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Off-trail

Days 38-40: 20 Hours Riding Busses

Day 38: Denver

As I said before, I slept fitfully at the Salida Inn, and I couldn’t stay asleep past 5. Eventually, I gave up and went into the kitchen for a muffin and to start the coffee brewing early. It was just me and a Great Divide cyclists who put on his helmet as soon as he rolled out of bed. By 6:45, I was walking into downtown a Salida and then out again to the edge of town where the bus stopped. The town was relatively quiet except for the gangs of roving deer in everyone’s front yards.

I found the bus station ten minutes before the bus’s arrival and went over to the nearby McDonald’s for an Egg McMuffin since the muffin hadn’t been much of a breakfast. Soon after I got back, the bus arrived and loaded up, leaving about ten minutes later. There weren’t many passengers at first, but a lot more got on at the next major stop an hour or so in. I was thirsty and so got off to pop into a store around the corner to buy a couple of cans of root beer. There was a huge line of people with luggage boarding, so I figured I had five minutes.

Five minutes later, I got back on after the last new passenger, and the driver scolded me for not letting him know I had gotten off, saying it would be his fault if I missed the bus. But I didn’t miss the bus, nor did the bus have to wait for me, so it was kind of a moot point, right? I wasn’t going to let that happen.

Anyway, another couple of hours went by without event and I arrived in Denver Union Station around 11am. After three hours on a bathroom-less bus, I was a bit dismayed to learn the station bathrooms had been closed. So I held it for a few blocks to get to the REI.

I got all the things from REI I could remember I needed, including new shoes. They didn’t have ones like I had, so I went with something unfortunately too waterproof and warm for the season. The lightweight high ankle options were not there, even among garage sale items. I also got a fancy pair of jogging shorts with flattened inseams so I could be chafe-free without turning them inside-out (as I had been doing with my current shorts for the past few days hiking) after cutting out the net lining. I forgot to look at the gaiters, but I think I got everything else I needed.

By then, it was noon and the breakfast sandwich from four hours ago had completely digested. I was starving, and the only options were a bar, a half mile walk to a food court, and a hot dog stand just over the river. I went and got a brat and chips.

I couldn’t check in to my hostel for 3 more hours and I got word that Dangerpants would be willing to give my groceries a lift at 5 so I didn’t need to go grocery shopping yet, so I ended up just sitting on a bench in the park for a few hours. I wasn’t the only one enjoying the sunny Monday in the park either. The river was full of kids playing, there were lovers and cyclists in the grass, and people with dogs were constantly strolling by. Picture Bathers at Asnières but with PVC tube floats and a hot dog stand in the background.

Just before 3, I began the walk down the river trail and through downtown to the hostel, where I was able to check in to my bunkroom as soon as I arrived. But I merely slid my pack into the under-bunk compartment before setting out for the grocery store. It was twenty minutes walk to the nearest Safeway, but it was closed due to power outage, so I walked another twenty or thirty minutes uptown to King Soopers. I finished my shopping (except for the items I forgot) just as Dangerpants arrived at 5. I put the bags in her trunk and we returned to the hostel.

We carried the bags up to my room, acquiring a pair of glasses along the way. We sampled the beer I had brought as a gift from Moonlight Pizza while I separated the food into that that I would carry and that that she would mail ahead for me. Finally, we carried that portion back to her care and she dropped me off at Meow Wolf Denver before returning home.

I had dinner at Meow Wolf’s Cafe before expiring the exhibit. Meow Wolf is always an overwhelming experience, so I’ll let the pictures below speak for themselves regarding that. After 2.5 hours, I decided it was getting late and wrote off those parts of the exhibition I hadn’t been able to find to ensure I would be able to get some sleep, but I kind of want to return someday.

I rented a Lyft Scooter just outside the venue and took a bike route that followed the river back up to REI before following the surface streets back to the hostel. After I got back to the room, I started making bookings for the next couple of days. Busses and lodgings to get me where I was going. A lot of travel ahead.

Day 39: Green River

I slept pretty well and comfortably for the few hours I got. I had breakfast plans with Six and Dangerpants, so I got myself showered and packed up. I went down to the bar when I got the text saying they were on the way and poured a cup of coffee into a mug that had just been used by a European woman who didn’t understand English. I was just finishing it when I got the text they had arrived, so I went downstairs and met Six waiting outside the door.

They drove us to a restaurant called Delectable Egg and we got a table outside. We ate a nice big breakfast together and we all ordered fancy lattes with it. I had breakfast tacos for the first time ever. But even with chatting for a half hour even after our plates were cleared, we still had some time we could spend together.

So we drove to Denver Central Market to check it out. I got limes to pack, a weird drink inspired by kombucha but not sour, and a pecan sticky bun that was unexpectedly crunchy. But even then, we still had some time before I had to catch my bus, so we swung by the Milk Market too. There was some nice art there, but it wasn’t as homey and fun as the Central Market.

Finally, we arrived back at Union Station, where we hugged our goodbyes at the top of the escalator. I went down, found my gate, got a bag tag, and sat in a window sconce and waited. After a half hour, the bus arrived and we started boarding. I was one of the last to board, and the driver was astonished to see someone was getting off in Green River.

It was a long first segment. There were some short breaks where I could squeak in a bathroom break and get a drink from a vending machine, but the first actual lunch break stop was at nearly 5pm.

A lot of the terrain before that I recognized. We stopped in a parking lot in Frisco in front of a grocery store where I lost Ted last year. We drove past Copper Mountain and I saw the trail where it went under the alpine rollercoaster again. And then we were deep in an impressive canyon I had never seen before. In particular, the whole deep gorge following the Colorado River from Dotsero to Glenwood Springs is perhaps the most beautiful and impressive stretch of interstate highway I have ever driven. I hope to return one day to hike up Grizzly Creek or Hanging Lake.

Finally, we got a half hour break at a truck stop with a Carl’s Jr. in Grand Junction. I was second in line to get a hot meal. I was especially thankful of the big breakfast Six and Dangerpants bought me that was responsible for my not being in pain from hunger some 7 hours later.

It was only a couple more hours of driving down out of the mountains and into the desert of the Colorado Plateau until we all got off the bus in Green River, Utah. Unlike everyone else, I didn’t have to get on another in a few minutes to continue riding for another 9 hours.

Instead, I got directions to the grocery store, 7 blocks into town, where I just wanted to buy some Mio. On the way I passed a taqueria in the form of a truck and trailer in front of a converted Shell station. Indoor and outdoor seating, with the roof for the torn out gas pumps serving as a cover for some of the outdoor seating. I stopped on the way back and got a burrito even though it had only been a couple of hours since the burger in Grand Junction because I wanted to just go to my motel room and do nothing for the next 12 hours.

And after eating, that’s exactly what I did. I checked into the Motel 6, the most barebones of lodgings around, went to my room and did not leave. I washed my shirt and socks, both starting to stink, in the sink, hung them over the heater, and got in bed.

Day 40: Lima

Motel 6 is the most bottom end of motels, and that includes their mattresses. It cost a fraction of the other places in town to stay there, but the monetary difference is made up in aches and pains upon waking.

I didn’t have to be at the bus stop until noon, but it wouldn’t hurt to be well-fed before spending an entire day in busses. So I showered and about 9:30 walked back to the taco stand that I knew also served breakfast burritos. Along the way, I stopped at the truck stop and bought a razor and some road snacks and coffee and drinks to have with my burrito. I got back to my room with just enough time to shave and check out by the 11am check-out time.

Of course, I still had another hour to kill, so I stopped at the River Museum across the street just to check it out, and they happened to have the museum open for free that day.

I have to say, it was cleaner and more modern than any building I had seen in town, but I also could not see why anyone would pay admission to see its contents. It had all the design and technology and thoughtfulness of any modern anthropological museum, but it was very narrowly focused on ways the Green and Colorado Rivers had been just in the last 150 years, with only brief mentions of what happened before that. There was an old sledge hammer used to build a dam accompanied by an electronic quiz about the names of different kinds of dams. There were boats and models of boats and statues of men in boats. A well-appointed theater with seats for several dozen people was showing a documentary about the first time white men went down the Green and Colorado Rivers to the other end of the Grand Canyon in 1867 using the content of their diaries, which I watched the latter half of by myself. It was by all accounts the most interesting thing in the museum, as it featured actors in period dress reenacting the hazards of the journey by actually piloting 19th century style wooden boats through the actual Grand Canyon rapids. Shortly after the showing ended, I decided I better start working my way back over to the bus stop to make sure I didn’t miss it.

Missing out didn’t end up being even close an issue. I could have stayed to watch the beginning part of the documentary and still been fine.

There was a Greyhound parked at the truck stop and all its future occupants, presumably left there by the previous bus, were all out sat round the outside of the building, the sign, the gas pumps. But it didn’t look like they were leaving any time soon. None of them would be on my bus, of course. They were headed east. I got some more drinks for the trip from the store, then went to wait on the side in the shade, where the Greyhound bus pulled up to hem us in. I think it needed air for some tires or something.

When 12:05 rolled around and there was still no van for me, I called the company to confirm I had the right location. They said it would pick up at the marquee of the motel next door. I saw the spot and no bus. So they put me on hold for a minute, came back and said the driver would arrive between five and ten minutes. Which he did, so they were only 15 minutes behind schedule. But I think he had a bathroom emergency because he left me sitting in the van alone for another ten or fifteen minutes before we finally pulled out a half hour later than expected.

I was the only passenger at this point, and he was a pretty sociable driver. We had a nice chat and some good tunes played from his phone. After around an hour, we had one stop at another truck stop beside the highway in a town where two truckers had broken down and been stranded for a week. They had to load dozens of bags in the rain that had started right when we arrived. So that didn’t help much with the fact that we were basically a half hour behind schedule.

The next stop was a parking lot in another suburb south of Provo where we had to switch to a different van and driver. That driver and the passengers headed they way we’d come from had, of course, been waiting half an hour for us, but all those dozens of bags had to be transferred anyway. I ran to the bathroom while the truckers got all theirs moved.

We had one quick pickup on the way to the next transfer location at the SLC airport, where my itinerary said I was supposed to have a twenty minute layover, but it now looked like I wouldn’t make it there by the time the next bus left at all. The lady driving now was even more sociable, but seemed to think the busses room the airport wouldn’t necessarily wait for another bus that was running behind. However, traffic was very kind to us, and we actually made up time in the express lane. By the time we got into the city, Google predicted we would arrive at exactly 4pm, the same moment I was supposed to board the next leg, and the driver relayed as much to dispatch.

It turned out we needn’t have worried. The driver of that coach (a full size motorcoach now, not just a van!) was still loading baggage and didn’t leave for another ten minutes or so after 4. This coach was much more full and I had someone sitting next to me most of the way. He was an urban-raised kid of 23 headed from his residence in Coachella, California back to his family in Idaho Springs (I would later learn) who particularly enjoyed reading Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations. Anyway, he let me sit next to the window with the charging ports, and I went to work on this post as we drove through the middle of Utah.

It’s not a particularly interesting area. Today suburban sprawl with some mountains visible behind it on one side. Every stop we made looked kind of the same. There was only one place where we came close enough to see the Great Salt Lake, but I did at least see it. I’m sure it’s a fine place to live, but for someone not much into winter sports, I didn’t see much to credit it. The only interesting thing we passed was Lagoon amusement park. I could see a strangely shaped roller coaster which I learned from the internet was called Cannibal and had the 5th steepest drop of all roller coasters and a one-of-a-kind “Lagoon roll” where a counterclockwise twisting inversion starts before a clockwise one has even finished above a water feature. So at least Utah has that going for it.

But I was glad to get to Idaho, and in particular, some four hours and at least one stop long enough to buy and consume a hot dog for lunch later, Idaho Springs, where my last van was already waiting for me at the gas/bus station that was end of the line for that particular coach. The new driver seemed excited at the prospect of leaving early, since all his passengers were here already. But I knew I would be getting into Lima too late for anything that sold food to be open, so I went in the convenience store to get some dinner.

Turned out the place was slap out of hot food excepting a handful of potato wedges and maybe some small chicken tenders. I took the rest of the former and a cold turkey sandwich as my dinner. It’s easy to eat nothing but terrible food when traveling all day. I got a couple of drinks for the road, but I didn’t end up finishing them. It was only an hour and a half to Lima and I wasn’t that thirsty.

When I got off the bus in Lima in front of Jan’s Cafe, I only needed to walk around behind it where the light of one cabin had been left on for me. The door was open and I went inside. It was roomy but dated. Not nearly as nice as the one in Lake City. No kitchen. No air conditioning or fan. More like a 3 bed motel room with broken blinds. I surely overpaid. But it was nice to already in for the night given how late it was.

After a certain video call with a certain unfocused person and a lot of repacking and getting out of stuff to hike, I finally got to bed around midnight. And though it was a bit warm in there, I can’t say the bed wasn’t comfortable. A good place to end up after 3 days spending some 20 hours in six different busses and vans to get a few hundred miles northwest of where I started. I probably spent a thousand dollars all told in that time. Time to get back on the trail where the living is much cheaper and much less boring.

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