Vancouver to Austin: Winging It

It’s important to have a “can- do” attitude when you travel. So when Google flights presented my friend Emily and myself with the question “Can you finish your exam an hour early, catch a bus from Vancouver to Seattle, sleep at the airport, get on a plane to Portland, then another plane to Los Angeles, then another plane to Dallas, and then a bus to Austin, with limited transit times between each?” our answer, naturally, was “yes”.

When D- day finally arrived it brought snow. For all other Australians out there, who don’t know about the wonder of snow for university students, I’ll just point something out: when it snows they cancel all exams that day. Furthermore, when you’re an exchange student and your exam gets cancelled they just give you 75% for the course and that’s the end of it. It’s magical.

However there is a downside to snow days in Vancouver: it’s absolute bloody mayhem. Negotiating our way through public transport to make it to our first bus was as simple, I imagine, as popping out for some groceries on the Gaza strip. Each time we got on a bus it would get stuck in the snow and we would all have to get off and run along Broadway until we found the next one. This happened four times. Downtown was a matrix of bogged buses, abominable traffic jams and tirades of pedestrians falling down all over the place. I was wearing high- heeled boots for some reason, and my ass was well and truly broken from falling over by the time we rocked up to the depot, an hour and a half late.

The most ridiculous thing about it was, after trudging through a snow- inflicted war zone for four hours, our cab ride home took 25 minutes. It made no sense at all.

Since we missed our bus, we had no way to get to our flight from Seattle at 9am the next morning. Three connecting flights and a bus ride also hung in the balance. No early morning buses, trains or advertised Craigslist rideshares apparently existed, so we posted our dilemma on the University Whistler rideshare page, aimed to organize rides up to the ski fields. By 10pm, we’d found our savior, and convinced him to leave at 5am to get us there in time. We had to celebrate.

“I know of a party?” Em suggested.

Hung-over and freezing our butts off, Emily and I found ourselves hurtling towards Seattle. Last time I crossed the USA- Canada border I got in a bit of trouble. We were hitchhiking back up from Seattle after a shotgun trip to Hawaii. As everyone had neglected to pick us up from Bellingham for a good three hours it was the middle of the night. My friend Andree can talk a sweet deal though, and convinced an uptight old couple at a petrol station to take us back up to Vancouver. At the border though, they bailed on us, and made us get out of the car. The border police apparently found our tired, bag-ridden selves pretty dam threatening as we walked up to them. Three of them raced out and actually told us to ‘put your hands where we can see them!’ After questioning us on our names, background, what we were doing in Canada and America, what our exact bank balances were and “whose bloody idea was this?” they finally relaxed a bit. “Sorry for the drama, it just looked like you were going to run off into the park,” they said. Like we were four year olds at the playground. And I’m pretty sure most illegal immigrants don’t walk directly up to border patrol in Hawaiian lays and thongs. Then they “ordered” us to take a cab, which was $90 each, all the way back to Vancouver. Bastards.

Anyway, this time we got through the border okay, nerve- racking though it always is. At customs a fellow traveller told us he had his pot taken off him. “You took pot through customs?” we exclaimed. Who was this idiot? “No, my pot” he said and showed us a flower “they took the soil bit of my pot plant, but at least they cut off the flower!”

We arrived at Sea-Tac airport fifteen minutes before our flight left. It was like we were those cartoon characters who get stuck moving really fast, while time goes so slowly. We were at the delusional stage of delirious. We even went to a café and got breakfast because we thought we had so much time to spare. Somehow we made it onto the flight.

The flight to Portland from Seattle takes about four seconds. We walked off the plane and straight onto the next plane and as soon as we walked on, the gates closed and then plane left. Next minute, we were in LA. Em and I were on different flights from LA to Dallas. Mine was fine; I didn’t sit by anyone interesting. I think I just fell asleep. Emily rocked up in Dallas fifteen minutes later after an entirely more interesting journey.

First of all they didn’t let her on the plane. There was something wrong with her ticket and they said she wouldn’t be able to board today. Now, I can only imagine Em’s reaction to this (after seeing a similar one a bit later on…) and I’m not surprised that they did eventually, obviously, let her on the plane. They actually got some other guys ticket, and took him off the plane and put her on. So she flew to Dallas under the alias of James Roach. She said she was so wound up, that when she looked at the ticket she only read as far as “Los” and thought she was on the wrong plane and going to Las Vegas. Then she realised that was actually because she was leaving Los Angeles. It got a bit confusing that day.

Once we got to Dallas we had half an hour to get to the Greyhound bus depot, to use our $1 ticket to Austin. We were in no state at all to bother deciphering the Dallas public transport system, so splurged on a cab. Our cab driver turned out to be a maniac. Actually, I don’t even no what the hell we got a ride in but it wasn’t like any other cab I’ve seen. It was this huge pimped out four-wheel drive with about six TV’s playing music videos. The driver spent more time watching the TV’s than the road. Em gave me a nudge when she looked at the speedo and saw he was doing 130km an hour. At first I was like “Oh well, I guess it’s just like Darwin”. Then it soared to 150km and we both started tearing the leather seats with our fingernails. Someone actually tried to overtake him at that point, which made him speed up even more. We drove alongside this audacious counterpart for a good three hundred metres, with the two idiots giving each other the evil eye the whole time. Finally we landed back on earth at the bus depot, courageously refused to tip the driver and went inside.

The station was utterly full to the rim. People were sleeping all over the floor, others were racing around trying to work out what bus they were on, and we were the only white people there. Which made it pretty obvious that our friend Andree, who had flown to Dallas two days before and was to meet us here, wasn’t. By this stage, we could thrive in chaos, and even I managed to talk my way onto the bus, despite losing my ticket. With five minutes before departure time she still hadn’t shown up, and Emily had realised she was carrying Andree’s ticket, as well as her own. So we entrusted it to the lovely manager who had re- issued mine, and told her if a lost- looking white girl rocked up, it was probably for her.

We were in such a pickle- we had no phone or Internet to contact her, we didn’t know when the next bus would be and we were travelling on from Austin the next day. But just as the bus started to roll away, I saw a lost looking girl come in the back entrance of the station and trot around like a little antelope. I tried to catch her eye and wave to her. Emily, thankfully, decided that whacking on the door until it broke off its hinges would probably be a better way of getting her on board. The driver stopped just before she succeeded. Andree then of course had no ticket, so she and Emily ran around trying to find our favorite manager, while I stayed at the bus and refused to let the bus driver leave. The other passengers, thankfully, only laughed their heads off at us as we eventually, finally got ourselves together and on board the bus.

En route to Austin the bus nearly crashed into a passing truck. Then Andree told us that the rideshare we had organised to New Orleans the next day with a random forty- year old Mexican man had fallen through. “Oh no” Em said. She was pretty upset. “I really just wanted to do something a bit risky for once”.

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