The Ottawa reunion of us six old Cuba hands, class of the mid 60s, goes swimmingly. Our combined ages reach back to just before the birth of Abraham's great grandfather. We reminisce, abundantly lubricated from a cellar of wines, spirits and ciders in a delightful cabin in the forested Gatineau Hills.
Views from the trip - Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick
Well, there are one or two hiccups, foremost among them our getting totally lost in the pitch dark when the time comes to return to the Bright Lights, Big City. After 45 minutes of driving around in ever crazier circles, one of our members at last sights the bright lights through the trees.
The bright lights, however, turn out to be the rising moon. Well, at least we're on the right planet. I'm not even sure of that. Since my cataracts operation, I'm seeing the moon as double, so for all I know we could be on the twin-mooned Romulan home planet of Star Trek fame.
Charlottetown, Prince Edward island
Suffice it to say that we do eventually make it back to Ottawa, with Yours Truly poised for the final segment of the overland-by-bus-wherever-possible tour of Canada, entrusting my return to New York to Greyhound instead of the friendly skies.
It is here that the odyssey goes distinctly south, and not in the literal sense of Yours Truly's proceeding in the compass direction required for New York. I don't know about the skies, but the roads underneath them are distinctly unfriendly on this fine July afternoon as my purported journey careens into a metaphorical ditch.
Boats off Halifax, Nova Scotia
I'm in Montreal bus station waiting to board Greyhound's 5.15 p.m. New York bus. There's a line of us that's been waiting half an hour at the gate, we're all standing because there are not enough seats to go round, I'm last in line, it's 5.10 p.m., and still the bus hasn't arrived at the gate.
At 5.13, the bus draws in, the über-obese driver gets out and starts checking tickets, telling loaders in which hold to put the luggage and boarding passengers in the most lackadaisical devil-may-care manner. It's well gone 5.15 now and we're still dribbling aboard.
Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
At last before the driver at the gate, Yours Truly decides to do a little bit of investigative journalism.
'How come,' quoths I in my usual sweet dulcet tones,'that we're scheduled to depart at 1715 and we're still boarding?'
'I beg your pardon,' quoths he. So I repeat the question.
'Right,' quoths he, 'you're not getting on my bus.'
'I am,' quoths I. 'I bought this ticket in January and Greyhound has to take me.'
Cove near Vinland, Newfoundland
'Oh no it doesn't. I'm in charge of this bus and its safety and security,' quoths he, 'and I decide with whom I'm comfortable driving and I'm not taking you. I don't feel safe and secure with you.' And with that he tells the loader to slam shut the holds, walks round to the driver's side and gets ready to leave.
So I park myself with my case on the first step of the door, prepared to make a Thermopylae-like last stand. As I adopt my best defiant pose, hand on case loaded down with Rivka's rocks, stones and boulders - actually I could use them in a last-resort Hail Mary counter-attack - the driver marches off to get security. Clearly, they'll support me and my January-purchased ticket.
Ice floes off Vinland, Newfoundland
More ice floes
Oh, how wrong can I be! He returns with two burly men who arrive not to save me but, to my horror, tell me I must vacate my trenches since the driver, like some frigging ship's captain, is the master of his house - to mix abodes.
'I'm not moving,' quoths I. 'I have my ticket and I'm boarding this bus.'
'Oh no, you're not,' quoths they. And with that they lay their mitts on my arms and proceed to frog-march me from my fox hole - to mix animals.
Grose Morne, Newfoundland
More Gros Morne
'Unhand me, gentlemen,' quoths I. 'By heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets me!'
OK, I don't exactly reprise Shakespeare's Hamlet Act 1, Scene 4. But I do squeak 'don't you touch me, take your hands off me' as they push me back to the gate. Meanwhile the driver comes over and says I can take his name and write to Greyhound and complain all I like.
A third security guard comes over to investigate the squeaks coming from Gate 17.
'Go on, tell him what you said,' quoths the driver. Whereupon I repeat the phrase.
'And that's all you said?' requoths he smirking, clearly indicating he knows better.
'Yes,' requoths I. 'Tell me what else I said?' Which of course he can't.
St. John's, Newfoundland
More St. John's
He goes into closed-mouth consultations with the official. I hear him mumbling about people needing to show him respect. OK, now the driver is one of the minorities and I know he might be sensitive about white people and what they did to his race, but that doesn't justify him becoming a steering-wheel napoleon.
He finally comes over and looks at my ticket to Saratoga Springs where I'm spending the night.
Goose Bay, Labrador
Labrador from the air
'OK, I'll take you, but only because there's no other bus to Saratoga Springs tonight.'
With that I board, trying for all the world to look as if nothing at all has occurred as the whole busload stares and glares at me.
'We good?' the driver asks as I mount the stairs. 'I thought you said something else.'
Thus ends High Drama at Montreal Bus Station.
Gawd, how I hate the misuse, overuse and abuse of the word 'respect.'
Royal flush - Labrador sunset
By the same author: Bussing The Amazon: On The Road With The Accidental Journalist, available with free excerpts on Kindle and in print version on Amazon.