I wake up again during the night, around 4 AM and the bus is stopped at another truck stop. I lie still listening to the sleeping sounds all around me and realize that my bladder is exceptionally full. Do I get out of the bus and drain it or do I wait it out? How long have we been stopped? Who’s driving the bus right now? Has anyone else gotten up? What can I put on the seat that the driver will know that I am out of the bus?
My bladder presses hard and I decide that I must use the bathroom. Damn. Why can’t I just slip into the bathroom here in the back of the bus? I stand up on the big bed and start the delicate walk towards the front of the bus careful to not step on too many legs and arms on my way up front. It is like walking through a human mine field and I shift my foot to the left and right over the many, many sleeping people.
“Oooh!” a blue sleeping bag cries out.
“Sorry!” I reply softly and quite sincerely.
Holding onto the top bunks for support as I walk across the mattresses, I finally reach the front of the bus. Cassie, the driver, is nowhere in site so as instructed I find something to leave on the driver’s seat so she knows someone is off the bus. I have no personal items with me and my shoes are at the bottom of the twenty-seven pairs of sneakers, flip flops, Keens and Teva’s at the front of the bus. Bathroom breaks are short, 15 minutes or less, so I must hurry. Accepting that my shoes are unavailable, I grab a big looking left foot Teva and a small right foot flip-flop, and then I throw a sneaker on the driver’s seat so they know someone is out of the bus and dash into the truck stop.
Oh Dear, Kind Baby Jesus,
Please hold my bladder until I find the Ladies’ room and let’s hope that the driver will understand that the random shoe on the seat is a representation of me. I know where we’re headed and I also know there is really no way to get there and I don’t have a cell phone or my wallet or anything but my stinking PJ’s and two shoes that don’t match. Please, please, please watch over me!
Okay, sorry to be so selfish, but I really need the help so I’m counting on you! Alright then. Amen. Ashey. Namaste.
I find the bathroom and heart racing, pee like its Christmas morning. I flush before I’m finished, decide not to wash my hands and race back to the bus. Cassie is holding the sneaker when I arrive and says, “Is this you?”
“Yes!” excited to discover the system works.
She smiles and says, “Ready to go?”
“Oh yeah” I say while slipping off the mismatched shoes.
She turns the key and the bus starts right up. She buckles the seat belt and throws the Green Tortoise into Drive and heads into the
I wake up in the freezing cold
People roll over and groan. I sit up, looking around at the outside surroundings. Birch trees and big rocks fill the quiet canyon where we are parked. Dave gives the morning update. “Good Morning” he says again but in a more natural voice. “We drove through the night and have arrived at our first destination, The Ruby Mountains. Here we will make breakfast, have a big-bag party, de-Miracle the bus and then head out into the mountains.” He looks as many people in the eye as he can and then continues. “Get up! There won’t be any coffee if you don’t help!”
I decided before the trip that I would not tell the staff or other members that I am a classically trained chef, unless if it were absolutely necessary. My intention was to participate just like a regular person…not over-work, which is my nature. My immediate interests lie in the coffee production. Wavy Dave, a tax preparer from San Francisco is first out of the bus helping with the breakfast set-up. The menu today is the same that we will have for most of the trip: Cut fruit, granola and a yogurt/sour cream concoction called "Glop". I start calling it "Schlag" so the Germans can feel as if someone can speak their language.
Bus driver Dave and Wavy Dave set out tables, a huge propane tank and big pot of water to get boiling for coffee but tea turns out to be the favorite hot beverage for our International group. I start cutting fresh melon, mangoes, strawberries and bananas for the fruit salad. We've set-up a three compartment restaurant-style sink for dish washing and another one for hand-washing."Be sure to wash your hands in all three buckets before helping. I don't want anyone getting sick on this trip from dirty hands in the food, okay?" Dave instructs to me and several other sleepy travelers who have emerged to help out.
We make cowboy coffee. The recipe is a cup of coffee grounds in a stainless pitcher with boiling water poured over the grounds. There is a little red strainer to strain the grounds out and we're instructed to put them back into the pot for reuse. This method is pretty similar to the French Press coffee I make at home, but after five minutes I plunge the grounds. It will due for now. Wavy Dave assigns himself the task of chief coffeemaker for the rest of the trip. Unfortunately, he isn't a coffee drinker and when we offer suggestions on improving his cup of Joe, he doesn't take the suggestions kindly.
An hour later and we are sitting on rocks in the cold Nevada morning drinking hot beverages and longing for running water. There is an outhouse bathroom for us to use as nature calls us. Driver Dave has our attention and tells us there is a nice hike in the Ruby Mountains, our next stop after we clean-up, that has a lake so if anyone wants to go swimming now is the time to get bathing suits out of the big bags.
Also, we have a schedule change to the itinerary. We were scheduled to leave after the Ruby Mountains and head to Idaho for hot springs and white water rafting, but that's been pushed back a day for some unknown reason. Instead we will be going to hot springs outside of Elko in Wells, NV.
"What happened to the Idaho hot springs?" someone asks Dave.
"We're not allowed to return. People, you must remember to be on your best behavior when we go places. Okay?" Dave says.
"Why can't we go then?" I ask.
"We can't discuss it. All I can say is that we're not allowed to return...so do your best to be on good behavior tonight when we go to the hot springs in Wells, okay?" He sounded stern and firm.
A good amount of murmmering passed among the passengers. Later in the trip we would find out that people were having sex in an inappropriate place and we weren't allowed back. I discovered that this was a regular theme for why the Green Tortoise wasn't allowed back in many places. For some reason, the bus makes people amorous. Not me, mind you...but others.
While cleaning up, the children pull out their razor scooters and glide around the rest stop. A few minutes later and we hear a loud scream and crying. Mackenzie, age 11, falls hard on the asphalt that has a lot of loose stones and slices open her elbow, hand and knee. There is a lot of blood and crying. Donna tries to console her daughter and the drivers are quick to pull out the first aid kit.
It is full of condoms with only a few gauze strips and bandages. I guess they have a lot of other kinds of emergencies on this bus. Donna patches Mackenzie up as best as possible and she bleeds through the bandages quickly.
"Well, let's hope that the worst thing that happens on this trip." Donna says to console her crying child. Val, Donna's earth-goddess mother, steps in to assist. Smart thinking on Donna's part to bring along a support system.
Together they patch up the child and she stops crying and goes off on her way.
To be continued...
So much love,
all the way from over here...