We’re taking a trip later this month, flying from Albany to Washington to visit friends and then on to North Carolina for a reunion with a branch of my fiancee’s family.
It’s been a few years since I’ve taken a plane ride, and I’m eagerly aniticpating it. I love to travel — particularly by air. It’s comfortable, has better amenities and can get me to faraway places quicker than any other mode.
I always take along a book and some crossword puzzles, but I rarely read or solve anything. I’m usually too absorbed with people watching to waste any time with books or wordplay.
Not that air travelers are any more interesting than those you will encounter on a train or on a long bus journey where, in my experience, you’re likely to run into genuine characters.
One of my more memorable journeys was in the late ’90s, a cross-country trip on a bus from New York to California where a new job awaited me. It took about a week but I wasn’t in a real hurry and convinced myself that this would be a good way to see some of the lesser known areas of the country. It was also a lot cheaper than flying.
It was an adventure that included tornadoes in the middle of the night as we sped through the cornfields of Kansas, which I found to be a touch cliché, and a strange encounter with a white-haired woman who announced to passengers that she was Grace Slick. We were making a brief stop in a place called Beaver, Utah, when she approached a group of us and extended her hand.
Being a suspicious New Yorker, I wasn’t convinced that it wasn’t just some lunatic but I still sometimes wonder whether it really might have been the lead singer of Jefferson Airplane, the '60s iconic rockers, right there in Beaver.
This was perhaps a decade after Slick had turned from music to painting and returned to her native Palo Alto, so the possibility that she would be greeting bus passengers at an obscure place in Utah seemed slim. But I did a little research into what Slick looked like at that time and, honestly, it could have been her.
Another memory of that trip is of Boulder, Colo., a lovely city where I made a bad decision. I purchased a breakfast burrito at a convenience store. Within just a few hours, I wanted to curl up in my bus seat and die.
Food poisoning is unpleasant enough if you’re comfortably tucked at home. Food poisoning on a bus trip is pure misery, and it dogged me for days.
On the plus side, the trip gave me the opportunity to see the Rockies for the first time. On the first day they loomed into view, I was awestruck. Two days later, I was wondering if we were traveling in circles. Enough with the mountains already.
We finally reached Los Angeles where, as I stood in line waiting to grab my luggage, the earth began to tremble beneath my feet. It was my first California earthquake, and I was still in the bus terminal.
I’m not anticipating any tornados or earthquakes on our coming trip, and I’m thinking we probably won’t find any deadly breakfast burritos in Georgetown.
I will, however, keep an eye peeled for Grace Slick. You never know.
Irv Dean is the Gazette's city editor. Reach him by email to email@example.com.