This is not a UTRGV preview, except for the following Brad Underwood media Zoom, in which he mentions his longtime friend Matt Figger, who took over the Vaqueros head coaching position after Lew Hill died suddenly this year.
I’m publishing this column to share some pictures from Kansas City, but the text will chronicle my Thanksgiving week travels to-and-from Kansas City. As far as I know, only one person died.
The Groce Staff liked to quiz me about the dollars & time my road trips cost. It became a regular routine when I strode on to the court at Bryce Jordan, the RAC, The Barn or Madison Square Garden.
I got from Champaign to the latter for $2. It took about 20 hours. Unfortunately, Megabus no longer serves Champaign. Miami cost more. There was an extra dollar to get north to Orlando. Then another dollar to get to Atlanta, and finally a third dollar to get to Champaign.
I don’t remember how long it took. I was asleep for quite much of it. And to be honest, you’d need to factor in the money I spent at Landmark Diner on Luckie Street if you wanted a true evaluation of the cost.
So anyway, here’s what happened this week
Monday, 5:45 am: Heather and I get in the Mazda 3 and drive to Illinois Terminal. The train is only about 10 minutes late. (It’s never on time, ever.)
City of New Orleans ($22 because I waited) gets to Chicago at 8:30. It’s 45 minutes early. They added that extra 45 minutes as a pretense, because it’s always late.
Blue Line from Clinton to O’Hare (Ventra card, $2.25). 1 pm flight on United ($77). RideKC bus from airport is free, it picks me up about 8 minutes after I arrive, and takes about an hour to get to downtown. From there I could walk to Home2Suites, but the Streetcar comes every ten minutes, so I hop on that. It’s free too.
Home2Suites gave me a free late check-out. I asked if I could pay for one. That got me to 1:30. Starbucks would have filled the void ’til 3 pm doors at T-Mobile Center, but their pandemic closing time is 2 pm. So I sat on the steps enjoying the 60° weather until Scott Richey arrived, and we bantered for the final ten minutes.
The little market across the street from Home2 had a bottle of Two Buck Chuck for $3.50. It cost $3.50 because it’s a convenience store, and the brand name was Spring Creek but let’s face it, they all come from the same factory in Lodi. The merlot is innocuous, not too acidic, and gets the ideas flowing.
I’d decided against booking a second night at Home2, because the bus station was walking distance from the arena, and a Greyhound for Saint Louis was leaving at 1:20 am. After an 8:30 pm game (oh how optimistic we were back then, in the halcyon days of October), I’d have just enough time to finish my radio piece before walking over.
But then I waited too long, and the price went up to $88. But wait! There’s a 1:30 Trailways that goes to Omaha, where I can transfer to the Champaign bus! Trailways is the worst travel option in America, but I suppose I’d forgotten that point.
I can never sleep after a game/editing pictures and audio, so another hotel night seemed wasteful.
The TMC Director of Operations basically insisted on driving me to the station. The bus boarded on time. The driver, Dave, told everybody that Federal Law required him to read an admonition about mandatory masking. But he added that we could see where his own mask was (a gaiter, around his neck) and that he’d probably get in trouble for saying so.
The ride was quiet and uneventful until about 3 am when a two year-old girl launched into an uncontrollable coughing fit. Not old enough for a vaccination. I had little doubt about the root cause. No face covering blocked her aerosols, but perhaps they didn’t make it all the way to Dave at the front.
The elderly Chinese couple to my left were both wearing surgical masks. My N95 was held in place by a more stylish fabric mask. I’m 3x-Pfizered, so I should be okay.
Unfortunately, the guy across the aisle from the little girl died at this point.
We arrived in Omaha a few minutes early. About 5:41 am. My transfer was scheduled for 6:10 and arrived at about 6:40. That gave me plenty of time to watch the firetrucks arrive. Then the police. Then an ambulance. Then more police. Then another ambulance. More police.
Firetrucks left. Ambulance left. The forensic van arrived. The other ambulance left.
Dave was probably not going to finish the drive to Sioux City. He’d surpass his TSA maximum hours mandate. Despite his maskholishness, Dave was the friendliest of the drivers. He stayed outside near his bus as various law enforcement and medical people shuffled on & off. That’s for the best, because the coughing two year-old had gone into the building. There were two other wee ones with persistent cough in that small space. The Mesoamerican one year-old had the same cough. It sounded wet, from deeply congested lungs. The other was about 18 months, a little black boy.
The girl was white. She had straight brown hair to her shoulders, and honestly looked pretty happy for a toddler who’d been coughing since 3 am before arriving in a dingy Nebraskan bus depot.
It was nice to see the Covid spread among the demographics, rather than a single Boogeyman. I suppose Fox will still blame the Mesoamericans, though. They didn’t seem especially legal.
Our next driver (Omaha to Burlington, Iowa) was curt, and that may have been his name too. I didn’t catch it. He made unnecessarily long and frequent announcements over the PA. Everytime a batch of new passengers alighted, he thanked all the veterans on board, and especially the Gold Star Families.
Burlington Trailways is a bunch of small-town, conservative white people who provide terrible yet expensive service to a predominantly black clientele, and treat them like shit. “Curt” yelled at me for not having a paper ticket, and not remaining in the depot. The two people behind the sales window were black, and extremely friendly despite a roomful of fugue & fog. I hope the space behind that window had separate ventilation. But then again, what are the odds that these two haven’t already had The Vid?
People who ride the bus are not always the world’s smartest. Many of them just got out of jail, and are still dressed in gray jump suits. I like traveling this way now and then, because it reminds me that there’s another America out there, and I rarely share a glass of merlot with it.
The final bus was hell. The driver was the dumbest guy on the journey. His name was almost certainly not Dunning-Kruger, because that would be too perfect. He yelled at absolutely every single passenger. He yelled at me for not having a paper ticket. For the second station in a row, I had to find a second staff person to explain PDF downloads to a bus driver.
One of the convicts explained to Dunning-Kruger that “curt” had taken his ticket and given him a reboarding pass instead. Dunning-Kruger said there’s no way “curt” would have done that, and only barely backed down when every single other passenger said the same thing.
A thirtysomething named Juh-MEE-qua (that’s the phonetic, I wouldn’t want to guess the actual spelling) walked into the building and Dunning-Kruger immediately yelled at her to get out of the hallway. She wasn’t going to take his shit. She’d paid $140 to ride this hellish bus. (Pro-tip: Buy early, Juh-MEE-qua.) I commiserated with her. She had long curly extensions, a big butt & fake eyelashes. You meet all kinds of people out there.
Dunning-Kruger played the Burlington Trailways promo/safety movie after every stop. Galesburg, Peoria, Bloomington and presumably Champaign. So I got it four times. Because the loudspeakers were behind him, and facing the passengers, he cranked the volume until he could hear it loud and clear. That meant 11 in Spinal Tap terms.
The movie featured the Burlington Trailways president (a hunch, but I’m pretty sure this hunch would pay off) telling people how to sit down, how to strap on a seatbelt, how to open a restroom door. Every single person in the video was not just white, but old and white. I looked around at my predominantly black cohort and thought “of course they’re not surprised. Just like January 6 didn’t surprise them.”
One camera angle caught the president as he pretended to steer a moving bus. He smiled, looked confidant. The freshly pressed suitcoat. The epaulettes.
One understood immediately that he’d made this movie to satisfy his own sense of vanity, and that people on Greyhound can find their way into the bathroom without an explanatory video.
One understood that his yesmen all praised the work. He looked great in this movie, they assured him. Maybe some of them realized that forcing it upon 55 human sardines would not make them feel safer, but remind them NEVER TO FUCKING RIDE GOD-DAMNED BURLINGTON TRAILWAYS EVER AGAIN. The passengers literally covered their ears with their hands because it was so loud.
I had planned to sleep a while on this bus, but a four minute video every 45 minutes eliminated that possiblity. Dunning-Kruger also played satellite radio from his dashboard, as if people wanted to listen to Hot Country.
Fortunately, it kept me awake for the Underwood availability. But given the lack of sleep, and the need to locate an elderly parent, and then put some turkey, sides and yes, merlot into him; I never had time to research the UTRGV Vaqueros.
Just kidding. It was a 2018 Dry Creek cab.