On a Greyhound to Joplin

After 27 hours on Greyhound, with abrupt stops and half-asleep transfers, I arrived in Joplin with little rest, rancid body odor but lots of pent-up enthusiasm.

The crowd on the bus were the usual suspects. A lady named Bella who drank four glasses of wine in Pittsburgh and told vulgar stories throughout the entire 4 hours to Columbus. The lady bus driver who threatened to leave anyone who dared to stroll over to McDonald's behind.  Finally, there was my new good  friend, Danielle, who sang "Love" by Keisha Cole for me on camera in Pittsburgh, with bus-riders staring in disbelief.

Then in St Louis, my bus driver didn't want to drop off me in Joplin, no matter what the reason.  She gave me a hard time about not letting me offload my bike and told me that I would have to pick it up in Los Angeles.  That all got cleared up after explaining to the station manager and pleading the bus driver after she ripped me a new one.

Photo by Sean Kerr (Americorps)
Eventually, we were smack dab in the middle of the America.  Unlike a last visit to Haiti, there was no one to greet me, not even a soul on the street.  A lonely greyhound station in a very big town, some parts showing virtually no sign that a deadly EF-5 Twister had rolled through only a week ago.

President Obama and his entourage had just visited and spoke in front of hundreds with Governor Nixon.  Flags were flying in half mast.   Emergency response vehicles and TV trucks filled up a parking lot at a mall.  A National Guard hummer drove through the picturesque downtown.

Joplin is no small town.  There are malls here that rival Tyson's Corner.  Starbucks, Target, Sushi bars -- all the amenities you expect to see in metropolis America.  And unlike Haiti, I would have electricity and internet.  But would I have a shower?  It appears I would be reaching two days without one.

Once on Main Street, I was so relieved that I purchased a Dahon foldable bike just prior to leaving on the trip. This was a life saver and would be my only medium of getting around.

The campus of Missouri Southern State University was four miles away and the temps were touching near 90.   I loaded all my luggage on the bike (Macbook Pro, Nikon 5100, sleeping bag, and yes only a few pieces of clothing) and pedaled my way to the Volunteer relief center.

My timing was flawless -- I arrived just in time to listen to the final part of the St Louis Americorps meeting -- you have to watch this -- on YouTube.

Now as I type this letter, I am attempting to build a mock website that will aggregate tornado relief items.

So what is next?  God only knows.  Tomorrow, I will definitely visit the site ravaged by the tornado.  Tomorrow, I will definitely visit victims.  Tomorrow is another 24 hours whirlwind tour in what has already been a very long journey to aid the victims of the deadliest single tornado in America.

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