Thursday, November 7, 2013


“Buy the ticket, take the ride.” (Hunter S. Thompson)
This weekend I took a party bus to Reno and back to dance for 7 hours. It’s the high point of my year. And I almost didn’t go.

I’m not proud that I hesitated. Looking back, I can’t believe it. I was afraid it would be boring on the bus. I was afraid I would be worn out afterwards. Sleep-deprived all week. 

Two weeks ago a young lady at the line dancing group invited me. She invited me again last week. Right in front of the trip organizer. And still I hesitated.

I told my buddy at work that I was thinking of taking a party bus to Reno to go line dancing. He said “no part of that sounds appealing to me.” Maybe I felt contrarian. Maybe I felt risky. Maybe the muse of Mr. Thompson grabbed me. Regardless, it was “challenge accepted.”

Saturday morning I got up before it was light out. The white load that I left in the dryer last night wasn’t dry. I needed it. Panic. I guess I’ll wake up my housemates. 

I drove half an hour southeast to the bus rendezvous with the sun rising in front of me. Gorgeous. And there were people there! The extrovert in me totally woke up. The young lady arrived and said “You’re already loving this, aren’t you.” Yes, I was. 

The bus seated 50 passengers and had 6 seats reserved for snacks, booze, and jello shots. Not to mention the overhead bins. One guy played the role of flight attendant. He mimed a safety announcement about seatbelts, exits, and oxygen masks. My friend was reminded of the new Virgin America flight safety video.

The organizer had activities planned for the whole 5-hour bus ride. I’ll call her the organizer. We got little goodie bags. They had raffle tickets, hug coupons, and bead necklaces. A few had lotto scratcher tickets. The games began. If you caught someone saying the word “drink” they had to give you their beads.

As soon as we got seated on the bus I could tell everyone was reverting to adolescence. The crazy t-shirt contest got started early, with several gals putting balloons under their shirts for an extra-busty effect. One of them had fake quintuple-D inserts covered by a thin t-shirt that read “wet t-shirt contest winner”. She accessorized with a viking helmet and fake blond braids.

An hour after departure, the fruit punch was passed around. It was frozen, and spiked. Hard. An hour later it was time for jello shots. Then we stopped at the Walmart in Vacaville. That’s french for cow-town. Or Italian. Had I already had that much to drink? The viking was riding in a Walmart shopping cart, standing up, like a voluptuous dragon boat. 

Some ladies bought sippy cups for their fruit punch. I asked what they were going to use them for. “We’re going to drink out of them.” I won beads and lost friends. “We thought you were a nice guy.” I guess not.

We stopped for lunch in old town Sacramento. It’s a touristy spot. The coffee shop had a chocolate chip cookie dough mocha on special. I got a double. 

We got back on the bus. We played a game where we learned interesting facts about people, like the couple that was in prison for 4 years. (They were in WWII internment camps.) We learned people’s nicknames. Boo Boo and Amberlicious were good ones. 

Pretty soon we were headed up into the Sierras. There was snow. There was the Donner Party memorial. There was a bathroom break. Then we were pulling into the parking lot of the Grand Sierra Hotel.

Amberlicious handed out bottles of Shock Top beer to me and Boo Boo as we wobbled through the lobby to check in. It was 4 pm. Or maybe it was 5. I was back downstairs in time for dinner at 6. Not that I was hungry at all. (Remember, 6 seats of snacks) 

I roamed around the casino after dinner. There was a booth where you could play tic-tac-toe against a chicken. It was behind plexiglass. For its safety. There was a little metal privacy shield so you couldn’t see which move it was going to peck. That chicken played for the tie every time.

The time to dance was approaching. I changed into a Nordstrom shirt, dark Levi’s and my 15-year old cowboy boots. We went to the “Wet” bar which had sheets of plexiglass with water pouring down them and waitresses younger than my boots. The latter were dressed in shimmery blue, clingy mini-skirty dresses, evoking mermaids. 

Here’s how the next 5 hours played out.  Take over the 10’ by 10’ dance floor, line dancing to the latest pop music the DJ was spinning. Go to the other side of the casino and realize the country band was really blue-grass, and we couldn’t line dance. Or hear. (I shoved napkin bits in my ears,) Go back to the Wet bar for shots of some blue drink, and request the Beastie Boys. We could no longer line dance there, either. Go back to the bluegrass side, find everyone had gone to their rooms, drink some water because we were getting dehydrated. Go back to the Wet bar for another shot and request Sir Mix A Lot. 

It’s approaching 2am. It reaches 2am. It becomes 1am. Daylight saving time is over. We go upstairs to check out the designated “game” room and get threatened by security for being too loud.

My friend wanted to go downtown to try other dance clubs. After a while she started singing “I don’t know why you don’t take me downtown.” by Lady Antebellum. So me and another guy agreed to go. He's the coolest cat in the Cali-Nevada region. We leave the hotel lobby. No cabs. A college kid was standing there saying his ride had left him behind. I walked over to the parking lot and found all the cabs waiting in the dark. We took the kid in our cab and dropped him off in the suburbs, then turned around the opposite way to get downtown. Instead of a navigation system, the cab driver had a screen playing rock music videos. Is that legal?

We arrive at the Eldorado casino downtown and look for the Bullion club (or something). It’s closed. So we go to the Brew Brothers club because they have a…DJ. The dance floor is bigger and less crowded, but the 3 of us aren’t going to be line dancing there. So we club dance. My buddy gets in a dance-off with some kid. Behind them a dude gets knocked out cold in the fastest fight ever. And some girl starts yelling at me and giving me the finger while her boyfriend pushes her out of the club. We stay until the last song ends at 3am.

After a cab ride home I’m in bed by 4am. I wake up every hour to drink a glass of water. I’m downstairs by 8am, just inches away from a hangover that I’m holding at bay with a bottle of Powerade. 

We leave at 9, and I just enjoy watching the mountain scenery, until I start to doze off. Lightly, so I can wake up before anyone pours hot sauce on my lips - which I would actually enjoy - or draws something embarrassing on my face. 

We stop at the outlet malls in Vacaville and a few of us get lunch at Freebirds, which carries a surprising amount of emotional attachment for me. With an entire steak burrito in my belly I start taking my dozing seriously until we get back to South San Jose. 

I say goodbye. I tell everyone I won’t see them for a while. I’m going to skip the Monday line dancing so I can recuperate. I should go home and do laundry. I don’t. I go to church and just barely make it in time. Then I go out with a church buddy to a bar for dinner.

The next night was Monday, and I couldn't wait to see everyone again. So I didn't wait. Buy the ticket. Take the ride.