Heather in Nashville
Blog,  My Travel

New York City to Nashville via Greyhound: It Might Have Been Easier to Walk

I have always been one of those people who asks for adventure instead of security. It’s an attitude which has caused my mother grave concern over the years; as I flit from one boy to another; one job to the other; house to house; never seeming to take root anywhere, but, blooming wherever I go. From Burning Man to Sturgis, New York to San Francisco, Italy to France, the music industry to the coffee industry. I discovered that when you add the word ‘industry’ to anything, it sounds more legit and alleviates my mother’s constant worry. What are you going to do with yourself? When are you going to settle down? And my personal favorite: I brought you up better than this. So, when I started to feel stuck and stale; as if I was in a coffin with both ends kicked out, I knew I was well overdue for an adventure; so I planned my cross country train/book tour/trek. I was ready to reset, refocus and reignite.

Armed with enthusiasm and fierce determination. I planned to visit Sister Houses across the country and hoped to sell enough books to sustain myself. I knew I wouldn’t get rich, but, would go forward as long as I could. You can never predict a future that doesn’t exist; so, when boarding the Amtrak in San Francisco in San Francisco,  I promised myself that if I began to feel the financial pinch, became financially uncomfortable or dipped too deeply into my own savings, I would have to go home.

As a project-driven person, with a number of irons in the fire at any given time, I have been earning my own money since about 8 years old, raising and selling livestock, collecting and selling scrap iron or any other opportunities that presented themselves. In my twenties, I was opening stores for a little known company named Starbucks, overseeing all aspects from dirt to coffee in six weeks, I’ve written books and traveled–with one common factor; as my friend Ben says, “The girl’s a finisher.” That is true. Although it doesn’t always work the way I hope or envision, I always finish what I start.

During this project, I encountered a lot of ‘behind the scenes‘ negativity and drama. Midway through the project, there was no joy left in it for me. I had little support and I felt defeated. So, I decided to scrap the project–but, I couldn’t bring myself to not complete it; to not be that ‘finisher‘, that my friend had so much faith in, even though I had no love left for it. I went forward and finished it. I am happy to say that people–(not involved with the book)–love it. I received a note yesterday from someone who had just received their copy; “Congrats on the success of this recent endeavor, the final publication is superb!” Although this project was riddled with unforeseen circumstances, I am glad that I have many notes like this; and that I finished the damn thing; which energetically had died months ago.

On the road, reality set in, and books were not selling, events were too far apart and overall, attendance was low. I was packing up boxes of books and shipping them to the next destination, only to repack them and ship again. (Less than 20 books sold.) This was not a sustainable model.  As a freelancer, there are a lot of unknowns and you have to be OK with that; there is no security and you have to be willing to change course on a moment’s notice.  I felt the winddown approaching and it did in July. The truth is that there are no real endings they are just places where the story stops and something else is about to begin. So, I concluded this part of the story and will be finishing it in its entirety when I get back to San Francisco; sewing up any and all loose ends, putting a solid period on it and moving on to something else in joy.

As my heart, mind, and soul came together about the end of this part of my travel; I went back to New York City and meet up with friends for the 4th of July.  We went to an incredible dinner in Little Italy and then went to a swanky rooftop to watch the sky light up with every burst of color the rainbow can imagine. The irony is not wasted on me, that the day after this unparalleled level of elegance, I find myself at its polar opposite; the dreaded Greyhound bus.

Leaving NYC on the 5th of July to go to Nashville, I had no ‘real‘ plan and was staring down the barrel of $1300.00 flights; $600.00 Amtrak or Greyhound. I was tempted to spend the night in a train station and take Amtrak; but, I heard my mother’s voice in my head, saying “Cowboy Up and get on the damn bus”; she probably also said that I brought this on myself, but, I didn’t hear that part; so off to the Brooklyn Greyhound. 

I love meeting new people, seeing new places and living the best life I know how–every day. I have made new friendships and solidified old friendships. There have been amazing times, disappointing times and times when I have sat down and cried. (Yes, I sat down and cried!) I wouldn’t recommend breaking down at the Brooklyn Greyhound Station, but, it was the venue I chose.  Sitting cross-legged on the beaten linoleum floor, in the sweltering, sans air-conditioned postage-stamp-sized room, I sobbed and blubbered. People looked but did not approach. I had texted my friend, three words: ‘I feel defeated.‘ My phone rang, my friend was alarmed, but he came armed with a pep-talk, that got me off the floor and onto the bus.

I am fortunate that I have friends who accept me; they may not always understand me, but, they are there when others have long since abandoned ship. Many people refer to me a ‘too’ free-spirited or ‘too’ bohemian; as if there was some perfect amount of free-spiritedness that exist and somehow I just went a little over and became ‘too’.

Now that I had gathered myself off the floor, I had to adapt my ‘Greyhound’ demeanor.  This trip, NYC to Nashville, was scheduled to be 28 hours long. Of course, it’s Greyhound, so that is an estimate, at best. I have long since abandoned the romantic idea of meeting people or watching the countryside roll by while traveling via Greyhound. The best you can hope for is that the bus doesn’t break down–(which this one did). I got to see Philadelphia, which turned out to be beautiful. I may need to come back.

You hope that your driver stays awake, sometimes they don’t.

You hope for two seats to yourself; which you will viciously defend as if you were in a Mad Max movie, defending oil in a dystopian future–(which I did.)

You hope that what happens in the back of the bus, stays at the back of the bus.

You talk to no-one on Greyhound but listen to everyone. There is a big fellow in the back of the bus, yelling in an impressive tirade of expletives. His complaint is that he can’t find two seats together, so he can sit with his wife. Of course, no wife and he appears to be traveling alone.

Where are the seatbelts? On MegaBus, I imagine.

There will be no service or information provided at any Greyhound. Where are we? How long will we be here? Who knows?

I get into my PJ’s, put on my eye-mask and leopard slippers, hair sticking straight up and try to sleep with one eye open on my two seats. I blend into the Greyhound tribe. At some point, we pull into a station. I look at my phone and it’s 6:30 a.m. We are told that everyone must get off the coach and will be reboarded later. How much later? The driver doesn’t know but advises us to listen for it. I decide this is the perfect time to change into street clothes, which I do.

When I come out of the bathroom, resembling a human again, a Greyhound driver comments to me; “You’ve changed.” Then he asks if I had been on his bus a few weeks back–going to Indianapolis.

“Yes…I accidentally went to Indianapolis a few weeks ago. I listen much more carefully now,” I said.

“Where are you going today,” he asks.

He tries to buy me a cup of coffee, but I decline and pull out my Starbucks VIA. He keeps me company for a few minutes. He is young–(which for me is 30’ish), nice and not hard to look at.

“I wish you were going to Indianapolis today,” he comments. “I would love to buy you lunch.”

Lunch sounds so good. I hadn’t eaten since New York and found myself lost in thoughts of burgers and fries. I tune back into his voice and hear the words he is saying; “But you’re going to Nashville, right?”

“Yes.”

“That’s your bus,” he says, “it’s leaving,” pointing out the grimy door.

Edwin Moses held nothing on me, as I hurdled the blue plastic seats in a single bound and stopped that bus dead in its tracks. The driver scolded me and cursed me; but, I do not care.

A mere 30 hours later, I arrived in Nashville; ready for a beer, country music and pick up Bubba the Bus–to start the next adventure.

It’s strange looking at the camera roll on my phone; images and photos sliding by, they seem so long ago. The red rocks of Indian reservation and high desert clouds, give way to the great Midwest, flooded and desolate; scenes of devastation and heartbreak; followed by the hustle and bustle of Chicago; a City whose energy leaps off the page and captures your imagination; buildings spiraling to the sky; hearing the twang of an electric guitar seeping from a juke joints in Nashville–(the Hollywood of the South), to the baked fields of Indiana to Pennsylvania, a state that seemingly never ends–gauzy clouds of white and variations of green, which I didn’t even know existed rolling by. Nashville, Birmingham, Huntsville, Memphis, Louisville, Chicago, New York, Clevland, Brooklyn, and so many others.

Through all of this, I have learned many things—which will probably come out in this blog over time; but, most important today, I remembered that I am ‘a finisher’.

Nashville photographer

Until next time…

Go forth

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