Turns out we got on the right bus. The bus driver put his foot on the gas pedal at 10:05, and there it stayed until 12:05PM when we rolled into Barstow, California.
I was glad, actually, that we ended up not having a car... I think TheCat (who loves to drive) ended up really having a vacation this way, and got to alternately doze and look out of the window during the trip. The thought of "going Greyhound" has always skeeved me but I managed to get past it by not thinking too much about what was on the fuzzy bus seats and how long it had stayed there. And I let TheCat have the window seat and this saved me from wondering why the glass was so streaky.
There was an odd assortment of people on the bus... A pair of Nordic looking girls (they spoke French, though) and some guys they seemed to have met while traveling; a skinny, very-shorthaired Black guy of indeterminate age in long baggy Dickie Shorts and a pair of headphones around his neck; a more gangsta-looking black dude in a leather jacket and shades, some Asian travelers, a young black man with a very young baby who looked just like him and who slept for most of the trip (when he woke to be fed TheCat commented how the father wasn't really bonding with the baby since he wasn't looking at the baby while he fed him), a pair of hippie-looking/long-skirted/enormous-backpack-carrying chicks, a woman who looked ethnic but wasn't Hispanic/probably Arabic, and us.
Crossing the Mojave was something. The distinct, rolling hills of California gave way to dry and rocky desert. I've never seen desert; never seen landscape like that in real life. TheCat said he always pictured "desert" as looking like the Sahara--mounds of sand in a treeless, bushless landscape. But this was more rocky and brown, with areas that at first looked like they belonged on the moon or a dead planet like Mars, and then others that had miles and miles of sparse shrub and joshua trees. The bus was going too fast to pick up on any signs of animal life, but in my minds eye I could see the rattlesnakes and jackrabbits and mountain goats. The mountains were high, the sky vast, and I knew we were climbing because my ears began to pop. For hundreds of miles the only thing that flashed passed our window was desert. It reminded me of driving to Chicago, and how once we got into Ohio all we saw from the windows of the Professor's van were hundreds of miles of corn. I texted her: "No corn here!"
Sometimes we'd pass signs that said "For Sale!" and I'd wonder "Who in the hell would buy land out here?" And sometimes we'd pass small roadside shanties and other times we'd pass tiny settlements with a few rusting hunks of metal out front and we'd wonder "Who could live here?" What do you do in the middle of the freakin' desert?
TheCat and I shared headphones, listening to his iPod and taking naps, and then we got to Barstow.
As we pulled into the truck stop the driver announced "This is Barstow, California. We are making a meal stop here. It is 12:05. This dogie will leave Barstow at 12:35. Many people have gotten left here, so make sure you are on on this bus at 12:35. If you try to board at 12:40, I won't be here. There are many dogies at this rest stop; do not get on the wrong bus. This dogie's number is 41650. Have a good meal."
Everybody ran off the bus, searching frantically for food, the restroom, a smoke.
At 12:35P most of us were back on the bus, some folks out of breath, but present. As we pulled out of the meal stop the Asian folks behind us were talking into cellphones, and outside we saw the last of their party on a cellphone, running alongside the bus. The driver squealed to a stop, opened the doors to let the straggler in, then took off again.
I called Aunt LasVegas to tell her we were leaving Barstow and that according to the bus driver we'd be in Vegas by 3:20. She said to call her back when we saw casinos; she didn't think we'd get there that fast. I told her that I trusted this driver... we'd be there by 3:20P.
In fact, we rolled into Vegas at 3:15. Both TheCat and I walked up to the driver to thank him. The arrival time on our bus ticket said 4:55pm. It had been storming in Vegas prior to our arrival, and when we got in it was in the 80's, with a slightly overcast sky. It was even a little humid.
Aunt LV met us out front; TheCat--being a car person--was impressed by her MDX luxury SUV. And that she is a basketball fan. We told her what the past 24 hours had been like, and that all we really wanted to do was to check into the hotel room, and just sit. I realized that I hadn't actually been truly alone with TheCat for probably almost 48 hours. And we'd been on the move almost the whole time.
So Aunt LV dropped us off at the Mirage, and we checked in, getting a really nice room up on the 22nd floor. The room overlooked Las Vegas and the mountains.... miles and miles of sky.
TheCat stripped. And for about two hours, TheCat and I literally just sat in the window, alone finally, watching the sky.