Grey-dogged 

Tormented by the most treacherous of the travel gods, the Great Grey Dog.

I showed up at the Dallas bus station at 2:05 a.m., admittedly intoxicated but easily in time for a 2:20 bus to Albuquerque, and I was told to go to Gate 7.

I went to Gate 7, but when I reached the driver, who was taking the tickets, he said I was in the wrong line. So I asked the lady with the clipboard which line to get in for Albuquerque, and she said Gate 2.

At the end of the Gate 2 line, I was told, "No, you need the Amarillo bus. This is the Phoenix bus."

A baggage man grabbed my backpack to lead me to that bus, but we arrived at an empty bus lane. The express bus to Albuquerque was gone. The next one? A local bus (which stops at every half-ass town along the way) was at 5:30 a.m., more than two and a half hours later.

Two and a half hours at the Dallas bus station, drunk and bitter, when I should have been sleeping soundly on an AmeriCruiser headed for Albuquerque. Instead of arriving at 5 p.m., when my friend expected to pick me up, I would get there at half past midnight, with very little sleep and even less happiness. The later bus would take four more hours to get there and involve a three-hour layover in lovely Abilene.

I was being tormented, again, by that most treacherous of the travel gods, the Great Grey Dog.

The 4 to 5 a.m. hour was the toughest. I was the nervous-looking dude in the corner with a laptop, smacking on my gum and occasionally pounding the table and punctuating this action with an emphatic expletive -- which, this being a Greyhound station, brought no attention to me whatsoever. I did have a small audience: a man who asked about my computer and then asked if I had any spare coins in my pocket. Someone was talking loudly to himself, but I tried not to look. I couldn't tell if it was the man with the cane and the weightlifting belt or the Dennis Weaver look-alike with the briefcase.

Some old buddies had, after an insane night that can't be discussed here, more or less poured me into the Dallas station, and I was flying high on that special on-the-road confidence that tells you, "Yes, even with all the wackiness and way too many beers, I WILL be on that bus, and I WILL go on to the next adventure as planned." Well, you know what happened to that. Instead of crashing on the bus to Albuquerque, I found myself buying eggs, sausage, a biscuit, orange juice, a bowl of Fruit Loops, and four extra-strength Tylenol in Dallas just before dawn. I also got to hear about a guy's impending eye surgery at the VA hospital in Dallas -- not that I asked. You have to love the bus.

I finally got to sleep on the Dog -- after checking twice with the driver to make sure it was the right one -- and all I remember of the ride to Abilene is that there was snow blowing around when I woke up briefly in Mineral Wells. In Abilene, it was sunny and 18 degrees, and the wind was blowing at what I would call a sustained 25 mph, with gusts up to brain-freezing.

News updates from the Abilene paper: Two cows were run over by an 18-wheeler the night before, and a 21-year-old man was in custody after allegedly swatting the heads of his wife and 6-month-old son "in a dispute centering on the death of a chicken." I can't make things like this up.

Back at the Abilene station, things took a turn toward the pessimistic. When I handed my ticket to the driver and asked -- paranoia check -- if this was indeed the bus to Albuquerque, he laughed a mostly toothless laugh and said, "Sure is -- good luck!"

A few minutes later, he explained this comment in the following reassuring remarks to the seven of us on board (I'll try to write in his accent, but bear in mind that you're listening to a 63-year-old Greyhound driver who just said he can remember when driving from Dallas to Fort Worth was an all-day affair):

"Well, folks, th'road from h'yar to Lubbock should be allraht b'now -- ah 'magine the wind down blowed it drah -- but when ah left Lubbock this mawnin, half the town was covered w' black ahs [that would be 'ice']. From Clovis on in to Albuquerque, y'all may have to all sit in the way back to weight 'er down -- heh heh heh. She purdy much come from Lubbock to h'yar this mawnin goin' sahdways through the snow and ahs. Heh heh heh."

With these comforting images, I leave you for now. My laptop is running low on battery power, and as my battery fades, so do I. With any luck -- make that with any GOOD luck -- I will see the Rocky Mountains when the sun comes up tomorrow, and then all will be well. The Rockies are beautiful, they're covered with snow, and they're a hell of a long way from Dallas and Abilene.

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