent City CA. I don't want to miss some of this ride by travelling at night.
The other passenger lives at Crescent and says that she is glad to get back after visiting family in Portland. She is a native american and has always lived here. She talks to the driver and I about fishing in the sea and rivers along here and how the tribe now gets so much of their money from casinos.
We cross a cool historic stone bridge over the Rogue River. It has large stone arches. The next stop is at the Gold Beach bus station. The driver says that this little white building is the smallest bus station in the US. It was, up until recently, run by a blind lady in her 80's or 90's. She died a few months ago and now her companion is running it till she decides what to do about it. The driver said the lady was a tartar and she is greatly missed.
One of the passengers wanders off during this stop. He was a bit strange and the driver said that he got on with an Ameripass and didn't seem to know where he's going. We can't wait and go on, hoping that he's ok.
The next stop is at Fiji Island Tan at Brookings. This is the last stop in Oregon and we head into California, still on US-101 and soon reach Crescent City. This is the supper stop and the driver drops us at the McDonalds then leaves for the bus station where they will clean the bus and a new driver will take over. I get my luggage and walk across the street to a Travelodge for the night.
It's nice to take a hot shower and stretch out on the bed to watch television. I don't stay up too late as the bus leaves at 8:00 AM. I watch the news and a few shows but I can't really concentrate. It feels good to just relax on a soft bed and feel that I'm suspended in time and space. When I stay at motels by myself I always feel this way. No one really knows where I am and I don't have any obligations. It feels good once in a while, but would get boring if it lasted too long.
I was up early the next morning as I wanted to eat breakfast before the bus left. It was 8:00 AM before the bus even dropped people off. It seems a car caught on fire just north of Crescent City and backed up traffic. The highway was too narrow for anyone to get by. It was 9:00 before we left and headed south on US-101 once more.
We pass a marina as we follow the coast. There is a little blue in the sky but it's mostly cloudy. Soon we are driving through Redwood National Park. The trees are truly majestic. Even near the road where they've been thinned out and many are second growth, they are beautiful trees.
There's a passenger waiting at the pullout across from the hostel. We drop off six and watch them hurry up to the hostel. They have to get checked in before they are locked out for the day. This would be a great hostel to stay at, but I would prefer better weather since there aren't many indoor places to go around here and it's a bit chilly right now to be locked out all day. This is the one disadvantage of many of the AYH hostels. They have this odd idea that travellers should get out during the day and do the tourist thing, which in this area involves spending a lot of time outdoors.
We pass more bicyclists. At least it's not raining and should be better cycling. There's a quick flag stop at Paul's Jet Boat Tours just north of Klamath. We cross the Klamath River bridge which has two bears on each end. We pass several sections of roadwork and lots of lumber trucks. We drop from redwoods to a calm lagoon behind a long breakwater.
The driver just slowed down a little at the Trinidad bus stop. The next stop is Arcata which has the Amtrak, Greyhound and city bus stops all together. The local buses have strange bike racks. They are slanted and hold four bikes. It seems like it would be hard to get the bike up there. Arcata is a nice looking seaside town.
We enter Eureka past a large bay surrounded by marsh grass. This is the "Victorian Seaport" town. The bus starts to fill up more now. As we continue through town we can look down the streets and see the large victorian houses. We head inland from here and leave the ocean.
The land is rolling now with oak trees. I understand that the native americans that lived in California cultivated the oak trees since they grow so well here. There are flowers along the highway in all colors including some golden poppies that, I think, always make a day brighter.
There's a quick stop at Florence which has wood houses of all colors with gables and bay windows. The town slogan is "The Friendly City".
A few meadows and lumber piles later we're at Rio Dell, "The Warm Hearted City". Why is it always "city" for these small towns? And this is a very small town tucked in a valley next to a river. The bus stop is at EJ's Liquor and Deli. There's a large Pacific Lumber Company with what looks like company housing on the edge of town.
We ride through a brief rain and then cross Hooker Creek which is green and clear and looks cold. Garberville is a mountain town and the bus squeezes through narrow streets. As we get back on US-101 the driver stops to pick up a guy thumbing a ride with a gas can. We take him about nine miles to where his converted school bus is. The bus driver said they're allowed to aid people in trouble, so he figures it's covered.
We wander through tree covered hills, with vacation homes tucked in them, and down to oak trees and meadows. Legget is mainly a store and a gas station with homes hidden in the trees. One of the passengers tries to buy a beer but the lady behind the counter says they aren't allowed to sell alcohol while the bus is there.
We pass a patrol car and the driver signals oncoming trucks about him. Laytonville is another quick stop. You have to move fast with all these stops. If the passenger is right there ready to go, they are out of luck. We pass patches of old run down cabins and dirty mobile homes with trash around them and then patches of clean, neat cabins and well taken care of mobile homes. Like all rural areas it's a bit of a mixture. It's hard to get zoning to keep your neighbor from parking broken down cars on his lawn when your closes neighbor is a mile or so away.
At Willits we just run by the depot to see if anyone is there and then on to McDonalds for lunch. Ukiah's stop is at the MTA Bus stop. Several people are waiting including an older couple who only spoke russian. Another of the passengers explains to them what's going on.
We start to see grape vines and pass through Hopland, which I also remember from my 1994 trip. There are several wineries there and fields of grapes surround the town. We cross the Russian River and join CA-128 which stays with us till after Cloverdale, where the bus stop is another bench by the road, but there's no one to pickup.
The sun is out and the open space makes me feel better. I enjoy fog and trees but I always feel happier when I get out into open country and the sun. We're on a freeway now and traffic is picking up some. We drive through Geyserville, but didn't stop as there was no one to pickup again.
The Healdsburg stop is at an Exxon station and then on into Santa Rosa. We are getting into a city now, instead of the towns we've been going through. There's a sign to the Luther Burbank Gardens and we wind through town to the bus station which is a little white building next to a car repair shop.. There are quite a few people waiting and even though several get off, we're still getting quite full.
The traffic gets heavier as we leave Santa Rosa and head down to Petaluma where the bus stop is at another local transit stop. the San Rafael is at C. Paul Bettini Transit Center with its own bay and
quite a few people waiting. The stops at the transit centers are great as you can transfer from intercity to local so easily.
We leave US-101 and get on I-580 which will take us into Oakland. We cross the John C. Flaherty Memorial Bridge across the bay and hit the maze of freeways into and out of the bay area. We stop at the Oakland bus station and then head across the Bay Bridge on I-80 to the Transbay terminal in San Francisco.
I decide that if I can't find anyplace reasonably priced to stay I'll head on but I get a bed at the Green Tortoise Hostel. I walk a couple blocks with my luggage and get on an extremely crowded bus. Unfortunately it's rush hour and they really pack them in. I was crouched down trying to see the street signs so I would know when to get off. A man asked where I was going and said he would let me know where to get off. He very kindly did and I struggled though the crush to get off the bus a little while later.
I walked up one block and there was the Green Tortoise sign. It's in the middle of the nudie bar area but at the junction of the Italian section and Chinatown and just a block from The City Lights bookstore that Jack Kerouac and the other beats hung out at in the 50's. The security at the hostel is good and from my fourth floor window I can watch the flow of people that evening and an impromtu jazz concert on the sidewalk across the street. The night skyline is superb as my room faces the financial district and all the skyscrapers.
The Green Tortoise Hostel is in a great four story building. The bottom floor is just a small entryway to the stairs and looks pretty bleak. The desk and common rooms are on the second floor. The people working there tend to be very young with a lot of body parts pierced, but very helpful and nice. Also on the second floor is a large room with tables that is used for watching television and the free bagel breakfast. There is also a small common room that has three computers with free internet access. There are nearly always people waiting so you can only stay on for fifteen minutes at a time, but it was great to check my mail and look up a couple bus schedules.
My room was on the fourth floor in a room with two bunk beds. There is a sink in the room which is quite handy and a kitchen down the hall. The kitchen is very tiny and you have to sit on chairs in the hall to eat. The laundry room is always busy and you have to stand around to grab the washer when someone takes out their clothes. It's an old building but clean enough and amazingly quiet at night considering all the people in it and the all night street life outside.
I put my things in my room and then walked down the street and checked out the City Lights bookstore. City Lights is quite quaint and all that, and has a good range of books and magazines. I picked up a book and a few magazines but didn't really have room in my luggage to do it justice.
The next day I went to Ghiradelli Square to go on a volkswalk that takes me from Fisherman's Wharf to Lombard Street, over to Coit Tower back through Chinatown and on to Grace Cathedral and through some great residential neighborhoods with victorian houses. I could really feel the strain on my calves from going up and down and up and down and up and down. It makes me tired just remembering it! It was a great walk though and I took several hours to do it as there was so much to see.
Afterwards I wandered around Ghiradelli Square enjoying the people and looking through the stores. There is an interesting bookstore there with architectural books and magazines. That evening I had supper at a great little Italian restaurant near the hostel. I was more than ready to go to bed that night.
The next morning I gathered up my stuff and took the bus back to the Transbay terminal. I would have liked to stay several more days as San Francisco is one of my favorite cities, but I couldn't this time. I went to wrong way when walking to the bus and ended up walking several blocks, uphill, fully loaded. I really should have looked at the transit map and not assumed that I knew (after one day)!
Well I made it back to the Transbay Terminal. The Greyhound terminal is on the second floor. There were quite a few people waiting but there were two buses leaving before mine. The people sorted out into the farm workers who got on the bus that would go down the central valley, through Fresno and Visalia, and the gamblers on the bus to Reno. Well, let's just say that the fun and games crowd were a bit tackier dressed than the farm workers. I do love Vegas and Reno and I don't even gamble much - a roll of quarters and then I just enjoy the casinos and the people.
Our bus came and we loaded up and cross the bay on I-80 into Oakland. There is some nice geometric brick designs coming into the downtown. A few people board at Oakland and then we get on I-580 toward I-5.
Amtrak is running beside the bus and we're soon riding through rolling hills with houses running around and over them. The grass is brown on the hills and green on the level. We reach I-5 and head south toward Los Angeles. We're going through the central valley also but west of CA-99 that goes through Fresno.
This is one of the richest agricultural areas in the country, unfortunately, there is a problem with water. People from the east always seem surprised about how much talk and litigation we have about who gets what water. We're running through the fields and irrigation ditches that will carry the water which will not only water the fields but carry the pesticides down to the water table..
We stop at Coalinga for lunch. There's a choice of fast food restaurants. It's nice weather to be outside so I walk around a little to stretch my legs. Further south we see flooded fields from the irrigation and then grape vines and a few oil wells. I enjoy just leaning back and enjoying the sweep of the land. It's great to be able to see a long way. I always enjoy travelling across plains.
We start across the Sierra Madres and see more desert vegetation and large patches of golden poppies. There's a sign to Fort Tejon Historic Park as we reach the top and enter Los Padres National Forest. I think this is a great drive as there aren't the towering trees to block the view and you can see down the deep canyons and see the lake trapped behing Pyramid Dam, which really does look like a pyramid.
San Fernando is our next stop. This town started as one of the string of missions that the padres built up the California coast. The city is palm trees and spanish colonial. South of San Fernando we get on CA-170, the Hollywood Freeway, which we take till it ends at US-101. We get off at the Universal Studios exit to the Hollywood station and then back to US-101 on Sunset Boulevard. The next stop is the Los Angeles station.
I have almost a couple of hours till the bus leaves for Flagstaff, so I get some food from the snack bar and then put my bag in line and grab a seat to people watch. People are soon lining up behind me as this is the LA to NYC bus and there are people going to places all across the country.
They load up the first section with people who are getting off before Barstow. This bus leaves first to drop off the short distance passengers and pickup people at some of the interim stations. When they have this many people the sections will often split who picks up where, if they can, so as to make better time. The rest of us wait and wait and wait. Finally we find out that the driver called in sick and they had to get another driver. We finally leave two hours late.
Everyone is a bit grumpy but we settle down as the driver heads out on I-10
and gets on the separate bus lane. He seems a bit unsure of the best way to drive this section and when we reach San Bernadino he misses the exit. We then find out that he's a new driver and has never driven this route before and is finding his way with the route guide. He has to exit I-215 and get back on. This is a little scary, especially when it's very dark outside.
He gets lost again when we leave the San Bernadino bus station and we wander around residential areas looking for the freeway entrance. It's a little strange to driving through dark residential streets at 10:00 PM in a Greyhound bus and the people we drive seem to think so also. We finally get back on I-215 but when I-215 meets I-15 he keeps going straight and is on I-15 heading south to Los Angeles instead of I-15 heading north to Barstow. One of the passengers comes forward and helps him find the right place to exit and reenter.
Finally we are heading in the right direction and we all settle back to get a little sleep. At Barstow the same passenger helped him get through town to the station which is shared with Amtrak. The first section is waiting for us and the drivers get together to decide who stops where.
An Amtrak train comes through while we are there and several people get off and on. This is a beautiful station. I would like to come back through in the daytime when I'm more awake and can take some pictures. It has the beautiful workmanship of the stations build when train travel was at it's height.
When we leave Barstow we get on I-40 and head east toward Arizona. We rode silently through the night and I soon fell asleep. I-40 reached the Colorado, where it turned south for a few miles and then crossed into Arizona. I woke up when we stopped at Kingman at the same little bus stop. Everything is closed and the first section is waiting for us.
A couple people get on and then we leave and doze a little more before a rest stop at another truck stop in Seligman. When the sun wakes me I find we are back in the high desert country of northern Arizona. The ocean is nice but I enjoy seeing the colors of the desert again. It's fully morning when we pull into Flagstaff.
We are still a little late and I miss one bus to Phoenix and have to wait a couple of hours. I put my stuff in a locker and walk down to a McDonalds. Flagstaff is quiet and beautiful this early on a Sunday morning. It feels good to stretch.
We leave Flagstaff at 9:55 AM and I have my first woman driver. She's quite a talker and chat's with another driver deadheading to Glendale. I-17 is quite a beautiful interstate. From Flagstaff we pass through the evergreens of Coconino National Forest. It's quite green and alpine hereand looks like a boulevard here. Soon we start dropping off the Mogollon Rim and can see the red rocks of Sedona off to our right.
We stop at Camp Verde at the Texaco Station. We can see the Cliff Castle Casino just down the road. We start climbing again and pass through the foothills, but then drop to the desert north of Phoenix.
The saguaros appear and then we're on a flat plain with mountains around us. The next stop is at Glendale where the station is in a strip shopping center by a pawn shop.
We drive through Phoenix to Sky Harbor Airport where several people get off and then on to the brand new, just finished Phoenix bus station. It's a nice building, but the acoustics are horrible and you cannot hear what the announcer is saying.
An hour's wait and then I'm off to Tucson, down I-10, and back home again. It's good to be home and collapse in my own home. Half the fun of travelling is coming home again.