“I don’t want to cause no fuss, But can I buy your Magic Bus?” —song lyrics “Magic Bus” by The Who 1970
Countless are the miles my “always going somewhere” nature has taken me in a lifetime of cars, motorcycles, airplanes, and boats. Ready to go at the drop of a hat, many are the places I’ve been and things I’ve seen. Wonderful are most of the memories, but thankful is the keyword for surviving a few that became stories worth telling.
Earliest travel memories center around trips with my mom. Boarding a train bound for Kentucky. Buckling in for the same trip in a DC-3 prop-driven airliner for which I still have a certificate noting my first airplane ride at the age of three. And, then there were the many trips on commercial bus lines.
Reading a history of the Greyhound Bus Line last week conjured college band memories of the black smoke belching, diesel driven, air-brake spewing, silver giants with the dog on the side. Boarding the big charter buses transporting the Kilgore College band and the Rangerettes to games and special appearances was cool stuff compared to the yellow school buses that transported the Tiger band to Friday night games at Mount Pleasant High School.
My last bus ride six or seven years ago was the first leg home from the Oshkosh “AirVenture” air show in Wisconsin. American Airlines stood ready to whisk me from Milwaukee to DFW, but the 90-minute bus ride from the air show to General Mitchell International Airport in Wisconsin’s largest city reminded of a night during the winter of 1978 when, “Leave the driving to us,” took on a new meaning: a trip from Abilene to Dallas. In snow and ice.
Three hours for that trip was making good time driving the speed limit in the family cruiser on a sunny afternoon. Taking the bus that night was necessitated by purchasing a car in Dallas and driving it to Abilene, then hopping a bus back the following weekend to bring said family cruiser home.
“One-way to Dallas, please,” I said. “Will the snow pose problems tonight.”
A short “no” and a punched ticket was my answer. Besides faulty weather prognostication, undisclosed information included the sub-sonic travel time featuring stops in every burg along I-20 boasting an exit and a convenience store.
Despite all of those minor details, we were soon passing everything on the highway blowing plumes of snow onto creeping cars and idling trucks as the silver dog danced on the slippery super slab. The driver was good. He managed to hit every icy spot on the road causing the big bus to execute variations of the Texas Two Step while spinning wheels searched for spots of dry pavement.
A variety of diversions inside helped keep our minds off the road conditions outside. A young man with a guitar toward the rear of the bus broke into song. “They say music soothes the soul,” said the lady behind me traveling to Mobile with her daughter. I tried joining in, but holding my breath just wasn’t conducive to harmonizing on the next verse of “Magic Bus.”
The momentary jolts of traction between every slip and slide sent a cacophony of screams and four-letter expletives from the back all the way up to the pregnant lady at the front. A couple of older guys across the aisle wagered on when she was going to deliver. One bet it would be between Cisco and Strawn while the other put his money on the stretch of interstate between Weatherford and Aledo. As word of the wager spread, others began to lay down money as well.
Nobody claimed any winnings. She failed to deliver, but fortunately, the bus driver didn’t, bringing us into the Dallas terminal at 10 minutes to midnight, 15 minutes ahead of schedule and 30 minutes faster than I had ever driven it on a sunny afternoon in the old family cruiser.
“Thank you, driver, for getting me here, You’ll be an inspector, have no fear. Too muuuch—Magic Bus…”
Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas Light and Champion and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune.
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(Photo at top of the page: 1959 Greyhound promotional postcard. The Scenicruiser bus was unique to Greyhound and was in-service from 1954 into the mid-70’s.)