It was difficult leaving Bud, my animals and home to go back to the trail. The day before I left, I felt like a brick was on my heart. I was depressed and I seriously contemplated not going back to the trail.
Bud drove me to the bus station, which was in Little Rock. It was a three hour drive to get there. We stopped at a place known for its smoked meat sandwiches. We had stopped there before and knew it was good. It was an afterthought to do so. I had already made some sandwiches to take on the bus, but these sandwiches were a treat. They had about an inch and a half of shaved smoked meat (I had turkey, Bud had ham) and a choice of smoked cheese (Bud got Swiss, I got cheddar.) We ate them on the way to Little Rock.
I’ve had several people who have asked about my bus ride. Unfortunately, it was quite unremarkable compared to my last bus ride. If you have never taken a long distance bus ride, you might not know that whenever the bus stops for a layover, everyone must get off the bus. So if the bus has a layover in Nashville at 1:30 a.m., that means if you are sleeping, you must wake up and go into a bus station and sit on a hard chair for an hour or more. If you have multiple stops, you don’t get much sleep. Not all bus stations have food, and if they do, it’s expensive…sort of comparable to eating at an amusement park.
As far as comfort, riding on the bus is like being on a plane. It’s impossible to be comfortable if you have a seat mate. You can’t relax without violating their personal space. I always got a window seat, so I could at least lean against the window to sleep. The other thing is that busses are COLD, just like planes.
My bus left at 4:00 in the afternoon and I didn’t arrive in Erwin, TN, until 9:00 the next morning. A shuttle I had scheduled met me there and then took me to Uncle Johnny’s, where I had gotten off the trail.
One other thing of note–the bus is not a friendly place. My friend, Little Bear, made an observation, which I really appreciated, because I had never really been able to articulate it. Hikers are a friendly lot! We form bonds quickly. Little Bear said it’s like being a kid again. When you meet a hiker, one of the first things you do is ask them what their trail name is. No one thinks twice about going up to someone they don’t know…someone who is twice older or younger than them, someone who is a different color or race, or someone from a different background, and starting a conversation by saying, “Hi! What’s your trail name?”
On the bus, as if it’s some unwritten rule, we barely look at each other and we certainly don’t talk to one another. Why is that? It’s as if once I get off the trail, there are invisible barriers between people. I’ve wondered about this a lot.
Hikers are open, for the most part. Is it because we are in survival mode? Is it because only certain types of people who are open like that like to hike? Is it because we are stripped bare out here, with all of the masks we wear OFF? Is it because we all stink, we all look bad, we all poop in the woods, so we are on the same playing field? Or is it because we all have the same goal…to make it to Katahdin…and that binds us together? If anyone has any insight, I’d love to hear your theories. I certainly feel free to ask someone their name out here, but not on the bus.
When I arrived at Uncle Johnny’s, I had to buy fuel (since I can’t travel with it) and I needed to eat breakfast and have coffee. The last bus station we stopped at didn’t have food. I met a friend at Uncle Johnny’s, who I had been leapfrogging on the trail. She is kind, generous, and funny. She had been there at Uncle J’s for about a week due to a foot issue. I talked to her for a while. She walked with me across the bridge and we said goodbye. I feel certain I will see Compass on the trail again, and if I don’t, I will be sad.
After I said goodbye to Compass, I crossed the street and stepped into the lush, green trail to continue my hike.