In what was the longest journey of his life, Ben recounts the entertaining tale of how he made it to San Francisco

Not long after my episode on the bathroom floor in Portland the time came to once again move on and as per the rest of my transits in America, this would be via the legendary Greyhound.

This time though, things would be different for given my next stop was over 1,000km to the South, this journey would literally be the longest journey of my life. Yep, you guessed it... Sixteen and a half hours of non-stop Greyhound fun.
I was psyched
However, before my night of fun and excitement would begin I had to endure an hour in the station waiting for the bus, where joined by several hundred other travellers it was clear from the outset the bus would not only be full but I would have no choice but to sit next to one of these most undesirable looking people.

So sat at the back of the station with my headphones plugged in, I scanned the crowd searching for a potential friend but as hard as I tried, nobody stood out as being anything other than terrible.

Then mid-search and out of nowhere, my personal space was intruded when I was joined on the bench by a man who was perhaps in his mid-40s. Clean shaven and a little funny looking, he sat down beside me with half a dozen bags and what I could feel was a clear and undying need to start a conversation.

Doing my best not to look over and encourage him in to talking I sat there and waited for his inevitable introduction. Then perhaps just a minute or so after he sat down, he extended out his arm in an apparent effort to shake my hand.

Unimpressed, I took out one of my headphones and forced a smile.

“I’m Ken” he said as he began shaking my hand.

Fearing that any conversation may be misread as an invite to come sit beside me on the bus, I decided right at that moment to remain firmly unengaged. But as I went to replace the headphone back into my ear, Ken it seemed wasn’t going to give up easily. Well game on Ken. Game on.

“Ahh… you have an accent?” he said as his eyes widened.

“Here we go…” I thought to myself.

Having heard this remark now more times than I care to remember, the conversation at that point went in to auto-speak as for reasons I don’t understand the minute or so that follows is always exactly the same.

“Where are you from?” they ask.

“I’m from England” I respond.

“Oh. Really? I have ancestry from England. My <INSERT LONG DISTANT RELATIVE> is from <INSERT SOME NORTHERN ENGLISH TOWN>”

I could go on but I’ll save us both the pain. So after quizzing me on why I am here, where I have been and where I am going, it finally goes quiet. Then, just as I am about to reinsert my headphones and declare my win, out of nowhere, Ken pulls out the conversation trump card...

“Well my father in law just killed himself.”

In that very moment I was a mess. I felt sorry, guilty and like I had been cheated all at once and more than ever I was now scared I’d have no choice but to interact with the poor fellow and be forced into hearing all the grizzly details the entire night long. Most of all though, I was in shock – shock that here in a bus station in Portland it is apparently socially acceptable to just chuck this little nugget of conversation out in the air and pass it off as small talk. Well seriously Ken… WTF?

So long story short, Ken’s father in law had shot himself just a few short hours ago and along with more detail than I felt really necessary to porn of on a complete stranger, there was you’ll be pleased to know a happy ending – Ken was going on a different bus!

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So crisis over, I left Ken to ruin somebody else’s day and made my way for the bus where waiting patiently I was approached by perhaps the only normal looking person in sight. I can’t remember what she came to ask me but I was quick to capitalise on the opportunity and within half an hour was sat on the bus with my new Canadian friend, Willow.

Leaving the bus station at a little after 6pm the night that followed was a long one. Most disappointingly was that whilst I normally have a relentless ability to fall asleep anywhere, I could not for the life of me nod off.
Without a wink of sleep the sixteen and a half hours that followed felt just like sixteen and a half hours
Eventually though, thirteen hours hour later and dawn finally broke, marking a near end to this most hellish of journeys. Best of all though was outside, for as I peered out over the fields I bared witness to the most beautiful sunrise that was interrupted only by the most clear and unmistakable silhouettes of tall and lush palms.

Welcome Ben to California.