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Profile of MBTA bus on highway
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On Saturday, April 11, I drove ninety minutes from Madison, Wisconsin, to Richmond, Illinois. My friend T.J. was driving from Chicago, and we’d meet halfway at Glacial Park Conservation Area for a short hike.

I hadn’t been on the highway since I arrived in Madison three weeks earlier. I took in the sights both on and around the road, enjoying seeing something other than my own neighborhood.

As I approached a slower-moving vehicle in the right lane, I signaled and moved into the center lane, passing it while maintaining the speed limit. I thought nothing of this typical occurrence, as I passed a bus that looked like like hundreds of others I’d seen before.

It wasn’t until after I was back in the right lane that it occurred to me: I almost never drive on Wisconsin highways. So why did that bus look like hundreds of others I’ve seen before?!

I slowed down as much in disbelief as to get a closer look. I was getting off at the next exit, so I had a reasonable and safe excuse to slow down enough to let the bus pass me again, giving me the opportunity to safely snap some photos.

Profile of MBTA bus on highway
What… how… why?!

I was so familiar with Boston’s public transit that it hadn’t registered at first how out of place this bus was. What was a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority bus doing in Wisconsin?!

As soon as I could safely do so, I shared the photo on Twitter — where it received a timely response from the MBTA:

The buses are made by New Flyer in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and then simply… driven to Boston. I never would’ve guessed! I would’ve thought they’d be built locally, or shipped to Boston in parts and assembled, or towed en masse, or driven in caravans and fleets. But instead, they’re just driven one-by-one across the country!

The whole ride home from Glacial Park, I thought wistfully of all the fun interactions I could’ve had with that bus. Maybe the driver saw my Massachusetts plates and similarly wondered what brought this traveler to Wisconsin. Maybe, if we’d met at a rest stop, I would’ve abandoned my nomadic lifestyle, whipping out my Charlie Card for a ride back to Boston.

I thought that was the last I’d see of that bus — but it crossed my path one day and a thousand miles later when another Twitter user spotted that same bus, #2056, approaching Albany, New York.

Again demonstrating excellent customer service, the MBTA responded to Twitter user @ragwafire while referring to me anonymously as a “confused motorist”.

I imagine the bus concluded its journey later that day. My route to Massachusetts will be a bit longer. But some day, I will again live in Boston, riding the buses and subways to my destinations. On that day, I will look for bus #2056, knowing we are once again sharing the same road.

What unexpected touchstones of home have you encountered in your own journeys? Leave a comment with your memories!

Ken Gagne

Digital nomad, Apple II geek, vegetarian, teacher, cyclist, feminist, Automattician.

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Ken's Itinerary

West Linn, OR

Nov 21, 2020 - Dec 26, 2020