Thursday, July 26, 2007

International Road Trip: Entry 6

We stopped right under the green sign that says how far to the next town. We figured our best bet for getting picked up was a good-hearted trucker, or else someone who could empathize with 3 regular guys down on their luck… who had a vehicle with enough room for 3 guys down one their luck, AND ALL THEIR LUGGAGE. We thumbed 5 RV’s, a ford escort, and about 8 big rigs… Nothing.

Of course, we know it won’t be easy for us… we have a loooong way to go. But it’s like ‘come on, not even a smile?’ Wait, there was that damned white ford escort that was seriously amused at the fact that we were thumbing to Alaska . We got a lot of laughs from them. There must not be much to do in Watson Lake, BC. Because it seems like we saw every car in town at least twice, some upwards of 4 or 5 (like that damned white ford escort that laughed at us each time they passed.) Glade was pretty much hating it, and I think it’s fair to say that it was Burt and me doing most of the thumbing. Burt and I had had a catalytic conversation during the time that the Kindly Smokers had lost us on the way into town, Basically I think we realized that we thought a lot of the same things were funny. And so commenced saying those things.

So here we are, Burt and me saying (what we thought to be) funny things. And Glade was really not buying it. But its whatever… He was there, and we were there and we had to try. So Glade Burt and I started Thumbing our little hearts out. Close your eyes, if you will, (but not really… continue reading) and envision the sight I’m about to describe. There we stood, in front of our luggage (so as to kinda hide the fact that we had TONS of CRAP from would-be picker-uppers)
And our collective nose as red as a rose.
And now, here, the subject of prose,
(at least, until there arose this rhyming so gross.
((Which is verse -- quite perverse, and maybe worse)).

And now, picture if you will, a great white vessel, black windows, the faintest hint of blue on the edges.. This large and spacious vessel bears down on our position, it also bears the word “Princess” across the front. It is, in fact, a bus. And it is owned by Princess Tours and Resorts. Burt says “I’m totally going to try this bus, just for fun.” I jumped to my feet with the last bit of optimism my soul could bear and said “hell yeah dude, that would be awesome!” at this point all three of us were anxiously standing with our thumbs in the wind.... And the bus passed us by.

Now, this was heartbreaking to experience. I can only imagine how it must feel for you to read it second hand. But save your tears, or if you cannot contain them, be sure they are tears of joy. The bus signaled
(in all its majesty) and pulled over! OF COURSE! it’s so obvious now, he didn’t want to pull over in front of us, and run the risk of reducing us to skid marks (and, in my case, a really ridiculously good-looking skid mark). You better believe we were grabbing up our many varied items of luggage quicker than a really fast…bellboy. We were ecstatic, elated and yes, we were relieved. As the air brakes hissed and the dust cloud subsided. The bus door opened and down stepped our savior. Our deliverer from certain peril. Emmett. Emmett is a middle-aged black man with a good heart, who could --and did-- empathize with 3 average guys down on their luck. And as luck would have it, he had a vehicle with enough room for the three of us… AND ALL OUR LUGGAGE. He popped the hatch for the luggage compartment and told us we could toss our bags in there. We were all verbalizing our gratitude to him for stopping, and we were doing it in quite a frantic manner. To which he replied “sure, I’ve needed a little help before, too.”

We boarded the bus and it was quite a thing. Not another soul on the bus -- Wait-- scratch that. B.B. King was playing on, nay, resonating through-out the length of, the bus. “just don’t put you feet in the seats” is all our new friend said as he took the pilot seat and began flipping switches and levers. He maneuvered the 55 passenger bus back onto the road and we found ourselves 3 of the Most lucky/blessed souls on the face of god’s earth.

It was kind of awkward at first. I tried desperately to think of something to say to Emmett that would break the ice. We started with introductions (I guess I got a little ahead of myself before, because we didn’t learn his name until this point). He told us how he wasn’t supposed to have passengers on the bus with him. He told us that his job was to deliver the bus to princess, who had recently purchased it. He asked us where we needed to go, we told him Anchorage, Alaska. He said that he wasn’t going that way. But he could take us as far as Whitehorse, which (I think) is about 427 KM from Watson Lake. Of course, this was great news to us, we were grateful beyond words. So, Glade and Burt pretty much crashed at that point and I moved up a couple of seats to talk to Emmett. I started off talking to him about BB King and how my dad instilled an appreciation for B.B. King with a cassette featuring Bobby “Blue“ Bland when I was pretty young. I told him about living in Memphis, The Land of the Delta Blues. He talked about a jazz/blues festival that happens out on the Russian River in California. Emmett is From Los Angeles, but he was raised in Missouri. We talked about the train, and I told him I didn’t know what to expect. He said he wanted to ride it, but we decided that it wasn’t going to be open for a couple of weeks. Emmett is retired, but he occasionally takes an odd job like delivering a bus. This was to be his first time in Alaska, which was why he took the gig. His employer compensated all of his expenses, so he was getting to see the Great Land for next to nothing. He used to drive a bus for a church group in Oklahoma City, a charter bus from L.A. to Las Vegas… he had pretty much driven busses some of everywhere.

We saw a few small herds of caribou, several of frozen lakes, some quaint little cabins tucked back into the mountain side… we talked about all of these things. The road however, the road was AWEFUL! And Emmett was very annoyed with the poor repair of it. Every winter when it freezes after a slight melt-off or a lot of rain, the water fills the crevices in the road, and then freezes. When it expands it ripples the road. The next time around the water is able to get beneath the pavement and cause even more damage when it freezes again. So basically, in the spring, long sections of road have to be ripped out and repaved. They hadn’t gotten around to ripping some out, they hadn’t gotten around to repaving what they had, and poor Emmett was charged with bringing that motor coach through all that in good shape.

We made it to Whitehorse. Emmett felt that he could drive for a couple more hours, so on we drove. This part of the story may seem really boring, and to be honest it was. Lots of road, not a lot of spectacular views, since everything had barely thawed out. But I snapped some pictures of snow-covered mountains, and frozen lakes. Emmett said that he had brought his camera but didn’t really get a chance to use it. Since it wouldn’t do to use it while he was driving, and he couldn’t very well take the time to stop the bus just to take a picture. I offered to get it out and get some pictures for him, and he was all for it.

Lots of road, most of it bumpy as all hell. Lots of lakes we had to drive around. We were officially in The Yukon Territory ever since about an hour or so outside Watson Lake. There was next to nothing between Watson Lake and Whitehorse, and it appeared that it was the same story out of White whores. We were now headed for Beaver Creek, A town about 20 minutes from the Alaskan border. We weren’t coving road like Emmett had expected on account of the condition of the road, The Alaskan Highway is comparable in some stretches to Damon Valley Road in Higgins, Oklahoma, and sometimes more like Mountain Station/limestone road (also backwoods Oklahoma.) and Driving a 45 foot bus over it was quite a chore.

I started getting pretty tired and Emmett told me that the seats at the very back of the bus made a decent place to lay down. So I did.

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