FLYING SIXTY HOURS IN A BUS!
It has been a week since I returned after a six-day trip to Yellowstone National Park and other natural wonders in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming. The more I talk about it on a one-to-one basis, a kind of guilt palls over me for not sharing it with others. It is not for posting any bragging points - I am way past it, as my 75th birth year approaches. Also, I am not going to talk about the places I saw, as there are far more descriptions with beautiful pictures of those places. I do not post pictures for the same reason!
Well, the trip was neither by air nor I drove/rode in a car. It was in tourist bus. In the United States, during the last 40-50 years, passenger trains are associated with old people, and traveling in buses with the indigent ones and the unsafe and unhygienic. It is not true anymore. The bus was owned by a tour company. Its seats were very comfortable, wider, more leg room than business class airline seats, and had charging outlets for electronic gadgets.
I could sit with cross legs - like sitting in the comfort of my home - read, write, or just gaze out and contemplate at life. It was a 56-seater, but we were a group of 38 - 30 Chinese and 8 Indians. Yes, no other ethnic variety. Reason perhaps, is that the tour company is owned by a Chinese woman, and besides, it's smart marketing and sales.
How did we think of a bus trip in the first place? Three months ago, Pramod and I took one-day bus trip to Grand Canyon. I have been to Grand Canyon a dozen times, but I am always ready to go. Such places or overachievers project newness from the same spot and angle. It is their magnitude that the mind cannot comprehend in a given moment. The natural beauty changes every second with light and shade. The trip cost us $85 per person. In driving to Grand Canyon, the gas cost alone is more, and the stress of driving is worse. That is how, we decided to take another bus trip.
How much did this cost? $530 per person includes hotel stay (in the inns next to the highways), breakfasts, tips, and admission in 4 national parks. You can't beat this price. On the website, reviews were all good. Incidentally, a returning Indian couple told us that there was nothing negative about this trip - just to follow guide's instructions!
Now, how was a typical day? The bus started off at 5:00AM, 5:30AM, 6:00AM, 6:30AM, and 8:00AM. The day was always 13+ hours long, except the last one. After every hour, it stopped for sightseeing, restroom breaks, or for a bite. There was a small toilet inside the bus too, and I used it twice as my bladder could not hold 18-oz beer. I also carried 6 Oz of rum for sipping at dinner time in order to keep the intestines disinfected. Health wise, I remained perfect - did not miss my morning routine of pranayama. Oh yes, I did take a shot from my asthma inhaler before going to bed and an aspirin on reaching Brian Head at 12,000 feet elevation.
It was 34 years ago that I saw Yellowstone. There are tremendous improvements in the Park. The lines at the registers of the gift shops and coffee shops were so long at this time of the year when schools and colleges were open! In contrast, the Horseshoe Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Valley of Monuments - all inside the Navajo Indian reservation, are hardly known to the world. However, they just blew my mind, as I saw them for the first time. Essentially, it is a tale of two cultures.
I am glad that I didn't carry my laptop, as there was literally no time left out for it. Instead, I used notes in my iPhone. A real impressive feature of this trip was the hotel check in - in 2-3 minutes, 38 people were checked in. The guide did it! Time was not wasted anywhere, thus optimizing sightseeing.
On this trip, besides Pramod, his wife was also there. During this trip, I probably had more conversation with him than ever before. I did not know him as a husband, and his wife in different settings. The United States daily life is so grooved, deterministic, and routine that years go by without any change.
I am so glad that we discovered this bus trip, as I saw equally within and without!