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Oohh, the fun of getting back to civilization... Not long after I wrote yesterday's journal entry, there was some excitement. I'd decided in Idyllwild to take the Greyhound to Phoenix, where I wanted to visit friends for a few days. I booked tickets online and called to let Kendra know I was coming.
Mike dropped Jamie and me off in Banning, CA on his way back to Palm Springs. We arrived in Banning around ten. Her bus, heading back to her job in northern California, was to leave around one; mine wasn't scheduled to depart until three. With so much extra time, we wandered up and down Main Street for an hour, finally settling in a little coffee shop. We ate, talked, then meandered slowly back to the Greyhound Station. Along the way, we noticed a bunch of police cars congregated in a restaurant across the street from the station. Crime scene tape was being strung around the perimeter of the parking lot, and people were being questioned. We never found out what had happened.
Arriving at the station, we were in for a surprise - it wasn't open. The grungy concrete building stood stiffly in the cold breeze, blackened windows blocking any views inside. A few other people stood waiting out front, glassy eyed and tired. Asking one of the dead eyed people, we learned that the bus still stopped at the defunct station. It soon arrived, and Jamie had boarded her bus north. I waved goodbye, then was left alone in town, the streets cold, deserted, and quiet except for the flashing lights of the police cars.
Two hours later, I stood waiting, stiffly lined up with a few other people. The unwelcome stench of unwashed bodies wafted from the group, but it wasn't the smell of hikers. Instead of healthy sweat, dirt, and pine sap, it smelled of desperation and dead dreams. I had a bad feeling, watching the minutes tick slowly past the 3 pm departure time. Two hours later, the creaking bus rolled to a stop along the curb, passengers departing in a cloud of oily exhaust. We crept up the stairs, found seats among the mass of humanity already aboard, and jerked onward toward Indio, where I was scheduled to change buses.
I worried. This bus was two hours late, and I was likely going to miss the next one to Phoenix. The miles rolled by and I pondered trying to find a hotel or campsite in an unfamiliar town.
We finally arrived in Indio, and I finally learned that, true to form, my connecting bus was also late. Fortunate for me. There were many more people at this station, and it had a very bad vibe. The station was at the end of a dark road, obviously in a bad part of town. It was spooky, and only got worse as time drug on, streetlights began flickering dimly, and gangsters began driving slowly past the station, rap music shaking the metal siding of the small building. I stood, back to the wall, with my tiny multitool knife clenched in my sweaty hand.
The bus finally arrived. Greyhound had oversold it. The driver pulled all the families with kids to the front of the line, then boarded women next. I was the last one to get a seat that night. I felt guilty watching others get turned away outside, but wasn't about to stay in that town overnight.
I finally arrived in Phoenix around 2 am, more physically and mentally exhausted than I'd been after the longest day on trail. I don't know how people do it.
I stayed with Kendra for a few days, working horses and hanging out with her, before finally flying home to Colorado before Thanksgiving.