An Armful of Greyhound*, Part Two

Using my Greyhound Discovery Pass

Travelling Route 66 by Greyhound Bus, as I did last September, is something I’ve had a yen to do since first clocking the songwriter’s monicker, R Troup (Bobby Troup, that is) on the credits of the eponymous song title, an up-beat version of which was featured on the Rolling Stones’ first LP.

Anyway, readers may well recall that initial reports about Greyhound travel were pretty harsh. But given a more positive frame of mind, perhaps engendered by mention of the late, great Bobby Troup, a whole swathe of happier reportage then began to make an appearance.

“Greyhound lines USA – Read Reviews” came up with ‘America from 10ft’ in which contributer Getscenic enters the realm of personal reminiscence, evoking a nostalgic Norman Rockwell type of feature shedding light on yesteryear USA and Getscenic’s two trips by Greyhound Bus. Here, as a young teenager he accompanies an older brother on a zig-zag itinerary across the American heartland and goes for our tear ducts with a tale harking back to this more innocent time: “Our driver, a native American,” he tells us, “was a cheery man who asked us to sit up front with him, and he would point out different places to us. We learned more about the history of native Americans with him than we did with John Wayne in 20 or more films. By the time we got to Albuquerque we were the only ones on board and our helpful driver dropped us right at our hotel.”

I have fond memories of Albuquerque myself, as it happens. Check out the Hotel Blue (see Kayak) where I spent the most comfortable night of my trip. Check out, too, The Hotel Cecil in LA, though only to avoid it like the plague. Air condition-less tropical hell-hole minus opening windows, that it is, a sleepover on the overnight Greyhound to Flagstaff, Arizona, seemed eminently more attractive.

Meanwhile, “Greyhound is the bus line of LOVE” is the Barry White-like title of a fascinating whinge by Eek (aka Willy Holt of Boston, Mass.) that brings Garrison Keillor’s lugubrious humour to mind. “Greyhound buses,” we are told, “carry with them a persistent scent I would describe . . . as Eau de some guy’s [BLEEP! – Ed.]. . . it is as if they pay some guy to sprinkle each bus, to ensure the Greyhound experience.”

This is humorous bunkum, of course. There is no such smell aboard Greyhound buses, though there is a basic toilet facility. And having travelled 4,000 miles by Greyhound, I can tell you that the only thing wrong with Greyhound travel is the sad fact that its many detractors bitterly resent having to travel overland at 55mph in the company of their fellow man. Meanwhile, the benefits of Greyhound travel are manifold.

Greyhound bus drivers are no-nonsense and well-trained captains of their ship: nothing less. Buses are air-conditioned, rest stops are frequent, bus stations are policed, and sustenance is available day and night. Bad boys, if any, sit at the back (just like at school); nervous travellers sit near the driver. The very old are treated with especial care: that bus seat, front right, is theirs of right. Guy sits with guy, gal with gal, and so on. So much so that teenage girls travelling overnight (preferably in company they know, I would strongly suggest) may well dress as for a pyjama party, complete with full-sized pillow and bobby-sox).

One point that does occur to me with visitors from overseas in mind is that it is not only in televisual horse operas that Americans are quick on the draw with the ‘Yes-sir!’ and ‘Thank you, ma’am!’ Enquiries at food counters, I found, are thickly buttered with these and similar chirrups of forelock-tugging obsequiousness, topped off with the ubiquitous ‘Have a good day’ – even when ripped off or denied service by hick counter personnel! Visitors who fail to adopt this same custom, must learn instead to linger and perhaps languish, unsatisfactorily fed.

Another good internet hit is “Greyhound Tales” by Ira Wagler – he of the Charles Bukowski mugshot and lyrical prose. “The Greyhound Bus. The red, white and blue logo of the whip-lithe, loping Greyhound. A powerful gleaming symbol . . . of freedom, adventure and . . . faraway places.” (Shucks! Hit me with a steak and bi-coloured apology for a fried egg, swimming in maple syrup, please do, ma’am!)

By way of conclusion, though, I would make a particular point of referring readers to “Goodnight Kiss Music: Bobby Troup Memorial Page” where they’ll find a remarkable panegyric to my Route 66 hero, as follows: ‘[Bobby] Troup [in his army days] was the first white officer to be given command of an all black unit in Jackson, North Carolina [where] the men were living in tents, with filthy latrine conditions . . . [He] created Quonset huts, new latrines, a nightclub, a basketball court and team, a boxing ring, a jazz band, an orchestra, and [got] a friend to install a miniature golf course. Soon, white units, which had given an intolerable time to the black unit before Bobby’s arrival, suddenly wanted to come and hang out in their area.’

Other interesting anecdotes on the “Goodnight Kiss Music” website feature songstress Julie ‘Cry Me a River’ London, wife to Bobby Troup, who was once upon a time married to Jack Webb of 1950s TV Dragnet fame. Jack Seagal gets a mention here, too.

Jack Seagal? Who he?

He who wrote the eerily nostalgic perennial ‘Scarlet Ribbons’, that’s who!

*‘Somebody Help Me’, Sam Cooke, 1962

August 2010


Bill Keeth’s books, Every Street in Manchester ISBN 1859880649 & Write It Self-Publish It Sell It ISBN 97809558863 are available from Amazon and all good book shops. Bill can also be contacted via his website, http://www.novelnovella.com.

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