True Stories By Bob Kranich From A Walk Across Florida
“Lake City, we’ll be there in ten minutes.”
I was jarred awake by the bus driver’s announcement.
We took the ramp off Interstate 75, stopped, and turned right...taking off with a roar. I looked around. It was dark inside except for the faint glow from a few instrument lights on the driver’s dash board. A couple of passengers were starting to stir. I could hear the rustle of packages. Not many had got on board back at Tampa. Looking out the window, Lake City, Florida was very dark, only an occasional dim street light. We pulled into a small station and parked. There was that sudden sound…ssswiisshh, the air brakes make as the driver shut it down.
I followed a couple of people down the aisle and then the steps. I immediately noticed the dampness in the air. The fog was being cut by the yellow light of two downward facing street lamps over the combination waiting room, snack bar and ticket counter. There were bugs flying around buzzing and bumping into the two lights in an attraction craze. It appeared that three busses had converged here simultaneously. Because of that there were a few more customers here than at the Tampa station I had left at 12 AM. I glanced up at a clock over the door. It was 4:05 AM. We had made very good time. My driver unloaded a few pieces of luggage and some newspapers, and before I could get his attention, he went inside.
Where is my pack? The bus was not going to leave until I got it! I could see through the window, while I guarded the bus, that my driver was talking to his fellow drivers, leaning on the food counter and drinking a cup of coffee. In a few minutes he came out and stood by the door of his bus. I made my move, armed with my baggage claim check.
He was surprised, “They didn’t say anything about it in Tampa!” he exclaimed.
We went over to the outside center of the bus. He reached down and turned a handle which opened the compartment. He pulled the door up. I could see in.
“There!” I proclaimed, as I pointed to my new red pack.
He pulled it out, set it on the sidewalk, and took my claim check.
To the amazement of all, I slipped it on, and headed down the street towards the bus line’s competitor, a few blocks away. I noticed that there was only one other business open at this time of night. A gas station on the corner was all lit up but no one seemed to be moving about.
The dampness was now turning into a misty fog and it floated down and reflected in the occasional street lights. It was pretty in an eerie sort of way. I shivered. It was getting real cool!
There it was. The small bus station had only one night light and an old baggage cart out front. Faded, chipped paint, iron wheels...even so, I knew that the cart’s wooden bottom would be easier and somewhat softer to sit on than the concrete curb. It wasn’t long before just sitting there, inactive, brought a chill clear through to my bones. Shivering, I zipped open the bottom flap of my pack, dug into the clothing part, and brought out my hooded cotton sweatshirt.
Still sitting there, I now started to process my situation. Lake City was 32 miles south of the Georgia border. I had ridden up here mostly on I-75 from Tampa. Occasionally the bus would go over to 441/41 which sometimes paralleled I-75 to stop at a town. From here the Greyhound I had been on would resume its travels, but instead of going north, it would change direction and take highway 41 northwest to Valdosta, Georgia. I needed to go north on 441 to the Georgia border, which brings me to what I was doing at this Trailways bus station. This system had a bus that went straight up 441 north. This was the way I needed to go to get to the border.
So here I sat, 5 AM and nothing happening.
The bus station wasn’t even open!
I wandered over to the lit-up gas station. An attendant was inside at the desk, head on his hands.
“Sir, what time does the bus station across the street open?”
“Not until 6 o’clock this morning,” he said, looking up sleepy-eyed.
I went back to the Trailways station, sat down on the cart, took a snack from my pack, ate it and then laid down. I’m sure I looked like an old tramp sleeping there on that cart.
I drifted off. (I had hoped no one would come by and hit me over the head!)
I was awakened by a car’s headlights and the crunchy sound of the gravel in the drive. As I sat up and rubbed the sleep from my eyes, I noticed that there was no let-up in the fog. In fact it had become worse!
“I’m sorry sir,” the newly arrived attendant said, “the next bus won’t be until 2 o’ clock this afternoon! How about a cup of coffee?”
“No thank you ma'am, I guess I had better be going.”
I had been here long enough. I’m not going to wait another 8 hours! I would try to use the educated thumb as I headed north through the town. It sure was deserted. There were only ghostly outlines of the buildings. They loomed up on either side of me as the fog drifted about……...
About the Author: After getting out of the Army Bob Kranich backpacked from the Georgia border to Key West in a 40 day adventure walk across Florida. His recently published book A Walk Across Florida is available from his website or Amazon.com