width=350There's something to be said for taking Greyhound through the USA - actually, there are many things and not all positive. But for eye-bursting stench, seats that stubbornly refuse to be comfortable and co-travelers who refuse to be sane, the 'Hound rules the interstate dog track of the land of the free.

Greyhound Inc. still has not managed to grasp the concept of limited seating on buses, so a first-in-best-dressed policy comes undone when a second bus is not available and ticket-holders prove themselves very able in emulating Tokyo metro sardine tins but for the long haul. Masochists. I was contemplating emulating Teen Wolf for the NYC-DC leg to avoid a packed bus and party of seven who'd swallowed a cauldron of chili with extra beans, but thankfully a second bus came and mercifully my knees didn't have to salute my ears as we all got two seats.

Not to embroil myself in class wars, but Greyhounding folks and folkettes are unlikely to have attended Yale or prefer sushi to Wendy's. Thus I became used to interesting encounters such as hearing prison tales from a Russian ex-con on the 18-hour DC-Chicago haul (I didn't inquire as to the charge), steering a Tennessee farmer away from discussions on bestiality, and debating with a fly white New Orleans 20-year-old whether his business plan of a commuter ferry brothel held water (no pun intended).

Drivers always had a good sense of humour (a compulsory clause in the contract, no doubt) and oft had to play the authoritarian card, although their work was cut out for them. En route to Nashville, I was woken up by a man peddling grass, to whose repeated offers I refused, justification being I was asleep (almost anyway). That same justification had to be used an hour later when another dealer poked me in the shoulder and shoved (what was probably) grass clippings under my nose.

This came to a head when the two shady types clued in on invasions of their patch (very fast moving patch) and thankfully waited until yet another pointless layover to trade verbal then physical blows. The policeman on duty had his work cut out separating them and silencing them, their preferred method of combat being roundhouse kicks that rarely found their mark and usually put them on their coccyx.

The last Greyhound haul, Vegas-LA, was anti-climatic by comparison, primarily because the half-full bus of broke somber gamblers had been seemingly wrenched dry of life's juice and may have been contemplating that the bus would bear them off into the Pacific sun like turbo-charged lemmings. A somber finale to an eventful Greyhound tour of the States. Yearning for the dog's unpredictability, I considered taking on hitch-hikers for my road trip (a Hertz chevy doesn't quite have the panache as a '68 Mustang convertible) up Highway 1, but my liberated nostrils had the final say.