It’s been a little over a week since I’ve been (temporarily) off the Appalachian Trail. I was recently diagnosed with a tibial stress fracture near my ankle, which has resulted in me hobbling around looking like I have to poop really bad while trying to hold it in. More on my injury and (hopefully) improvements later. I got to take my first adventure through the Greyhound bus system in order to get my butt home to rest off my injury. It was quite the interesting journey! Now I’ve been on buses before, but they’ve mainly been abroad, so you can swap the livestock for methheads.
Hot Springs, NC to Asheville, NC:
Starting from the beginning, I was with Frisbee nearby Hot Springs, NC and we had just decided it would be a wise decision for me to go home to heal up, since doing so on the trail would be costly. We hitchhiked back into town after hiking 15 miles out, I booked my tickets, we watched the local road crew try to pull a Hoe Ram with a Dodge Ram, I cried (a lot), then we headed back into the woods to sleep next to a guy named “Mahshoom” (probably totally butchered that spelling), which apparently means, “man who can’t grow beard” in Afghani.
The next day, we grabbed breakfast at the diner with Nightcrawler and Wildflower, then waited for my shuttle to take me to Asheville to catch the bus. I said a very emotional goodbye to Frisbee and joined a gal named Left Foot (who I had never met before, but would get to know and adore) in the shuttle.
Our shuttle driver was a very peculiar, but nice, Air Force retiree originally from Connecticut who had moved to Hot Springs after his service. Left Foot and I exchanged various, “what the f*ck?” facial expressions as he had to check his Powerball ticket before leaving, then on the way to Asheville, asked us to steal boxes from Ingles (a grocery store), then had to pay his bill at the auto repair shop for having his van towed. He suggested a lovely BBQ restaurant which also sold guns and hunting bows along the way. I made a mental note.
Asheville Bus Station:
We finally got to our destination with plenty of time to kill (before being killed on the bus, that is). Left Foot is a doctor who came out for a section hike, a long one at that (she’s a LASHer, otherwise known as a “Long Ass Section Hiker”). She happened to know a hiker friend of mine, Middle Brother, who we started with and who was in the process of catching up to us, and was also familiar with the “Poo Crew Privy Reviews” that we had been writing in the logs. We took turns looking after our gear as we walked down the street to grab grub at the nearby Ingles, and exchanged many funny trail and medical stories (I’m no doctor, but I’ve worked in Pediatrics and Veterinary before). The man working the front desk was very involved in our conversations as he didn’t hide the fact that he was eavesdropping on us. His dead stare was a bit awkward, but I guess his only other option was to stare at the guy with the acid-washed jeans and his classy girlfriend nodding off on the other side of the room.
Those not familiar with the Greyhound bus system, it very rarely goes directly to your destination. You have to make many, MANY stops along the way, and in between, many (sometimes painfully) long layovers. After my experience with Greyhound, I think an actual greyhound might reach the destination faster given all the layovers.
Below I have listed the highlights of each bus and each layover.
The Journey Home:
Bus #1 – Asheville, NC to Knoxville, TN:
The bus wasn’t full so we had plenty of space. Left Foot (who would only be joining me for the first bus ride), pointed out the AT crossing nearby Standing Bear Farm as we drove by it. It was an impressive distance! The bus smelled like farts and the conversations on the bus were heard in confusing segments, and went as follows:
“Hey Troy! Z, to the Z, to the Z, to the Z!”
“Duck, duck, goose, Troy!”
“blah, blah, blah, buying and setting off M-80’s!”
“What did you have for supper, Mom? Mom? What did you have for supper?”
“blah, blah, blah, Passing kidney stones, blah, blah.”
Layover # 1 – Knoxville, TN:
The layover was only for 50 minutes (trust me, that’s a short one), and the bus station was humid, and full of the types of people you would imagine in a bus station. A few examples: An old man with no teeth eating a sandwich. A couple dressed like the “Jersey Shore” covered in scabs and likely concealing some syringes and a few crack pipes. The oddly placed woman who is nicely dressed dragging her roller luggage behind her. Various others who look liked they might feel as sticky as the bus station floor.
Bus #2 – Knoxville, TN to Wytheville, VA:
I had to say goodbye to Left Foot, and we wished that each other would survive through our travels home. She kindly offered me pepper spray, but I declined. I decided to take my chances. Unlike the last bus, it rattled the entire way and there were several stops throughout Tennessee and Virginia before I reached my destination. There was no scenery as it was very foggy outside and no odd conversations to listen in on as most everyone was on their phones or trying to sleep. One man snored loudly and a group in the back were giggling. With no other distractions, the sadness from leaving the trail kicked in hard. The bus driver yelled over the intercom for the people in the back to stop smoking cigarettes. I didn’t smell anything, and started to wonder if the driver was losing it.
Layover # 2 – Wyetheville, VA:
I was corrected several times that it is pronounced “With-vill” not “Why-eth-vill”. A fellow hiker who I didn’t know, but shared a bus with, dropped the odd suggestions to try out water aerobics, and to watch the movie “My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding” since the Dad in the movie said “Windex is the solution for everything,” in regards to my injury. Smile and nod. He left and my 5 hour and 45 minute layover began.
The bus station was the size of a closet with people sleeping all over the floor and packages taking up any remaining space, so I was grateful to have McDonald’s nearby. It was midnight and I had until 5:30 am to catch my next bus. I grabbed a coffee and spent the bulk of the time reading. At about 2:30 am, one of the teenagers working there started blasting an Emo/heavy metal radio show over the loud speakers and a guy who had just gotten off another bus was giggling as he watched something on his phone. This provoked a rage in me that I had been trying to suppress as I tried to complete a Sudoku puzzle. I refrained from behaving badly, but I think the guy read my body language as he returned his crappy music to his headphones while he cleaned. I don’t do well without sleep. Before leaving, I was thrilled to see one of the McDonald’s employees “mime” that she was washing hands in bathroom as I was drying mine. I was glad I ordered food before she came to work. Gross.
Bus #3 – Wyetheville, VA to Charleston, WV:
We waited to load up on the bus outside. A guy blew a cloud of cigarette smoke in my face as a couple of junkies decided they were sick of waiting to get on the bus and helped themselves to a seat without handing over their tickets. There was a thick fog the entire ride and the bus smelled like a combination of cigarettes, Red Bull, and beer. This was the first bus I got on that filled up, so it was cramped. I chatted briefly with a guy from Flint, Michigan covered in facial tattoos (who was actually quite the gentleman, all stereotypes aside), listened to a guy complain how he had been traveling for 3 days from Dallas with no sleep, and a woman kept telling her crying baby to “Shut up!” I tried to nap with no success.
Layover # 3 – Charleston, WV:
I was so tired, my skin hurt, and I had 2 hours until the next bus. A bunch of other people who were on my bus had been forced to switch buses. I was concerned since my Dad decided he wanted to meet me in Morgantown, WV instead of Frederick, MD. He used to work in the area. This had me nervous for two reasons. One, I didn’t know if I’d been placed on a different bus and had no phone or Wi-Fi to relay that to him. Two, my Dad has a tendency to fall asleep behind the wheel and it was a 4-hour drive from home.
Bus #4 – Charleston, WV to Morgantown, WV:
Fortunately, I didn’t have to switch buses and I would be dodging the 3 hour 30 minute layover, since my Dad decided to pick me up. I saw water flowing over rocks on the side of the road and it almost made me cry. I missed the trail. The bus driver was British and perky, which I had limited tolerance for (the perky, not the British part). There were many stops, and I managed to doze off for a few minutes on the way. My Dad was waiting and took me home.
I’m still recovering, but have plans on making it to Trail Days in Damascus, VA, and currently have plans to return to the trail in New Jersey. I want to dodge those Pennsylvania rocks until my ankle is 100% and will be making up the miles I missed after I summit in Maine. Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery! I’m eager to get back out there!