This is the story of my trip to Missouri1 for Hypatia's Presidential/Hillbilly Meet. Because I was also visiting my Canadian university friends, and in a bid to save money, I flew in and out of Toronto, which meant taking the Greyhound from there to Joplin (which is right next to Hyp's home town of Webb City).
The bus crossed the Canada/US border somewhere near Detroit and we all had to get off and talk to the immigration people. Expecting to take longer than the others I made sure I was near the front of the line, but in the end only half the people were seen before they'd finished with me. I had to fill in a Visa Waiver form2 and explain the logic of my travel arrangements3. They took my fingerprints and scanned of my iris (or is it the retina? Some part of the eye anyroad), which seemed a little sinister, but the immigration official was nice about it - apparently I have good fingerprints. She did comment that if I'd sorted out the VW form in advance it wouldn't have cost me $6; the fact that that would have been less work for her seemed to hang unspoken in the air.
In the Detroit bus station I bought a toasted bacon and cheese sandwich from a machine. I was surprised that it was refrigerated, but I must have been fairly hungry because it didn't seem to taste too bad. Later I noticed a sign telling me where to find the microwave oven.
So on to Chicago. On the way I got talking to a lass in the seat opposite who was off to renew her trucking licence. She was nice and friendly but took some convincing that I wouldn't be able to show her where in England I live on her road atlas of North America.
I decided to hang around in Chicago for a few hours; had I caught the next available bus I would have been in Joplin in the wee small hours. Firstly I phoned Hyp to let her know where I was and when I'd see her. I paid for the call in coins, which meant the call got interrupted every few seconds by a voice telling me I didn't have much money left . I then bought myself a pre-paid phonecard.
I walked a little way to the city centre, passing under the el-way. I wonder if that was the bit where they filmed the French Connection. Further on there was a park where they had some sort of fair going on, with lots of stalls selling food and drink. All the prices were in tokens, and I couldn't see where to get any, so I went back to a 7-11 I'd passed to buy some food.
I ate my food sitting on a large, semicircular stone bench behind a statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln, who looked very dignified, even when a seagull flew up and perched on his head. There was a country rock4 playing on stage nearby, so I listened to them for a while before heading back for my bus.
It was now into the evening, and I spent the trip reading (Dickie Bird's White Cap and Bails was my book of choice. Just a little reminder of home on my journey), dozing and changing at St Louis at 3.45 in the morning.