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Keith Austin: When the world is your lobster Stories from a former Travel Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald.

On The Road Again..

AUSTRALIA | Tuesday, 22 September 2009 | Views [957] | Comments [1]

"Davy's on the road again
Wearin' different clothes again.."

Who WAS that? Blue Oyster Cult? REO Speedwagon? Manfred Mann's Earthband? Whatever, as we say here in America; it pretty much describes where we are pretty succinctly - on the road between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. This time, though, it's from inside a Greyhound bus, one of the iconic features of the US of A.

Since the last post from the back of a SUV in a Florida thunderstorm we've travelled to Fort Myers in a hire car, driven ditto to New Orleans for a two-day stopover before taking a three-day Amtrak train from the Big Easy to Union Station in downtown LA.

From there it was another five-hour drive in a hire car to Las Vegas, where we've spent the past 6 nights at the Stratosphere hotel and casino - not because either of us gamble (we don't) but because I think the constant moving is getting to both of us. It really is time to come home.

The Greyhound bus isn't too bad to tell the truth. It's clean, air-conditioned, on time and, at $39 each for the one-way fare, cheaper than almost any other mode of transport we've taken in America.

Mind you, the driver has already read us the riot act: rules and regulations include turning cell phones to vibrate; no loud conversations allowed on said cell phones, no loud music from headphones please; no smoking; no intoxicants; and here's the big one - no profanity allowed. Profanity on his bus will get you thrown off. It's safe to sit and look out the windows. I think.

Actually, the driver is interesting; he's wearing a small gold badge that says 'Jesus First'. However, he has just told 'the person playing with the footrests' to STOP IT in no uncertain terms. Twice. NO please, no thank you. At the last rest stop he left a woman behind because she failed to meet the 20-minute deadline. When it was pointed out that the missing woman's seat was at that moment filled with her handbag and a whole load of pills he just shouted back that he gave us 30 minutes instead of 20 minutes and that she would have to catch another bus. See? Jesus First and everyone else second.

And now he's driving the bus and using both hands to text someone. That is NOT illegal here. You can't set your phone to ring but you can put 30 lives in danger by texting while driving at 70 miles an hour along the freeway.

The road to LA today is that classic American cliche; the heat-haze road arrow-straight ahead, the landscape on either side just scrubby desert until it reaches pink-beige ridges holding up a cloudless, relentless blue sky. And it's 98 degrees out there!

It was like that yesterday to and from the Grand Canyon, a bus trip that started with a 6.20am pickup from the hotel and ended with a 10.30pm drop-off at the same spot.

In between we got precisely 45 minutes of the Angel Lodge lookout point and one hour at Mathers Point lookout. At the first you could see "approximately 10% of the canyon" and at the second "about 20%". It's not a lot of return for 16 hours in a bus but it was more than enough to whet the appetite for a return trip one day.

If you do plan to go to the GC make sure you organise an overnight stay atthe Angel Point Lodge. Sunset and sunrise there would be pretty amazing, I suspect.

Oh, we have just passed a sign for Baker, CA, which boasts that not only is it a gateway to Death Valley but that it has "the world's tallest thermometer". It is big; you can see it from the road and it's now 102 out there.

At Mathers Point we returned we returned to the bus after an hour taking hundreds of pictures of the view - it was seriously the wrong time of day to be doing that, with the sun almost directly overhead - and I mentioned to Julio, our driver, that 'Grand' really wasn't big enough a word for the canyon. "Fucking enormous and bloody spectacular canyon might just about do it," I said.

Luckily Julio saw the funny side of it. If I did that now in the 'no profanity' bus, I'd be standing next to the world's tallest thermometer, fuming.

Tags: america, bus, death valley, grand canyon, greyhound, las vegas., road trip, usa



hey keef..." jesus loves you, but i am his favourite..." I know this,'cause a bus driver told me so... AND just how fucking big is that thermometer?

  april Sep 23, 2009 5:02 AM



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