By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
"We got him on the bus to Arkansas, because that's where he wanted to go," she says. "So how was he here? Why was he riding the freight train? I know there's people who actually like to live that way, but I was never sure about him. Did he jump off the train or fall off? Was he sick, or did he just need to eat?"
At the Granby Mini Mart, where the bus makes a half-hour stop, riders face a dazzling choice of purchases. Aged Deli Express sandwiches in their trademark triangular containers. Dole fruit cups that expired last April. Chips with orange nacho sauce, frozen burritos, Maruchan Instant Lunch. Also angel statuettes, biker bandannas, girls' fancy bobby sox, men's underwear, a vast selection of cigarettes and a dusty stuffed Alf, which may or may not be for sale.
"We're a full-service Greyhound agency for fifteen years now," says Pete Gallo, the Mini Mart's owner. "We're also a meal stop. That's 75 people, twice a day. It's an understatement to say the end of the bus will affect us."
"We won't get the sandwiches in anymore," says store manager Heather Powers, who stands behind the counter barefoot, not missing a thing that goes on. "Same with the little pillows. We'd get them in by the dozen; in a week, they'd be gone. Same with the personal items, the little toothpastes and toothbrushes."
Powers will miss the parade of people -- the kids begging their parents for candy, the retirees on cheap vacations. "We have some winners, I'll tell you," she says. "Today a guy got off the bus, asked me where was the nearest place to buy a beer. I told him, I wouldn't if I were you. He ran to the 7-Eleven, bought a beer. Then, of course, he couldn't get back on the bus. He was about 21. Last time I looked, he was outside, hitchhiking."
A guy twice his age is now standing by the side of Highway 40. Stan Mann isn't hitchhiking; he's waiting for his wife to pick him up after a complicated car shuffle. But he wouldn't look down on the practice, either.
"This is a working town," he says. "It's not Winter Park. Quite a few people up here don't have cars. One would be a guy with a DUI. One would be a guy whose car broke down and he can't afford to fix it. The Greyhound gets used a lot more than people think, even between these little towns."
True, says Powers, thinking of the elderly woman who catches the bus at the Mini Mart twice a year to visit her family in Pueblo. "And it was my safety net last year, when I was doing chemo," she adds. "The hospital in Kremmling only does one kind, and I had to go to Denver. I was terrified my car wouldn't run. I was counting on the bus."
So are the people who come into Granby for the not-uncommon reason of having found out there's a warrant for their arrest in Grand County. "They show up on the bus and turn themselves in," Powers explains. "I call the sheriff in Hot Sulphur Springs, and he comes and gets them. It's very civilized." In fact, she says, the sheriff came by just yesterday, when a passenger with diabetes needed a doctor, fast.
More often, the urgent need involves alcohol. "You can't drink on the bus, and people just won't understand that," Powers says. "People get off this bus and practically run the four blocks to the Silver Spur. Then, when they can't get back on the bus, they hang around here."
Hanging around Granby can become an art. "There was a guy who tried to get on the bus in Steamboat headed east for a week," she remembers. "Every day he was too drunk, and they wouldn't let him on. Finally he made it, but he brought a bottle of vodka, and he couldn't even walk down the stairs by the time he got here. I hear he wandered over to a church, and they called the sheriff."
"Unruliness, intoxication -- we deal with it," sighs Grand County Sheriff's Department spokesman Glen Trainor. "A lot of times, to be frank, they got on the bus inebriated in the first place. Then they get removed from the bus, and this is a problem we didn't create, but we have to deal with it."
Criminal matters -- if a passenger should happen to commit a sexual assault in transit by "grabbing a breast or a butt" -- are far more complicated. Witnesses and perpetrators tend to live out of state, he points out, and getting them back for court is no picnic. Drunks are easier. If they're a danger to others or themselves, they're taken to detox in Dillon. Otherwise, they kill time, sobering up for the next day's bus.
"Sometimes we get them a bed at the Y. Sometimes we just put them on foot -- they just have to walk around for a while. And they're not even the problem," Trainor insists. "We need the bus for the real transients, the people who are down on their luck and end up here, or people who've been in our jail for quite some time, like a Mexican national we got driving without a license. No way could he post a bond. We buy these people bus tickets.