Bus Trip

by Jim Farrar (1978)

As I’m sure other people do, I associate specific songs with certain events and places that I’ve been to in my life. It’s a strange feeling, one that I don’t quite know how to describe. Whenever I hear Elton John’s “I Feel Like a Bullet in the Gun of Robert Ford” for example, I immediately recall a trip I made to Eugene two years ago. It’s almost like deja vu, something akin to a stroll through the past.

Every time I hear it I remember that dreary bus ride. It was a melancholy evening: cold, rainy, and, because there was no moon, very dark. I was coming down with a cold that night, so I was tired to begin with. I tried to sleep, but couldn’t – I really don’t think such a thing can be done on a bus. Unable to doze off, I tried to get interested in a novel, but my mind would drift. I found myself just staring at the words on the page. And there was nothing but darkness out the window, which just made me even more restless. The thought of spending twelve hours on that bus seemed more like twelve days at the time.

The night dragged on. I was tired, but I still couldn’t sleep. I entertained myself by counting the median stripes on the highway below me. After the 979th stripe, I finally gave up and just sat there and stared ahead at the driver, wishing I could go to bed and wishing I was in Eugene. We were just outside of Bend at the time. I think that was when the clock started to slow down.

The last few hours of the trip were murder. We had a ninety minute layover in Bend, so there was little to do but just sit in the terminal and read the labels in the candy bar machine. My throat was starting to hurt and my eyes were beginning to burn. I wondered what sort of a vacation this was going to be.

Finally, our bus arrived and we were able to leave Bend and start the last leg of our journey. Time started to move a little faster. We were getting closer and closer to Eugene, I was getting sicker by the minute. I wished I was back home in bed.

I remember that it was raining when I finally walked off that bus. A friend of mine was there to greet me. As we shook hands, he said “welcome to Eugene.” I was almost too weary to answer.

As we were walking through the depot, I noticed that “I Feel Like a Bullet in the Gun of Robert Ford” was being played over the PA system. That song was my first impression of Eugene. The tune seemed to blend in with the mood so well that night, that if I had been able to write a song right then and there it would’ve had that very same melody.

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