The Riders of Bus 6045
Shannon and I had been travelling together since Chicago, and it seemed like we made a new acquaintance with every stop along the way. Our little duo had slowly grown to a gang of strangers who I now refer to as the Riders of Bus 6045.
There was Jeremy; a young and enthusiastic kid a few years younger than me who was looking to make some scratch in the insurance analysis business before his pregnant girlfriend thrust him into fatherhood. Travelling between Arizona and Illinois constantly, he was constantly going back and forth with school and work pulling him in either direction, but he was willing to make the effort in order to provide for his forthcoming child.
Brett and Brent, a young couple we picked up somewhere near Oklahoma City who looked like teen punk runaways, but were more personable than you’d expect. Brett would dance to the music on her phone any chance she got, and Brent would pound energy drinks like they were water. In the night rest stops they’d huddle together wrapped in a blanket to keep each other warm, which looked a little funny as they were both exactly the same height.
Tex Joshua, we grabbed during the Amarillo bathroom incident and was as all-American as you can get. He had a bit of a goofy demeanour about him, but talked about occasions where he’d shot his .357 Magnum at trespassers and would-be thieves with a laugh in his voice like he was recounting the plot of his favourite sitcom. He also gave me his recipe for what he considered the finest chewing tobacco in the world; a shot of Jack Daniels, 2-3 pouches, and a handful of apple peels in a mason jar for 3 months for a perfect Texas-smooth flavour.
A younger guy from Boston (who I’ll call Rob because every guy from Boston is named Rob) liked to poke fun at Joshua, and pretty much everyone else. Built like a bull dog with a tongue quick on the draw, he would constantly sass the driver or anyone else that would talk to him, but in a way that made the entire bus laugh, so nobody minded.
A Vietnam vet and former trucker who’d lived in more states than I could remember was one of the coolest guys on bus 6045. Decked out with a silver dollar pendant and a fedora, he’d chill with his keyboard-sized bag and tell stories about the ranches he’d built, the bands he’d played with, and his life as a trucker – which I found particularly helpful for my work-in-progress novella. It turns out he’s also a phenomenal speed reader as he ripped through the two chapters I’d finished in a blink, gave a full commentary, and asked for more. I couldn’t help but feel a little accomplished when he gave me a few bucks, some food, and some tea for the pleasure of reading my work and demanded I send him the rest of it when I finished.
Most folks stayed away from the big dude in the black do-rag and black trench coat, but I noticed he’d scrawled “For the Horde!” in Sharpie on his luggage and I had to talk to him. Everyone told me he talked nonsense, but it was just nerd jabber. Christopher was the kind of guy who didn’t care if you knew a thing about anime or Final Fantasy, but would talk about it at great length to you. I say to you specifically because once he started, it was impossible to get a word in edgewise, and you’d just have to sit and hope he’d finish his rant about the Mass Effect 3 ending sometime before the next cigarette break. He also swore in Japanese.
Lastly, there were our drivers; Rick and Kim. I’d had a lot of asshole drivers between Detroit and Amarillo, but Rick made up for all of them with his New York sense of humour and willingness to speed after the bus that’d run off with half our bags. Kim took over in Albuquerque and had the same commitment to preserving time, but still found enough for frequent – and much needed – breaks in the small towns of Arizona and New Mexico.
That was our motley crew, riding all the way to California on bus 6045 and chasing our bags the whole time. Without a change of clothes, and no time for it even if we did, we looked like your typical dirty bus passengers, but none of us minded. We were all in the same boat, both figuratively and literally, and found a sense of comradery in it. Good luck finding that on an airplane.