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Busman's Holiday
Peter King
November 26, 1990
Coast-to-coast commuter John Madden likes what he sees as he rolls across America in his suite on wheels
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November 26, 1990

Busman's Holiday

Coast-to-coast commuter John Madden likes what he sees as he rolls across America in his suite on wheels

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Back on the bus, Madden watched the Giants-Dolphins game tape. Around midnight, somewhere just over the line into Iowa, he said, "We really saw a lot of stuff today, didn't we? Think of all the things we saw that we wouldn't see on a plane."

DAY 3
COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA, TO NEW YORK CITY

There are customs, attitudes, myths and directions and changes that seem to be part of the structure of America.
—Travels with Charley

From some point just east of Des Moines to a rest stop south of Cleveland—a stretch of 640 miles traveled in 12 hours—Madden slept. He missed the early rush hour in the suburbs south of Chicago. He missed South Bend, Ind., waking the echoes on a brand-new day. He missed the heart of the Rust Belt. He missed most of Ohio, including 19 consecutive American cars passing the bus in the westbound lane in Maumee, a Toledo suburb. He missed the colorful foliage of Sandusky County, Ohio. He missed Liskin, his amiable neighbor, talking about what a great time he had had seeing America.

"I don't want it to end," Liskin said. "I want it to keep going. I just called my brother in New York. He's an investment banker. His voice was so tense. He told me that with the Iraq situation, the world's going crazy. I told him, 'Not where I am. Everything seems fine here.' He told me, 'Ahhh, you don't understand reality.' I feel great now, like I just came back from Hawaii."

At 10 minutes past noon, with the bus pulling into the rest stop near Cleveland, Madden stirred. "Sleep," Madden said a few miles into Pennsylvania, "is the key to the whole thing. If you finish a trip and drag in like a washrag, it's not going to work. I sleep better on the bus than I do at home, I think. I've been on it so much, it truly is a home."

We stopped for lunch in Clarion, Pa. (pop. 6,664), and Madden strolled the sidewalks. Two men were sitting on a bench in the center of town when Madden passed. "That's the Ace Hardware guy," one said.

"No, he's the football announcer," the other replied.

Madden loved the sights, but he likes being invisible, so he doesn't walk the streets in small towns as much as he once did. When we were a few hours outside New York City, he was asked about the states he had slept through. "It seems that Iowa should be the capital of small-town America," said Madden. "Every town is so nice. Illinois is Chicago to me, Michigan Avenue—one of my favorite cities. Indiana is Notre Dame. Ohio is Youngstown. [ San Francisco 49er owner] Eddie DeBartolo's from there, and he's always telling me, 'Stop by, come and eat, I'll cook for you.' Pennsylvania, trees. Look at this foliage. I mean, people pay money to take tour buses to see scenes like this."

We were in a long, deep canyon of red, green, yellow and brown, driving on a ridge just below the Moshannon State Forest in north central Pennsylvania. The trees looked like pom-poms.

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