The journey from a day ago, thoroughly disrupted by moderate pellets of ice, continues. Late at night back in DC, I start hunting for ways to get to Richmond on Saturday morning, in time to catch my 2-something pm flight, and find that everybody and his brother are apparently trying to do something similar. The trains are all sold out. One way rental inquiries at rental office after rental office produce this answer: there are no cars available for hire at this office at this time. Starting to worry, I get onto the Greyhound site and buy myself a ticket on a 930 am bus to Richmond, paying an extra $4 for the privilege of being able to "will-call" it, meaning pick it up at a booth in the station.
730 next morning, I get my bags onto my aching shoulders one more time, walk out into brilliant sunshine but freezing temperature, snow on all the cars but not underfoot, and begin the journey again. As scheduled now, I'm supposed to arrive at the other end a full 18 hours from now: DC to Richmond to Orlando to Salt Lake City to San Jose.
The thought makes me stumble slightly.
Walk a mile in my shoes, to the Metro station. To Union station, then another 500 yard walk to the bus station. Enormous crowds there. I get my will-call ticket and realize that a lot of these people are waiting for buses to New York and points north, and there are announcements about these buses going on above me saying they don't have drivers available no drivers have been able to report yet due to the weather there will be delays thank you for being patient thank you this thank you that thank you.
But the line for the Richmond bus, in fact headed by a young Indian couple headed for Duke Univ in North Carolina, is mercifully short. (I imply no correlation between those two facts). I put down the bags and catch my breath. A question or two to the young man in front of me has me breathless again. They are waiting for the previous bus, the 650am departure to Richmond, and it is now 845am, and who knows when the 930 bus will then leave. The man smiles, hits me friendly in the stomach and says: "You're not gettin' to Richmond before night-time, bro! Be cool, awright?"
At which point I call a friend in town and ask the big favour: drive me to Richmond airport, won't you? We go back too many years to count, so he readily agrees and the prospect of spending a few hours with him is attractive indeed. It will take him an hour to arrive, so I get into the long line at the ticket window to get a refund on my ticket. Two people immediately in front also trying to head for points south get chatting, and decide to drive together to Savannah. Nice to see these impromptu arrangements being made here and elsewhere around me; soon these two are chatting like old friends. Which they likely will be by the end of the day.
I lose my will-call fee and another $4, but at this point I'm not complaining. Get the bags back on my shoulders and walk back out to Union Station where my friend picks me up. And the rest of the morning is positively the best part of this journey. Old friends, how do you beat that? We stop at a BBQ place for a fiery hot brunch, and he drops me at the airport in plenty of time for my flight to Orlando.
It's a small plane, Brazil-made Embraer which I have to enter with neck folded to one side. It's a half-hour connection in Orlando, so I ask the attendant if we'll make it. Oh yes, she says in a musical foreign accent I cannot place. Plenty of time.
Then we come in to land at Orlando.