Saturday, August 6, 2011

"Riding the Dog": a travel story (Storytelling Sunday)

In the United States, the oldest and most traditional long distance bus service is run by a company called "Greyhound." Taking a long bus trip is colloquially known as "riding the dog." As children, my parents drug us kicking and screaming gave us the opportunity to visit Houston, Texas each summer. Most of the time, we flew on an airplane, but one year my parents decided to put the four oldest children on the bus to Texas. I guess they felt that we were old enough to handle the trip on our own and that it was just getting too damn expensive to fly eight people roundtrip from Los Angeles to Houston. They flew with my two youngest siblings, while my older sister, two brothers (one older, one younger) and I rode the dog. 
I remember the trip well. It's a long way from southern California to west Texas. . . approximately 1400 miles! I remember breathing a sigh of relief 15 hours into the trip when we finally crossed the border into Texas. My excitement was quickly dashed when I realized that, given the size of Texas, we were still only half way to our destination! My parents had told us to only get off the bus when we needed to go to the bathroom, and generally speaking, we followed their directive.  We did disembark for one unscheduled stop when the bus driver instructed everyone to get off the bus at a diner which served his favorite pie, but we were extra careful not to get left behind. Other than that, we sat, slept and ate on the bus. After a day and a half, we rolled into Houston, feeling tired and grimy.
Now, my oldest brother was the apple of my parents' eye. As the first born boy, my mother spoiled him terribly. He also had mild asthma, which was a bit of a concern to her.  Well, not liking having to spend all that time on the bus, he disembarked and immediately let out some weak sounding coughs. He complained loudly about how the air conditioning on the bus had aggravated his asthma.  Sounding like Mimi at the end of La Boheme, he eventually convinced my parents that he couldn't possibly make the long bus journey home. It was decided that he and my father would switch places. My brother would fly home in style, and my dad would ride the dog with the three hearty kids.
Although we had made the trip to Texas a nonstop affair, after a day on the bus, my father decided we should disembark in El Paso and spend the night in a hotel. My father was a prolific story teller, and he regaled us with stories of the hotel we stayed in, the restaurant in which we ate and his various exploits in El Paso. He also decided that we should walk across the border into Juarez, Mexico. He agreed to buy each of us one souvenir of our choosing.  I remember looking at all the stalls and feeling a bit of panic. I didn't want to make the wrong decision.  I feared settling on one thing, only to find something I liked even better later in the day. My dad got a little impatient with my indecision, and I remember getting a little teary when he said that if I didn't decide soon, I would leave empty handed. Finally, I found it . . . the perfect souvenir. A wooden treasure chest, in which I could keep all the treasures of my youth. I took it home and, through the years, it housed all kinds of secret and sentimental curios.
We still occasionally tease my brother about how he weaseled out of the bus trip home. . . we look at him, give a weak cough and say "oh, my asthma is acting up." I still have the treasure chest my father bought me in Juarez. That's it, in the photograph at the top of today's post. There's nothing inside it right now; yet it contains the most important thing of all. It's full of the memories of that trip . . . of the dark nights in the bus, watching the mile posts go by; of the taste of that wonderful apple pie from the diner off the interstate; of my father's voice telling stories; and the vision of him walking the streets of El Paso and Juarez. The chest is empty of physical items, but it contains an even bigger treasure - the memories 0f riding the dog with my father.
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I hope you enjoyed this travel story, brought to you as part of Sian's Storytelling Sunday. For other stories, check out this link.  Speaking of travel, I'm on vacation again. This week, the family is visiting Seattle, Washington and kayaking in the San Juan Islands. I've left some auto-posts for my blog but I may have trouble visiting your blogs and commenting until I return.

24 comments:

Amy said...

Have a great holiday Rinda - I have loved your story today ... travelling is quite a theme this month!

Irene said...

Rinda:
What a lovely story of your trip to Houston and the trip back home via El Paso. You pick the right souvenir to fill all your memories in. Love to read your blogs.

Mary B said...

The journey home sounds like a holiday in itself especially with your dad making it so good.

Sian said...

I didn't know that's what you called it - I always wondered what "riding the dog" meant! Imagine you still having the treasure chest, I can conjure up a picture in mind of you holding it in your hand and telling the story.

(And when I was little I used to use my very mild, almost nonexistent asthma to get out of sports lessons at school!)

Thanks for the story today Rinda. And have a wonderful time on your latest adventure!

debs14 said...

I think we've all heard of Greyhound buses even over here, but didn't know it was called 'riding the dog'. Can just imagine how you continued to make fun of your brother after he made your parents rethink the return journey. Kind of think he missed out by doing that though!

Becky said...

Hope you are having a wonderful holiday. I love your story - I think you did the best getting a trip with your Dad and the extra time and sight seeing with him. Your treasure chest is wonderful.

Wanda said...

Wonderful story! It seems that your souvenir has ended up being a better treasure box than you ever imagined. I can only imagine all the stories it brings to mind.

Denise said...

I love that expression 'riding the dog' and I reallhy remember loooooong trips when I was younger,but not on a Greyhound bus!

Ifa said...

What an adventure for you all. Glad you also had that special time with you dad. Enjoy your current adventure.

JO SOWERBY said...

that puts my 5 hour trip up North to Sheffield to shame, although I did do a trip from Washington to Savannah on a overnighter with some down on their beats reggae guys several years back,
jo xxx

Gail said...

I've never heard that expression before. Sounds like you had a great trip with your Dad. Bet your brother was envious when he heard about it. Great souvenir you picked.

Jane said...

I can't imagine travelling so far like that, I think I would have developed a cough too!

Jimjams said...

Marvellous story Rinda - it sounds like the journey home was much better with your Dad along to give you a break and keep you entertained. Amazing to think of children travelling so far by bus alone these days!!

laurie said...

what a rich, colorful memory! i have "ridden the dog" before as a kid, also. once my sister got carsick and threw up all over - i was so embarrassed! thanks for taking me back in time. have a wonderful time on your trip.

Ginger said...

Loved this story Rinda! I rode the dog when I was in University, mostly took the redeye so it would not seem so long of a ride! I was always afraid I would be left behind if I got off to stretch at stops :) I can't believe you still have the chest, so wonderful!

scrappyjacky said...

Sounds like you all benefited from your brother's whining...what a wonderful trip home....and the perfect souvenir.

Terry said...

Well now I know where your story telling talent came from! Beautiful chest and such a lovely memory! Too bad that your older brother missed out! Ha!Ha!

Karen said...

What an absolutely wonderful memory Rinda. I love the chest and how precious it is to you.

Nancy Y said...

your story is wonderful, and so beautifully written. My parents never sent us on the bus... always the whole family in the Ford!

The Mann Fam said...

What wonderful memories! Thanks for sharing this.

I'm off to Houston later this month. Anything special to see while in Houston?

Melissa said...

A great travel story & an empty souvenir box full of memories - perfect. It's amazing how far it is across Texas: we like to say "The sun is ris' & the sun is set & here I is in Texas yet."

Alison said...

Great story Rinda...reckon you got a good deal in riding back with your dad!
Alison xx

Cheri said...

Amazing story. I had several Greyhound trips to and from college back in the day... but never heard it referred to as "riding the dog".

emily said...

I love to travel, especially with the car. The road from home to my destination is always one of the funniest parts of my vacation. Until I met Yury Mintskovsky I was traveling by plane because I thought this way I will save some time. but when he first took me on a road trip I was amazed to see how much fun I was missing.....