Getting to Nauvoo
I arrived in Nauvoo January fifth, along with most everyone else. The majority flew into St Louis that day, then boarded the charter bus to Nauvoo. I, however, had Greyhounded into St Louis the day before. On December 27th, I had flown into Chicago for my friend Josh’s wedding; I then stayed with his family until the reception where I manned the gift table.
I enjoyed being somewhere in Indiana,1 but it was odd timing. I had been engaged about a month and a half, and I was lonely for my love. Lynsey and I had not planned on getting engaged or anything, it just happened. Before we realized where we were heading, we were there. We met each other’s families before Christmas and now were suddenly separated by sixteen states.
All the same, I had a good New Year’s. I celebrated with people I hadn’t known a week before, but they were incredibly hospitable and served good salsa, so I was happy. We even shot off fireworks that would be highly, highly, highly illegal in California. So It was quite the good time.
The hardest moment to endure that night was, of all things, a Polaroid commercial. It was scene after scene of people taking Polaroids of themselves kissing, ending with the tag line, What will you be doing for New Year’s?
Lynsey had noted before I’d left that now she’ld have no one to kiss at the dawning of the new year, and now I knew there was to be no kissing for New Year’s 2000, and that unwelcome clarity brought a sudden dose of loneliness.
[illustration of a doodle just to break it up]
Eventually, both the reception and New Year’s had come and gone and it was time for me to board a bus to St Louis. Mr and Mrs Josh took me and wished me well and waited while I went inside the mini bus station to buy my ticket.
Entering the bus station was quite the carcinogenic experience. Having lived so long in California and Utah, it was quite a surprise to find there are still places in this great country of ours where indoor smoking is allowed. Walking into that room with more tar in the air than oxygen (a good sixty billion parts per million) was nearly a fatally shocking experience. I hacked my watery-eyed way up to the counter and purchased my ticket. Stumbling back into the sharp, January air with a reinforced gratitude for short lines, I smelled my fuzzy, tealblue trenchcoat and estimated myself a packadayer.
After a half hour or so spent breathing ice out of the air, my alveoli seemed to clean up and the bus arrived. The least threatening person I could find to sit next to (you know buses) was a girl of indeterminate age—somewhere between fourteen and twenty-four I’m guessing, but no older than forty. Our conversation consisted mostly of vowels and the letter M, to a total of about fourteen syllables. Wildly interesting bus ride it was not.
I couldn’t figure out why it was going to take nine hours to get from Anderson, Indiana to St Louis, Missouri. No matter how I looked at the map, they just didn’t look that far apart. Man, Greyhounds must be slow! I thought. So when I arrived in Indianapolis, only to be kicked off the bus, I has a sinking feeling there was gonna be a long, long layover. I was right.
There’s not much to do in the Indianapolis Greyhound bus depot, but maybe that’s purposeful. It’s a large building and full of beautiful woodwork. But since it’s downtown in America’s largest landlocked city.2 Aren’t there even ten cities over a million in America? That’s so pathetic.) and serves only those people waiting for a bus, it’s not quite as polished or appreciated as it really ought to be. It truly is a beautiful building.
I was one of the last people to get on the bus to St Louis (I had trouble figuring out which line was which), but lucky me, right up front was an empty bench! Yes! No tripping over legs and sitting by a smelly old somebody! I promptly sat down on the seat by the window. The seat next to me was taken up only by a briefcase (and a nonsmelly one at that). The people behind me apparently resented my having both seats essentially to myself.
“You can’t sit there!
“Yeah! You can’t sit there!”
“That’s the bus driver’s stuff!
“Yeah! That’s the bus driver’s stuff!”
I mumbled something incoherent that meant I would only be too happy to move if the driver asked me to, but in the meantime, it’s just a briefcase.
The bus driver boarded the bus and made sure everyone was seated. Then, just before he sat down and closed the doors, he noticed me and his briefcase, which to that point I had been careful to not even touch. “Oh, shee, let me move that for you,” he said and moved it behind his seat. And just like magic, I was the only person on the bus with room to stretch.
The people behind me did not feel the same way about my good fortune.
“We ought to kill him and take his $200 coat and stupid hat.”
Actually, the coat had cost me $20 at a thrift store in Orem and I thought the hat was cool, thank you very much. It was sort of an Indiana Jones hat only in black. I didn’t feel like explaining this to them, though. And I didn’t get out at any of the bathroom / cigarette stops either. While I doubt they really would’ve killed me, when somebody I don’t know apparently hates me and makes a threat on my life, I usually do not go out of my way to provide them with simpler opportunities for my murder. It’s just a little habit I’ve picked up over the years, and while you may find it silly, I’m still alive, aren't I? That’s right; I am. It seems to be working.
I was listening to the album Lynsey and I found Our Song on when we came to the Mississippi. And I was suddenly overwhelmed. The Mississippi! Blew me away. And there! There was the Arch!
For some reason, St Louis is one of the places I have always wanted to visit (along with New York City and Australia—an odd trio I know). But I didn’t imagine I would be so affected! Driving over the river into St Louis would prove to be, arguably, the single most thrilling moment of my Nauvoo experience.
Brother Perkins, a friend of Josh’s family, picked me up at the depot and his wife took me to the airport the next day to meet the bus to Nauvoo. Mormons are such nice people! How else would I have found a friendly place to sleep in St Louis, a city where I know no one, and a ride to the airport except through the amazing Mormon Network?
After being dropped off at the airport, I was alone for a very long time. Because of my luggage, I was stationary. I had finished Huck Finn while I was waiting in Indianapolis and Tom Sawyer way back in December at Josh’s family’s and I didn’t have any other books handy.
My internal dialogue: Doo bee doo, what to do? Doo bee doo bee doo. Doo bee doo bee doo bee doo bee doo. Dum dee dum dee dum. Dum dee dum dee dum dee dum dee dum. I am bored. Boredy boredy bored. Boredy boredy boredy boredy bored.
After a while, Mandy and Melissa appeared. But there are a limited number of things that an engaged guy can talk to pretty girls he doesn’t know about before he runs dry. But since the pretty girls are there, he can leave his bags and go to the bathroom without fear the bombsquad will cart them away. (As nearly happened to a poor bladder-ready-to-explode returning missionary in San Francisco one fine October morning in 1997.)
When the plane from Salt Lake arrived, there was a flurry of bags, boxes and bodies and before I knew it, we were on the road to Nauvoo. I was again sitting alone in the front, and that was okay; I was feeling introspective, not talkative, not get-to-know-you-ive. Across from me, also alone, was Krista whose name I did not yet know. She seemed similarly introspective. I didn’t know it then, but she would be getting married before me, and she had just left her love in Salt Lake only a few hours before. Krista and I would end up having lots of comforting conversations upon the subjects of Lynsey, Dave, Dave and Lynsey.
[ill-marg—perhaps of a bus]
Our bus driver was hilarious. Which was good. I always like having someone with a positive attitude at the wheel when I get very, very lost.
Understandingly, she had never been to Nauvoo before. Also understandably, she had never even heard of it. Naturally, the directions to Nauvoo were unclear, the weather moody and the sky dense blackness. Really, truly, unusually dense blackness. We got lost.
We stopped at a service station for directions. We turned around. After a long while, we saw a sign for some Nauvoo campground. Thankfully we didn’t turn there—but we almost did. We passed through a small town and at the far end was that exact same service station!!! We saw the exact same Pepsi and hot dog special advertised in the exact same window. It had the exact same strange discrepancy between the price of gas on the sign and the price of gas at the pump. We had a very, very bad feeling. The bus driver told us to stay, and she went in to talk to someone inside. I could see from my seat the same candy display and same hallway to the same bathroom. Something had to be wrong.
When she came back though, hooray, we were in Nauvoo. But we were at the wrong end of Nauvoo—we had just passed through the place! After only a few more nearly wrong turns, and knocking at an old pioneer house (unsuccessfully) for directions, we arrived. Just in time for dinner as it ended up. Thank goodness. What a relief and a blessing to finally be in Nauvoo.
Thanks for revisiting Nauvoo with me. I would love to hear your thoughts.