An Unforgettable Trip

     Our family was on the move againâ??we were on another cross-country trip.  This time we were traveling on a Greyhound Bus on Rt. 66.  It was 1956. I was three years old; my brother Dusty was one and a half.  This was my third or fourth cross-country trip; and thatâ??s not counting my trip as a fetus.  Traveling across the country was the norm for me. 


My primary memories of this trip are of being sick and the noxious diesel fumes from the buses.  Grandma was doing her best to make me feel better with the meager resources she had on hand. We were out in the middle nowhere in the desert Southwest.  It was arid desert as far as the eye could see.  There wasnâ??t more than sand, cactus, tumble weeds and rattlesnakes.


There were Ki-yoates (Grandmaâ??s terminology) too.  I wasnâ??t exactly sure what they were, but I was really scared of them.  When we would act up, Grandma would threaten to set us out for the Coyotes.  I thought they had to be some kind of a half-breed, renegade Injun that had been raised by wolves. I could imagine them being much bigger than humans and they had long, sharp teeth…I wasnâ??t sure they were completely humanâ?¦Maybe they were wolvesâ?¦Â  This was during the 50â??sâ??so I was heavily influenced by all the Westerns on TV and movies like the â??Attack of the 50 Foot Womanâ??.  When the subject of Ki-yoates came up, I immediately settled down.


Back to our trip�the rear seat of the bus was straight across, similar to an old school bus.  Basically, Mom and Grandma had staked out the last two seats on the left hand side of the bus, along with the backseat.  This was before the age of porta-potties on buses.  The bus stopped every two hours for bathroom breaks.  Usually the stop was in a desolate location in the desert.


The bus terminals were always bustling with activity.  There were people everywhere.  Grandma or Mom always held our hands tight as we worked our way through the terminal to make our next connection.  Several people were like us, making connections on the next leg of their journey, some had layovers.  Many of them were traveling to visit to visit relatives, while some were seeking their fortune in the big city, others were returning home in defeat.  

I always enjoyed seeing the servicemen.  They looked dapper in their uniforms. Amid the chaos were men in blue and gold uniforms pushing large carts stacked full of giant while pillows.  They worked for the bus company.  The traveler paid a small fee for the pillow on their bus trip.  Some people could actually afford to replace the pillow with a new one throughout their arduous cross-country journey.  The starched while pillows looked soft and invitingâ?¦but I knew we couldnâ??t afford such a lavish item.


I was sick throughout the trip.  Iâ??ve had problems with motion sickness for as long as I can remember. (It probably goes back to my trip as fetus.  Who knows?) This was Grandmaâ??s initial diagnosis. Later on that night, the bus made a routine stop at a desolate spot in the middle of nowhere.  It was cold and windy (I half expected a tumbleweed to blow past us.) 


We were standing outside the building, beside a red metal Coke machine.  I stood beside Grandma, shivering as the wind gusted around her skirt tails.  She took some changed from her big pocketbook.  I watched her insert the change it to the machine and press a button.  She opened the glass door and pulled out a little glass bottle of Coke.  She opened the bottle and encouraged me to take a small sip.  I took a tentative sip, and then another.  I wasnâ??t sure what to expect.  When that stayed down, she encouraged me to take a few more sips.  By the time she asked me if I was feeling better,  I wasnâ??t as nauseous.  The carbonation in the Coke helped to settle my stomach a bit. 


Grandma always carried a bag of pink wintergreen candy in her purse.  Every once and awhile, sheâ??d give me a piece to soothe my upset stomach.  (It usually worked).  The piece of pink candy looked as big as a quarter to me.  Prior to sipping the Coke, nothing had helped with the nausea.  She followed up the Coke with another piece of candy for good measure.  (Over half a century later, I still love the taste of wintergreen.  The pink candy is hard to find now, so I settle for Wintergreen Lifesavers).


The noxious diesel fumes were always present.  However, they were especially bad at the bus terminals and stops.  (I didnâ??t know it at the time, but I had asthma and allergies.  Diesel fumes are an industrial irritant.  My tiny body was reacting to the constant exposure to the fumes, in addition to the motion sickness.)


Before long it was time to leave.  As we boarded the bus, the diesel fumes overwhelmed me.  I was sick again. The progress weâ??d made with the Coke and candy was in vain. After we found our seats, the bus pulled back on to the highway.  People began to settle back into their seats, trying to get comfortable


At this point, I was really nauseous.  Grandma gave me a few more sips of Coke.  I sat with Mom and Dusty, while Grandma made us beds on the bus seats, so I could lie down.  That was our last resort.  Sometimes lying down would help with the motion sickness, when nothing else would.


I was happy to have the opportunity to lie down.  I was sick and travel weary.  When Grandma fixed my bed, she came back to get me.  We were sitting on the backseat of the bus.  She took my hand and led me a few steps to the seat where sheâ??d prepared my bed.


Imagine my surprise when I saw one of the giant pillows lying on the bus seat.  I couldnâ??t believe my eyes.  Grandma had made me a special bed with one of the white pillows from the bus terminal.  The pillow was so inviting.


I was small I could fit inside the pillow.  Grandma helped me crawl into the pillow.  The case was my blanket and the pillow my mattress. As I snuggled close to the pillow; I was lost in the sensation of softness and warmth.  Grandma made me feel specialâ??loved.  Although I was sick, I felt safe and secure.  Dusty was lying on the seat in front of me.  Mom and Grandma were on the seat behind us.  I lay in my comfortable bed, listening to the drone of the bus engines.  I felt insulated from the outside world, even though we were speeding down the road on a bus.  As I drifted off to sleep, I basked in the love and devotion of my family.


            As the next day dawned, Iâ??d developed a fever.  By this time Grandma knew my illness was more serious than motion sickness.  I sat on the seat beside Grandma.  She examined me from head to toe (well, as best she could, considering we were traveling on a bus).  I had no idea what she was looking for, so I quietly sat there as she checked me out.


Once she finished checking me out, she put her arm around me and held me close.  She was a large woman, but within her warm embrace, I felt safe and loved. She leaned down and whispered in my ear that I had the Chicken Pox.  (Sheâ??d discovered two small blisters; one on the inside of my forearm and other in my ear.  This was the extent of my outbreak).  She told me that this would be our little secret because if anyone on the bus found out, they might make us get off.  We were still out in the middle of nowhere, so the very idea of getting set off the bus scared me to death.  I solemnly promised her that I wouldnâ??t say a word.  The true nature of my illness was never revealed or discovered.


The rest of our trip was uneventful.  I donâ??t remember much about our destination.  I didnâ??t care.  (That year our family made two cross-country trips).  I was happy wherever we were.  If it was a house in Los Angeles, or Grandpa and Grandmaâ??s house in West Virginia; it didnâ??t matter to me. 


When I was little, traveling was an adventure.  (When I got older, I looked at it as an opportunity to see the country and experience life on the road).  Our destination wasnâ??t really that important to me as long as I had the love of my family. I always felt safe and secure wherever we happened to be. Thatâ??s all that ever really mattered to meâ?¦I didnâ??t care if we were living in California, West Virginia or somewhere on the road in betweenâ?¦


© 2009


3 thoughts on “An Unforgettable Trip

  • November 18, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    I loved this story. I also feel your pain. I get motion sickness as well so I can’t even imagine the misery you must have been in, especially having chicken pox on top of it. It sounds like your grandma was a very special and caring lady. The pillow bed was so sweet of her. What a wonderful memory!

  • May 3, 2010 at 3:09 am

    Loved your story! I’m from West Virginia but now live in the Southwest, so I can relate to both.

  • May 29, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Loved this story , we also traveled alot when i was a child , I always got sick too, still do , have moved around to many states but west virigina is still my home I’m now her to stay

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