Denver Stories and Tips

Climbing from Oakland to Denver

Sacramento Photo, Sacramento, California

Oakland's Greyhound terminal resembles an aquarium, slightly round with many glass doors and a few of those ubiquitous video cameras in America watching over citizens. In my hour-long wait for the bus there, I began writing a short spooks story taking part in the place. I could imagine the American counterintelligence attempting to thwart a dead drop, or approaching a passenger and trying to tempt him or her to tell some dark, maybe inexistent, secret. A sudden voice over the speakers awaked me and told me it was time to leave the East Bay.

After boarding quickly, we left on time, and, still susceptible after my writing, I thought that someone in Greyhound had read my journal's entries about their service and decided to do something about that. Soon, that was proved to be wishful thinking.

We crossed Emeryville and Berkeley, continued over the northern East Bay settlements and after crossing a huge bridge and Vallejos, we were on the countryside, speeding eastwards.

A few minutes before 3pm, we arrived to Sacramento and Greyhound matched its reputation. The driver announced that due to something, we would be staying an extra hour in Sacramento. Finishing that, he parked the bus in a dark parking place and shut off the air conditioner, thus hinting he didn't want us in the bus for the next eighty minutes.

Seizing the opportunity to explore a new town in my list, I walked into the scorching sun and soon, the invariant attempt of American Suburbia to feel different disclosed itself: here it was in the form of a perfect grid with streets numbered in one direction and lettered in the other. Q corner 6th makes a perfect sense as an address here.

However, the sun convinced me to search for a shelter, and pretty soon I located the Westfield Shopping Town at the Downtown Plaza. The big place was decorated with attractive and colorful statues and I soon settled down at the crowded and small Starbucks for a dose of inspiration. The set was right and my story advanced at a surprising pace. "Let's test the suspect in our territory," said master spook A to B and arranged an artificial delay somewhere. A web was set and while carefully moving my protagonist through it, I found myself in danger of missing the bus.

We left next to four and an hour later, the landscape turned from an urban one into a lush forest of dark greens and we began a rapid ascent and in half an hour we reached almost 2000m above the sea level. A bit later, the beautiful Donner Lake and Peak appeared at our right; some snow was still visible on the peak. At 18:30 we saw the Welcome to Nevada sign, but the rush hour delayed our arrival to the nearby Reno almost forty minutes. The gambling sites were prominent and lured me into changing my story into one about a laundering money operation; paper suffers anything.

Reno wasn't a good place for dinner, the terminal lacked facilities, except for a tired vending machine offering bad coffee for three quarters. Reversing the historical trail, we advanced east and stopped for yet another coffee at a place called Winnemucca, around 22:30. Some of the passengers, maybe those belonging to my story or maybe those from another one, preferred to spend the short break at the gambling machines occupying much of the store.

An hour later, we stopped for a meal at Battle Mountain in a place called Winner's Corner Convenience Store; the name hinted to the nearby casino, which from the kitty corner looked inactive. The driver seemed happy to have a big, hot and unidentifiable sandwich; the only other options for a hot meal were the languid Piccadilly's Pizzas.

Effectively ruining the opportunity to sleep continuously, in an apparently old interrogators' trick, we stopped at 3am at Wendover and stared for a while at the gambling machines until the driver decided to complete the last leg of the trip and continue toward Salt Lake City, Utah, where we arrived a bit before 7am, counting by the new time zone.

A flat city surrounded by attractive mountains at one side and a salt covered terrain on the other, I stayed enough to survive a metal detector check before boarding the next bus to Denver, my final destination. In my spooks story, by now occupying a significant part of my notebook, an inept counterintelligence agent was fooled by my protagonist into boarding a different bus and disappeared forever. A bit before 7:30am we left and began traveling along a narrow valley surrounded by gray rocks and low, but very green, vegetation.

At a quarter to nine, we stopped for a thirty minutes breakfast at the Evarston Junction with Highway 80, and were formally announced we were in Wyoming. Those who hadn't managed to eat enough, had a second option at Rock Springs, some eighty minutes later. Thirty minutes are a long time while the only possible activity is to walk around a Mc Donald's branch, thus, spiritually broken, I stepped inside and bought a cup of coffee. However, the local humor was evident in the signs; one place advertised "Pasta with Altitude" and another was called "Outlaw Inn."

Afterwards, we stopped at Rawlins, Laramie and Fort Collins, all that across an endless plateau wet with refreshing rain. Around 17:30, the bus entered Denver's Greyhound terminal, after a victorious and dramatic fight against the local rush-hour. And my spooks story was almost forgotten until, a couple of days later, it was time to leave Denver.

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