Saturday morning started before sunrise as Kelby, Jack, and
“That guy doesn’t look anything like me.” Vong looked at Jack and said, “Finally, I’m not the only Asian guy on Ragbrai.”
With Kelby behind the wheel, the Short Bus headed south to Boulder and picked up Mahk, Nick, Maria, Martin, and Vegas before heading east into the sunrise for the long trip to the start of Ragbrai.
At first, everyone but Kelby slept as the bus rolled smoothly along, but as the sun crept higher in the sky, the passengers started to perk up and talk about all sorts of things
from work, to physics and mathematics, to kickboxing, massage, and the difference between Nick’s British accent versus Mahk’s South African accent.
Eventually, the short bus passed from Colorado into Nebraska. There were stops for food, fuel,
restrooms, and driver changes, and ever so slowly, the miles of Nebraska passed beneath their wheels until they approached Omaha at around three in the afternoon. More and more Ragbrai traffic joined them on the interstate with all sorts of cars, trucks, campers, and buses passing and re-passing each other along the way.
Jack had been getting more and more nervous as the border with Iowa drew nearer. He didn’t know what to expect and had visions of the bus being stopped and searched at a border checkpoint by a detachment of
Nothing of the kind happened, and the bus unceremoniously crossed the Missouri River into Iowa without any hassle at all. The bus merged onto I-29 for the last miles north to the starting town of
Missouri Valley, and the excitement in the bus was building until BLAMMO! Larry was driving and he grabbed hold of the wheel with both hands and held it as firmly as he could while coasting to a halt. They had blown the right front tire near a little town called
Loveland, just one exit before Missouri Valley.
Larry gingerly brought the bus to the exit and rounded the ramp, heading toward the gas station just off the interstate. Everyone was sitting up and murmuring compliments to Larry for keeping such a cool head and not crashing the bus, but Kelby was looking ahead toward the gas station. He said, “Guys, I don’t think that station is open anymore. It looks deserted to me.”
as Larry brought the bus down to the stop sign at the end of the exit ramp, they could see
the gas station hadn’t been opened for years. The windows were boarded up and weeds were growing through the cracks in the parking lot.
Larry eased the bus into the parking lot so that they could change the tire without blocking the exit ramp. As the passengers piled out, Vong mentioned that he had never changed the tire on a bus before, and Kelby said he wasn’t quite sure where the spare was supposed to be. After crawling around under the bus for a few minutes, Nick announced that he could see where the spare used to be, but that there was no spare now.
Traffic hummed along on the interstate bridge above them, but the crossroad running past the gas station was desolate. An hour passed and no one stopped.
For some reason, Jack’s thoughts turned to the beans sitting in his duffle bag in the bus. He remembered that many months ago, Sister Kim had sent him a secret message claiming that the beans were
magic beans. Now, Jack had a hunch that it was time to see just how magic these beans were.
to be continued...
[a serial by little orphan dbax]