(Please excuse any typos; I have to hit cntrl-v to copy paste every time I need an a, and a few other letters just invoke typographical chaos.)
The train from the end of Montana through the forests of central Washington was uneventful, sometimes boring, but pretty fucking gorgeous. It’s astonishinng how fucking sudden the transition is, from the bleak browns and oranges of the Badlands into the lush green of the northwest.
Got into Seattle basically on schedule, locked up my bike at the station to get a sandwich, and then no longer was the owner of a bike. Or not that bike, anyway.
See — I don’t know if I’d mentioned that my last night in Montreal, I managed to lose my keys somewhere in Chinatown — as one does, obviously. Like, I unlocked my bike, locked my u-lock in its usual place around the handlebars, and then apparently put my keys in my mouth and swallowed them.
And I didn’t really have any reasonable chunk of time that wasn’t on a train, waiting for a train, or asleep in the next few days, so in Chicago I just ducked into a CVS and grabbed whatever shitty cable lock they had, assuming it would be suffice for super quick errands, like a sandwich.
Said assumption, as you’ve probably guessed, was wrong, and I am minus bike. 😦 It’s not a huge deal, since I’m more or less done with the super-transient parts of my travels — at least this current iteration of my travels — but I am so sad. And now paranoid about bringing my baby Serenity to Seattle, because if she gets stolen it will devastate me.
But life goes on, and after making it down to Tacoma to my friend Joe’s — and Mount Rainier graciously permitted herself to be visible that day! — I crashed for hours, then woke up early in order to get the Sounder train back up to Seattle from Tacoma, because somehow despite wandering around the Tacoma Amtrak Station for an hour I somehow did not realize the implication that Tacoma perhaps does, in fact, have an Amtrak station itself. Sigh.
So yeah, trains, more trains. I’ve discovered that old ladies seem to get such a kick out of my fuchsia hair, which is kind of adorable.
Oregon was peaceful, with a fucking stunning sunset over the mountains. I’ve spent many a sunrise with my toes in the water of the Atlantic — though it never gets less breathtaking — but this whole west thing is so new to me. And I’m having trouble sorting through sunset pictures, so I’m just going to throw them all at you.
Into California, the fading of the forests into marshes and scrublands was slightly more subtle, but still pretty surreal. Also, I swear to you there a small sea lions and/or seals in at least one of those pictures, but as I can’t even pick them out, just take my word for it. Okay? Sea lions. Totally. Or seals.
Hey look, my first-ever terrible glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge!
Things began to go a little downhill the conductor began to talk animatedly about the famous horseshoe curves, which were, admittedly, pretty cool —
— uuuuntil the train thumped and shuddered a bit and finally ground to a halt.
“No problem,” assures my tablemate/offduty Amtrak employee cum new best friend. “It’s a power cable. They’ll just patch it up, throw some duct tape around it. Be on our way.”
I am several levels of not reassured.
“Unless it breaks again,” she adds thoughtfully. “Then it’ll be a few hours here, without power.”
Guess which one transpired.
If you guessed the one that left us stranded in the California desert without power or a/c in July, you win. In fact, you win one of the bags of cheddar cheese guppies they carefully rationed out.
And that’s when shit got weird, you guys. Like, my train companions were two early high school boys, two like maybe 9-11 year old boys and their mom, aforementioned train employee, and a random dude who literally did not look up from the table for the entire three hours, I don’t think.
Shit got Lord of the Flies real fast, I’m telling you.
Except the little kid was the only one of us who’d actually read Lord of the Flies in the past ten years or so, so he was clearly immediately our leader. Alliances were formed.
(I think this is when my Chromebook keyboard got partially fried, due to the ice cubes scattered over fucking everything as we lolled in the seats, desert heat too soporific to even cannibalize each other.)
The scenery was cool —
— but after several hours of the same shit, my brain had basically dissolved into nothing but misery and repeated songs from The Joshua Tree.
Finally, of course, we do in fact get moving, meekly cleaning up the bottle caps and cheddar fish ground into the floor. The a/c came back on and I was immediately reminded of the Community Halloween episode where they all get infected by bad meat, and Troy has to heroically turn down the thermostat…? Anyone? Okay.
All right, well, another sunset, this time over the actual Pacific, almost made it worth it.
No fuck that, it was still fucking awful, but it was a god damned sight to see.
We all missed our southbound connections, but Amtrak managed a bus, so around 2-something in the morning, Jeff picked me up from the Irvine train station, and I finally got to sleep the good sleep. After a much, much-needed shower.
But I finally got to meet his awesome girlfriend, and nerd out hardcore about WoW, and hang out with these complete(ly adorable) idiots).
And I appreciate the weird pseudo-symmetry of the fact that Jeff was also the end-point of my Wisconsin to East Coast bicycle trip, when he drove all the way to finally pick me up at the West Virginia border when I finally ran out of willpower. He’s just like “just let me know when you get here. As long as you’re not in fucking Ohio.”
Today marked the official one-month since my Florida departure, so I’ll probably write another post on that, but wanted to get these fucking photos up before they got so backlogged I’d just never do it.
So I am here, in Southern California, again in the land of palm trees and blue skies, thousands of miles and no idea what I’m doing. And in my head just resonates this version of Still Alive.