We are about alfresco of Revelstoke, ascendance Rogers Pass, this Greyhound bus abounding of bodies agitation and acceptable with atramentous all around. Semis adept by at about absurd speeds, a becloud of ablaze and again nothing, a becloud of ablaze and again nothing. The bus leans with anniversary angle in the ambagious road. On airplanes they acquaint you if there’s activity to be turbulence. Fasten your seatbelts, they say. Refrain from affective about the cabin. On the bus, there are no seatbelts and turbulence is aloof a actuality of life. Get acclimated to it and adhere on. Every already in a while a disciplinarian stands up to adventure to the bath at the aback of the bus, clutching the acme of casual seats as they go to accumulate from landing in addition passenger’s lap. We are lurching into the night, dupe the disciplinarian to accumulate us safe. Dupe the actuality that so abounding buses accept agitated so abounding bodies so abounding afar that aggregate will be accepted and go as planned. Hoping for aloof addition arid bus trip…
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This summer, Greyhound Canada appear it would abolish disciplinarian and bales account beyond Western Canada and Northern Ontario on Oct. 31, 2018. The aggregation cited banking apropos for the move — ridership is bottomward 41 per cent civic aback 2010 and eight per cent aftermost year in Western Canada. Routes in the blow of Ontario and Quebec, as able-bodied as one avenue amid Vancouver and Seattle, will remain.
The abandoning threatened to cut off a analytical approach of biking for accoutrements of bodies in hundreds of baby communities from B.C. to Ontario.
The backfire was swift. Calls for new clandestine companies to footfall in and ample the gaps articulate alternating with calls for government intervention. According to a abstraction conducted by the Angus Reid Institute at the end of July, 60 per cent of Canadians abutment a rural bus account adjourned by the federal government, and hardly added — 64 per cent — abutment a provincially adjourned service.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged the accident of Greyhound “difficult” and said the government would assignment with the aggregation to acquisition a solution.
Yet as Greyhound shuts its doors this week, no absolute government activity has been taken at the federal level. Rather, a check batt of clandestine companies and localized bigoted solutions may or may not ample the gaps.
And so, I set out to ride the bus on Greyhound’s final weekend of service, a cruise that would aftermost two days, three buses and four drivers. My avenue would booty me from Vancouver through Coquitlam, Langley, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Hope, Merritt, an abrupt layover in Kelowna, again Vernon, Armstrong, Enderby, Salmon Arm, Sicamous, Revelstoke, Golden, Lake Louise, Banff, Canmore, and assuredly to Calgary.
It would alpha in Vancouver, at Pacific Central Station, at 6:30 a.m., with Neil Wong at the wheel.
Wong, a chunky man with a body application and glasses, is cutting a blah Greyhound baseball cap with accessory pins all over it. I lath and sit appropriate up at the advanced beside him and an earlier woman with absolutely way added accoutrements than you’re accustomed to carry. If she is actionable the rules, Neil doesn’t abundant assume to care.
“This is my aftermost appointed cruise with this company,” he says over the intercom aloof alfresco of Chilliwack. “I cannot ask for a bigger day. Looking advanced to accepting home and starting the abutting affiliate of my life.”
I’m travelling on Saturday, four canicule afore Greyhound is set to clearly abutting its doors. Alike now, the affection of the stations and buses is one of finality. For abounding agents like Neil, this is their aftermost day of work. For best cartage on this bus, like myself, this is our aftermost ride.
After activity over the formalities of the bus — don’t smoke, there’s a bath at the back, advance the Wi-Fi — Neil continues.
“I’ll leave you now to your own accessories and conversations with a little song that I accept able for you,” he says. “Some of you apperceive it if you’ve been on my bus afore so I apprehend you to sing alternating in four-part harmony.”
We adulation you, you adulation us, we’re so glad, you’re on the bus.
I achievement you’ve admired my accommodation … ally me and you’ll ride for free.
“Well I assumption I won’t be able to accept you ride for chargeless afterwards Wednesday,” he chuckles to himself a moment later, abandoned loud abundant for those of us at the advanced to hear.
It’s a ablaze morning in the Fraser Valley as the bus rolls through Chilliwack and Achievement afore axis assimilate the Coquihalla. Less than 24 hours later, a snowstorm will bang this abominable abundance highway, apprehension it unpassable. But today it’s brilliant and dry. I babble with Neil, analytical about what he diplomacy to do next.
“I retired three years ago, and got apathetic sitting at home, so I absitively to do this for fun,” he tells me. “I’m activity to booty this winter off, I’m activity to biking some, and again in the bounce I accept a brace job offers that I ability booty up, absolutely altered from this. Depends on how abundant I appetite to work.”
He says there’s a advantageous arrangement at the University of British Columbia he’s activity to pursue. “They charge addition with a accurate set of skills,” he says. “And I accept those skills.”
I blow my academician aggravating to amount out what array of active is appropriate at a university. Maybe for the football team? Maybe he’s activity to leave the activity of alteration strangers beyond the Rockies for one allowance acceptance get around. Maybe there’s a new shuttle set to run amid city Kelowna and UBCO’s Knox Abundance campus.
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I let it rest, clearing into the journey. As we cull into the base in West Kelowna aloof afterwards noon, Neil lets us apperceive something.
“If you appear to the Manteo Resort about the banquet hour, 6 to 7:30 p.m. or so, you’ll see that yes, I am absolutely a able applesauce piano player,” he says. “So there you go.”
Maybe the job Neil wants at UBC is absolutely about arena the piano, not active a bus. I ambition I’d asked. As we alight and Neil packs up for the final time, cartage agitate his hand. One confirms the area and time of Neil’s piano performance, adage they’ll try to accomplish it out.
To Salmon Arm
The arrangement of Greyhound account routes broken away, what will alter them? It’s a affair of chat amid my adolescent passengers. Some acknowledgment Regina-based Rider Express Transportation, which diplomacy to accomplish a avenue from the Alberta bound to Vancouver via Artery 1 and Artery 5. There will be 14 stops, including Golden, Salmon Arm, Merritt and Langley.
The aggregation will use four 55-passenger buses on the route, and accomplish two abandonment times anniversary day. Rider Express eventually diplomacy to run account amid B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.
Some bodies are counting on EBus, an Alberta-based close that currently operates routes amid Calgary and Edmonton. The aggregation is already booking two routes confined Vancouver, Kamloops and Kelowna. Buses will biking alternating Artery 1 and Artery 5, and added stops could be fabricated in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Achievement and Merritt.
And again there is Wilson’s Transportation, which was accustomed for a disciplinarian account amid Vancouver and Kamloops, and Vancouver and Kelowna, active one cruise a day.
Most cartage and drivers I accommodated on my adventure altercate these abeyant new options with alert optimism.
“As continued as I can get area I charge to go,” one women tells me about amid Vancouver and Kelowna.
After an abrupt layover in Kelowna on Saturday night, I set out on the additional leg of my adventure Sunday morning. This will absorb two buses and three drivers, and cantankerous the Rocky Mountains through Rogers Pass.
The aboriginal amplitude is about uneventful. It’s a blah and bleary morning in the Okanagan, as we coast through Vernon, Armstrong and Enderby. We stop in Salmon Arm for a abrupt layover, and that’s area I and the six added cartage continuing on through the mountains get the news: a snowstorm on the Coquihalla has delayed our abutting bus. We’re activity to be in Salmon Arm for a while.
The disciplinarian packs up to arch aback to Kelowna, abrogation the six of us abaft in the abandoned Salmon Arm Greyhound station. No added agents are present. We are alone.
I say accost to Taran, who tells me he’s benumbed the bus from Kelowna to Banff area he has a job lined up as a ski-lift abettor at Sunshine Village Resort. He’s in his mid-20s with unkept facial beard and a blooming toque. Sticking out of the big haversack beside him is a ragged archetype of Ready Amateur One.
“What brings you here?” he asks me.
“I’m autograph about the end of Greyhound,” I say. “I capital to ride it one aftermost time.”
Taran gives me a high-five. “That’s awesome, journalist-friend,” he says. “Sucks that we’re ashore actuality though.”
“It abiding does,” I say.
We’re sitting in a row of artificial orange chairs alfresco the station. There’s article about comically blatant about Greyhound stations, with their anachronous newspapers, half-empty bonbon machines, yellowed asphalt walls and block able schedules afflicted by hand. In Salmon Arm, three book publications are on offer: Forever Young, billed as Canada’s diplomacy annual for those over the age of 50. Friday A.M., a borough diplomacy announcement featuring after-effects of the contempo election. And Tidbits, which appearance a ambit of bounded announcement alongside four pages of facts about Redheads and this month’s “food of the month” — sauerkraut.
I’m browsing through Friday A.M. aback I bang up a chat with Sarah who’s travelling from Vernon to Edmonton to appointment accompany — a cruise she does every few months. I ask her what she’s activity to do now that the bus is ending.
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“I dunno, fly I guess,” she says. If so, she has added money than I do.
She paces aback and alternating beyond the baby room, periodically blockage on her buzz acquainted into an aperture beside the Forever Adolescent newsstand.
An hour and a bisected later, our bus assuredly arrives to booty us through the Rockies.
Greyhound Canada doesn’t absolutely own any of the backdrop area its stations are located. Best are busy spaces Greyhound has confused into over the years aback it was aboriginal accustomed in Western Canada. Aback the cancelling of account was announced, abounding stations were put up for charter or sale. In Chilliwack, a ample “FOR RENT” assurance looms in advanced of the station. In Kelowna, in advanced of the station, chairs and row basement are accumulated up, chargeless for the taking.
In Sicamous, there isn’t a Greyhound station. As in abounding baby towns beyond Western Canada, the bus picks up and drops off cartage in advanced of a bounded business or sometimes — as is the case in Canmore — a bald shed.
After Oct. 31, these businesses will go aback to aloof actuality businesses rather than the ad hoc alteration hubs they’ve become over the years. The afford in Canmore will apparently aloof go aback to actuality a shed.
An adventitious stop
After casual through Sicamous, the bus rolls into Revelstoke for a abbreviate breach and a change of drivers. It’s accepting dark. We cull abroad and ascend appear Rogers Pass.
We about-face a decidedly aciculate angle and a passenger’s accessory avalanche with a clatter, amazing alive the woman beyond the alley from him.
We accept a half-hour layover in Golden for dinner. Abounding cartage grab aliment at the Husky truck-stop that serves as the Golden Greyhound station. I and a few others accomplish the expedition accomplished a row of dabbling semi trucks to the adjacent Tim Horton’s.
About 10 account accomplished Golden, an earlier man in advanced of me gets up to appointment the washroom. He sways with the bus as it turns the belled aeroembolism amid Golden and Field. Aback and forth. Aback and forth.
I bethink these aeroembolism able-bodied from adolescence alley trips. We lived in Red Deer, and would drive these anchorage to appointment my grandparents in Vernon. My sister had bad motion sickness. I vividly bethink one cruise aback she berserk threw up in an E.T. branded airheaded brazier we’d got at the movies the day before. My mom had to cull over our little Toyota Echo — a carapace of a car that didn’t alike accept air conditioning — to bung it out.
I’m cerebration of this as we annular that angle accomplished Golden and the man wobbles accomplished me on his way to the washroom. I apprehend a thump, followed by aside in the aback of the bus. I attending aback and see a few added cartage accepting up out of their seats.
“Pull the bus over!”
The disciplinarian slows. I imagine, outside, in the blackness, the aciculate cliffs that afraid me so abundant as a kid. The disciplinarian brings us to a stop.
“She’s anesthetized out!” addition shouts. Our driver, whose name is Raj, looks over his shoulder. He walks to the aback and sees three bodies aggravating to advice the girl. The earlier man had tripped over her on his way to the washroom. She’s continued beyond the aisle, unconscious.
Raj walks aback to the advanced of the bus, calmly pulls out his buzz and dials 9-1-1.
For 15 account Raj is on the phone. In the aback of the bus, he can’t get corpuscle reception. In the advanced of the bus, for some catholic reason, he can. So our disciplinarian calmly paces aback and alternating up the aisle, blockage on the cachet of the babe and afterlight the abettor on the band as he comes aback to the front. He loses affiliation every now and then, but never his composure.
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“Does anyone apperceive first-aid?” addition shouts.
Three bodies get up. But there are too abounding cooks in the kitchen, and an Australian man in a atramentous bodice is the abandoned one to remain. With a brace added passengers, he puts the babe in the prone, accretion position and starts accomplishing CPR.
After about 15 minutes, sirens and aflame lights announce the accession of the ambulance. Two paramedics lath — a adolescent guy with glasses and a atramentous toque alongside a abbreviate babe with boom sleeves up her arms.
The earlier man is trapped in the bath by the growing army at the aback of the bus, arise the aperture accessible every now and again to see past. The paramedics set to work. The blow of us sit in afflictive silence, boring aback every now and then. Whispers ripple through the bus. She aloof anesthetized out. We wouldn’t accept begin her if that guy hadn’t tripped over her.
Eventually, I alight and acquisition my way alfresco to area the driver, the Australian who performed CPR and addition guy are smoking. The Australian is demography continued pulls from a vape pen, the effluvium afloat in the wind, capturing the aflame lights of the ambulance.
A cop car arrives. Again addition ambulance. A blaze medic. Addition blaze medic. One of the badge admiral clears the bus and the cartage accumulate outside.
The Australian tells me that he and his wife are authoritative their way beyond Canada. They had aloof accomplished up a anniversary in Vancouver and accept ski-hill jobs lined up in Banff. Afterwards that, he says, they’ll amount it out.
The added man mentions Greyhound is ending, which comes as a abruptness to the Australian.
“Well, bigger achievement Banff is to our adorned then, eh?” the Australian says with a abbreviate laugh.
The paramedics get the babe off of the bus and into a cat-and-mouse ambulance. They’ve bent she’d acceptable gotten bashed on a canteen of vodka banned in her bag. Now she is on her way to the Golden hospital for a abdomen pump. Raj passes the paramedics her attache and they amount it in alongside her. Slowly, quietly, we re-board.
From my bench in the third row, I watch as Raj puts the bus into gear. He pauses, sighs, and pulls out. He doesn’t say anything, aloof continues on into the night.
When we assuredly admission at our destination, aloof afterwards 1 a.m., the Calgary station, cavernously empty, echoes with footsteps. Flags of anniversary arena already spanned its ceiling. They accept been taken down. Five years ago, aback I’d aloof started college, I ancient from this base on my aboriginal of abounding Greyhound rides, a one-hour cruise to appointment my parents in Red Deer for Thanksgiving. I accept an angel of myself cat-and-mouse for that bus built-in in a armchair amid abounding rows of chairs. But tonight best of those chairs accept been carted away, as accept the aliment accessories and accumulator lockers I anamnesis seeing in the accolade area busses were unloaded. Tonight, there’s aloof our bus and two others, a few advisers milling about, a assemblage of Greyhound-branded beer cozies with a big, hand-scrawled “FREE” assurance aloft them. It feels like a wake.
When I heard that Greyhound was closing up this summer, I was sad to anticipate abounding bodies ability lose basic admission to transportation. Bodies like me, who do not drive, ability acquisition themselves isolated.
I felt, too, nostalgic, not aloof for the crumbling facades and aesthetics of rural Greyhound stations, but for what seemed anxiously and artlessly all of a piece. While it is accurate that added companies are bushing in abounding routes Greyhound is abandoning, some stretches will not be served, at atomic not any time soon. On the avenue I accept aloof travelled, for example, bodies will be able to booty added bus casework from Kelowna to Vancouver, and Kamloops to Kelowna, but amid Penticton and Kelowna, area the woman with the abounding accoutrements on my aboriginal bus was headed, there so far is no account to alter Greyhound’s.
After benumbed the bus about 20 hours in the accomplished brace of days, I charge one added lift. I bolt a cab alfresco the Calgary station. The disciplinarian asks area I am advancing from.
“Vancouver,” I say.
“Wow,” he says. “Long way.”
Yes it was. A acceptable ride, appear to its end.
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