The Wheels on the Bus
9:38 “Now that’s a lovely sculpture for such a remote village,” I thought as my bus rounded yet another bend. “How many bends is that?” I lost track because I never bothered to start counting. Look there, another sculpture, big and grey…and a lot like that first one I saw. Pattern.
No, these were not isolated oddities of sculpture but part of a larger display. Now I wish I had taken a picture of the first one. Alas, an iPhone picture though the window of a moving bus is such a disappointing artifact. It’s much better to just watch and enjoy. Maybe on the return trip I can be better prepared.
Destination Farsund, about as far south in Norway as you can get. And it’s not too easy a trip for the carless. Monday afternoon was a 151 kilometer train ride from Drammen to the airport. A 280 kilometer flight to Kristiansand and then a 45 minute indirect route bus ride to the hotel. The route was my error, don’t diss the bus! Tuesday morning was #900 bus from Kristiansand to Farsund to teach at Lister Vigergaenda Skole – Eilert Sundt. Got all that?
7:56 I am out the door of the Thon Hotel Kristiansand. The air was crisp, the Christmas season lighting was ablaze, and a gaze of ice coated the walks and the streets. My destination was the transportation hub, just a couple of blocks. But new territory in the dark is a recipe for unplanned detours.
7:57 An old man is in a parking lot to my left. He has a cane and is testing the patch of ice he has found himself on. I wonder if he’s stuck. I walk and watch. He shuffles a little here and a little there. It’s not locomotion but he’s not static either. I’m getting to the point of losing sight and then he makes it to the handrail. I’m relieved. Do old men on the ice ever believe they were young?
7:58 The Color Line cruise ship is leaving port. As an inlander from America, the sight of large ocean-going vessels at all, let alone so close to shore is captivating. They light my imagination.
8:00 The depot. I didn’t walk the most direct route here but I made it and it wasn’t raining: victory. The depot is old and worn. It is not old and interesting, not historically old. Just old and run down. A city as beautiful as Kristiansand deserves better. An unpleasant companion in the depot is the sound of the floor sticking and then giving way to the soles of my shoes. I don’t want to sit and I can’t stand still. So I noisily pace.
The fellow inhabitants seem to be emotionally mediated by the depot, such a quiet and sullen group. The most disheveled among us intermittently sleeps on a bench. Others take turns going outside for a smoke.
I spend my time walking amongst the self-promotional posters for the bus service and anxiously awaiting the 900 bus. It leaves from station #1. Nothing yet, I walk back into the depot.
Ah, there it is. I see it approach the other side of depot so I gather my things and head out into the chill. Nothing. It doesn’t come. Pangs of panic begin; I go back into the depot.
The bus is parked. The driver is taking a break before his scheduled time to arrive.
8:24 The driver exits the restroom and heads to the bus. I hear it rumble to life, on my way to station #1.
8:25 My debit card is good. 186 crowns and I take my seat, port side and amidships.
8:30 Without fanfare or really even a warning, we are off.
8:32 First stop, “Bellevue.”
8:37 We are eight passengers and the driver. Highway E39 winds through the west of Kristiansand. The road lies between sharp cuts in the rock. It is really like most any divided, two-lane highway in the Midwest. The bus stops that line the road are the difference.
8:39 The guy behind me moved to the back. Good. I can’t understand why he’d sit RIGHT BEHIND me in the first place.
8:40 Entering Songdalen Kommune. In America when you enter a new town you get a sign with letters. In Norway you get the letters plus a large picture of community’s symbol. It is more inviting and memorable. You can look up Songdalen’s symbol on the internet, I’m not going to tell.
8:45 Three middle school-aged kids get off. The local bus also serves as the school bus, seems like a pretty efficient system.
8:50 Pockets of flat land parallel the highway here and there. Reclaimed from road building, now repurposed as hay and grain fields. The bounty lies wrapped in white.
8:57 A saltwater inlet, deep into the forest. Cottages and boathouses are speckled about the shores. It is the quiet season, the boats wait. People have lived here for a hundreds of years. Are they ready for the sea level to rise?
8:59 Mandal Kommune, another sign, another pretty picture. The speed limit is 70 km/h. The road is a serpentine ribbon. I bet in America you could drive faster. To date, there have been no, none, ZERO child fatalities in automobiles. I’m not sure what’s more amazing: zero in Norway, or that we accept that “x” children in America will die in cars.
9:04 A raft of ducks on the small lake to the left. They are dark blobs on the water. The grey skies deny me identification. A Goldeneye duck is alone in the water near the road. A brace of swans flies overhead.
9:06 Pop radio is ubiquitous. The driver is in his 60s, does he like it or does he use it for noise? Something is playing that sounds like a bad copy of Rhiana. Maybe its just actually her without the autotuning.
9:13 A city, Mandal. We pass a car dealership, it looks like any such place in the States. The rectangular building, glass walls, agents at desks under very bright lights trying to look busy.
9:15 We are actually stopped in Mandal, I guess this is evidence of the city’s status. We are parked outside the knitting shop, “nille.”
9:18 Rolling, farewell to the bundles of yarn arrayed on the walls. So many colors, so many possibilities. I don’t have a real Norwegian sweater, but I don’t want to buy one of the commercially-made ones. I need to find a little old lady.
It should be sunrise by now. It is light enough now that you can see pretty clearly. But there is a heavy overcast. It is dim and there are no shadows.
9:29 Tiny farms, homes and cottages here and there, the work of a surveyor must be steady employment.
9:34 We pass “Tredal” factory, a manufacturer of trailer for cars. Here they are called hangers.
9:36 Hokkah Minnesota? Was that the Root River? And all these statues, clearly there’s a theme. Eureka! I spy a name on a building, Vigeland. Ah, one-in-the-same no doubt. But that’s it and we are through the town, back on E39.
9:44 A hint of blue in the sky. The overcast is thinning in spots.
9:50 A slow climb up a steep hill. More signs warning of moose, still no sign of moose.
9:53 Picked up an older lady, now we are four and the driver. We all sit in the front half. Our location is just east of Rom, along a little branch of the Lygna River.
9:56 We added a father and a young daughter at the stop in Rom. She might be four; she wants to sit ALONE!
9:58 Check, a young boy with ginger hair.
10:03 “Yeah,” yells the boy when the bus stops, they exit. Lyngdal, a big stop and exchange. We are 10 now and I’m the oldest person on the bus. The driver is new too, clearly younger than me. We pass a sculpture, a grey concrete-like rectangle, open with silhouettes for sides. What is it? I first saw this sculpture in Stavanger, then other places, now here. Do you have an answer? The road crosses an expanse of flats, atypical. An ancient flood plain?
10:09 I now imagine I’m on the road from Centerville to Arcadia Wisconsin, Highway 93.
10:10 A tunnel, 940 meters.
10:12 Tunnel number three, this one is short. Signs for Farsund camping and Farsund resorts dot the road, not long now.
10:15 Farsund, I leave the bus. The buildings are mostly white, the clouds have reclaimed the sky. Now I drag my luggage to the school. I’ll try this street.