Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I Love Starbucks

As much as people complain that it's terrible that there is a Starbucks on every streetcorner in most urban centers of the United States, I LOVE IT. I love it because it is the only thing that is allowing me to update all of you lovely people out there on my status.

The status is... it's SNOWING in Detroit. I love snow. It's so pretty. It does make it a bit hard to find my way through a somewhat strange city, but it's still nice. Speaking of Detroit, I would like to send a shout out to my friend Matt, THANK YOU SO MUCH for showing me around Detroit Halloween weekend. If I had not spent that weekend in Detroit I would have been a crazy person on the city bus coming down Woodward from the Amtrak station at Grand. I would have been hovering over the driver, "Where do I go now? Do I get off yet? Here? Now? When?". However, having spent some time in the lovely metropolis of Detroit, I knew to relax and get off once we got to Jefferson. Then I walked into the Comerica building and asked the nice man at the desk for directions to the nearest Starbucks and here I am. Aren't you all lucky.

So, the train only got more interesting after I typed up that last post. I'm not exactly sure where he got on, but we got a really, and I mean REALLY, drunk Georgian (as in Russian Georgian) guy on the train. He was seated two rows in front of me and one row in front of a woman with two young children. The conductor kept telling him to go to sleep. But George (yes, that was his name) would have none of it. He was going off, it was so amusing. Here are some quotes (all spoken with a Russian accent):

- I'm a very rich man.
- My father's a king.
- I'm a lord.
- Bless you all, God bless you all, everyone on this train.
- I love children, I am the godfather of your children, no one can hurt them.
- I love you brother.
- Please get me to Pennsylbania safely. (not a typo, that's how he said it)
- I have to get to my father, 245 Pine Street (anyone have any thoughts as to what's at 245 Pine?)

Each of these was repeated at least 4-5 times while I stuck around in the car. It was at once amusing and troublesome. I was a little worried he'd vomit all over someone at any moment. He kept going on and on begging someone to get him a Heineken since the cafe car wouldn't serve him. Thankfully no one obliged. Eventually his begging and incessent talking got on the nerves of the guy that was across the aisle from me and he started very calmly and sternly saying "Sit down, be quiet". Then George proceded to call someone on his cell phone and speak a bunch of Russian. (Honestly, I'm not 100% sure he wasn't just having a conversation with himself but thinking he was on the phone) Then he called someone named Carlos and proceded to tell Carlos that "these people are strange" and "a man with a dark mustache just threatened me" and "no one can threaten me". He told Carlos that he'd called the Embassy and that he wasn't sure he was going to make it to Pennsybania safely and that Carlos should call his father. It was so vastly amusing. However, George's antics were not likely to be conducive to sleep and the train car was really crowded, so I decided to investigate upgrading to a sleeper car.

To anyone who ever has to (or just decides to) travel a long distance by train, I highly recommend getting a sleeper car. They are pretty expensive if you book them in advance, but because I bought mine on the train, it was only $166 to upgrade. Personally, it was well worth it. I had a quiet place to read, watch a movie and then sleep. Most importantly I was able to sleep lying flat. The coach seats recline pretty far, but not flat. The other nice thing about the sleeper car is that meals in the dining car are free. That's a nice bonus, cause the food is really good. I had dinner with three guys who ordered the steak and it smelled wonderful. They all said it was good. My ravioli was really good too. I slept in too late in the morning and missed breakfast, but I ended up getting lunch because we were so late.

So, we got into DC 3.5 hours late. That meant that my lovely 4 hour layover to check email and post got cut to a half hour of trying to find a place to put things down for a bit before piling on to the train. I got on the train and my car was fairly empty. I sat alone and read more of The Chronicles of Narnia and made a 7pm dinner reservation. I was really hungry, so I decided to eat a full meal. I'm glad I did too, because in the process of waiting for dinner I met Al Smith. Al is exactly like Turk's friend Russell. He was so funny and cool. We had a great time talking and hanging out. We ended up hanging out in the cafe car and watching Blues Brothers and playing You Don't Know Jack. He is really fascinating. He spent a month wandering around Pakistan. He had gone over there to climb K2, but there was some kind of problem with the guide or something, so he ended up just exploring Pakistan. He was in the Navy for 14 years, ran two different motels (one in San Diego and one in northern Michigan) with his wife and now he's retired and lives on 120 acres in southern Michigan. He said "It doesn't know when to quit snowing up north, so we moved south".

That train ride ended rather poorly though. Once Al and I parted ways to get some sleep I got back to my seat to find it had been hijacked by some woman watching a dvd and wearing excessive amounts of bad perfume. So, I knew I wasn't getting any sleep there, so I went and tried to sleep in the lounge car. Not much luck there either, so I'm currently running on a gross lack of sleep, just one more reason to love Starbucks. Between the snow and the lack of sleep I think I'm going to have to save the Detroit Institute of the Arts for another day. Right now I'm going to try and venture over to Canada and see if I can switch to an earlier train to Toronto. Wish me luck.

Monday, November 28, 2005

On my way

On the train!!!! Turk gave me a ride to the West Palm Beach Amtrak station this morning. We got there about 45 minutes before my train left, so I had some time. I ended up just sitting on the platform. While I was sitting there a Haitian cab driver came over and “talked” to me. I say “talked” cause he didn't speak or understand much English and I don't know what the official language of Haiti is, but I can't speak it. He also spoke French very well, or at least that's what I gathered. However, as I explained in an earlier post, I also don't speak that. So, it wasn't really a conversation so much as him trying really hard to keep my attention, but failing miserably. I have a hard time staying focused on someone that I can't understand. He was also wierding me out a bit, but I think he was harmless.

The Silver Star train that I'm on is not the most hi-tech. There is one plug on the entire train that I've found so far. It's in the Lounge car, so obviously that's where I am now. My battery will only last so long, especially with Itunes running, so I'm going to hang out here for now. I think I might look into getting a sleeping car for the night. The train is relatively crowded and I got an assigned seat next to some old man from New York who seems to have some kind of foreign accent. Not that I have anything against him for any of that, but he's also one of those old people who will sit there for a while and then all of a sudden start talking to you while you are in the middle of a sentence of a perfectly good magazine article. Then whatever he's saying he invariably loses his train of thought halfway through and trails off, so you go back to your magazine article, and then five minutes later the train of thought comes back and he picks up right where he trailed off. It's very frustrating when you just want a peaceful train ride. Anyway, so yeah, that may lead to an investigation into the cost of upgrading to a sleeping car.

That's all I've got for now. I'll update more later.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sunday in Florida - delayed a bit

This entry is getting posted late because Turk's cable modem died a horrible death on Sunday and I couldn't get on to post anything. Saturday I went to the Morikami Museum and Gardens in Delray Beach. If you are ever in the Delray Beach area of Florida you should check this out. It's a very fascinating museum with changing exhibits and a beautiful garden. There's a path that goes around from the museum in a circle through the gardens and passes the original museum. The cool thing about the original museum is that you have to take your shoes off. It's a traditional Japanese house set up. It's got neat displays as well, including several rooms where you have an artifact with three possible descriptions below it of what it could be. You have to figure out which one is the right description. You can add up your score and then it tells you that if you get most of them right you could be the curator. It's cute. All in all, definitely worth the $10 entrance fee. Oh, and I got some pictures, which will go up eventually. I'm still working out a Flickr account.

This morning Jake left around 8am. Hopefully he'll be smart and stop somewhere for a hotel and not try and drive all the way through. Turk and I hung out at the house while I did laundry. Always good to start a trip with as much clean clothing as possible. Also good to do laundry when it's free. :) I'll be able to do laundry again in Toronto. The youth hostel I'm staying at has a laundry. Although I'm assuming I'm going to have to get a hold of some Canadian coins to take care of that. The currency thing is going to be very strange in Canada. With the value of the US dollar down the way it is, the exchange rate isn't as simple as it used to be. Not that I've ever been to Canada, but I remember it being $1 to $1.50CAD at some point, which is easy math. The math isn't so easy now.

This afternoon we met up with Theresa to go catch a movie and dinner. We saw Walk the Line. Awesome movie if you have any interest at all in Johnny Cash. Great movie just for it's pure value as a film, but really fascinating look at Johnny Cash's life. I never realized how long his realationship with June Carter took to develop. I also never realized he was married to his first wife for so long. I'd really like to read one or both of his autobiographies now. He had quite the life. Joaquin Phoenix was an impressive Johnny Cash. I'm amazed at his singing voice. I guess that's what months of special training will do. Reese Witherspoon really proved that she can handle any role, not just the ditzy cute blonds. Her voice was also pretty impressive, although not as similar to June Carter's voice as Joaquin's was to Johnny's.

After movie dinner was at a nice little Mexican joint in Boca Raton. The food was good. Their guacamole was great, nice and chunky the way I like it. After dinner we chilled at Theresa's for a bit before I had to head back and pack up all my stuff into as small a space as humanly possible. I think I did pretty well in the end. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to handle the bags I have on the train and wandering around for the next month.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Relaxing in the Florida Sun

I am hanging out in Florida, enjoying what sun and warmth I can get before I venture north into the cold and snow. Not that I mind the cold, or the snow. Many people can tell you how excited I get at the thought of snow. It's so beautiful and white and makes the world seem quieter and calmer. Everything slows down a bit with the snow.

So, I am officially a dork... I went on to check out one of the sites I read quite frequently and found that my friend Todd had mentioned me on his site. I was thrilled. I'm a total geek about getting linked to on other people's websites. :)

Todd has been giving me great suggestions for places to visit and other modes of transportation once I get sick of Amtrak and ViaRail. This has led to some very interesting discoveries. He suggested Green Tortoise. Their 28-day Alaska tour sounds really cool. However I did find some websites with people complaining about them, particularly stories of women feeling pressured and harrassed about nudity and promiscuity. So, that's something I'll have to investigate more. There were a lot of stories of people really enjoying Green Tortoise trips too, so I'll have to find my own balance there. In looking around for Green Tortoise info, I found GoNomad, which has info on all sorts of traveling and alternative traveling. One thing they mentioned was traveling via freightliner. That sounds INCREDIBLY cool. There is a part of me that is definately thinking, "forget traveling the U.S. and get on a freightliner to India this INSTANT!" 84 days traveling from New York, through the Panama Canal, over to places like Japan, China, Singapore, India, Saudi Arabia (although you can't get off the boat there) and other amazing places just sounds so completely wonderful to me. But, that would also eat up most if not all of my money in one fell swoop, so that's probably not going to happen. And I'm still a firm believer that I need to spend some time exploring my own continent before I go off doing some extreme adventuring on other continents.

Thanksgiving was great. Fried turkey is very tasty. The frying went off without incident. There was an array of wonderful side dishes, including a tasty spinach dish that Theresa's sister made. It was a nice family event.

Today we went out for a ride on the motorcycles. Jake had a little trouble with shifting due to his damaged left foot/ankle. (For those of you that don't know, Jake is my younger brother and about 2 months ago was involved in a motorcycle accident where a woman just completely didn't see him and his left foot/ankle got smushed and severely dislocated between her car and the bike.) I rode on the back of the V-Rod with Turk. It wasn't a long ride, due to Jake's difficulties, but it was fun. The new seat on the V-Rod is much more comfortable than the one that was on there last Christmas. Tonight Turk and I went out for dinner and I got to try lobster for the first time ever. Yes, I'm serious, I've never had lobster before. It was decent. Not something I'd go out of my way to pay $30 for, but decent. Then we got home and Turk concocted me some sort of cappuccino/espresso thing, so now I'll be awake for the next 12-14 hours. hahaha

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Finally Somewhere!!!

I have finally managed to get somewhere.... and that somewhere is Florida. I am hanging out at Turk's house for Thanksgiving. For those of you that don't know, Turk is my father. His real name is Donald, if you ask nicely I'll explain how he came to be Turk. Actually, we aren't hanging out at his house for Thanksgiving, we are going to Theresa's house. Particularly exciting is the fact that I get to try fried turkey for the first time. It sounds interesting. I've heard good things about it.

The drive from PA to FL was just lovely (she says in a totally sarcastic and snarky tone). Jake insisted on going to South of the Border to get fireworks. I had to either pretend to sleep or read while he was driving so that I didn't panic and scream. He is not exactly a good driver, okay, really he's an awful driver. I would say something meaner, but there are possibly children reading this, so it's gotta stay PG.

Saw a lot of different license plates along the way. There seems to be a Canadian invasion going on. I guess there are a lot of Canadian snowbirds escaping to the southern US. Personally I'd much rather escape to Canada at the moment, but then again cold and snow doesn't bother me. At least not nearly as much as the current American regime bothers me. :)

Florida has been lovely so far. We went for sushi tonight at Sushi Yoshi. It's very much one of those places where everyone who walks in and sits at the sushi bar knows the chef well and he frequently knows them. I love those places, cause they are always really nice to you if you sit at the sushi bar and give you treats. Tonight we got some crab concoction sort of thing stuffed into a big clam shell. It was very tasty (sorry Sarah).

So, the adventure officially begins next Monday when I leave via Amtrak to head to Toronto. I am REALLY looking forward to this trip. Trains ROCK!! My tickets and my North American Rail Pass showed up in the mail here at Turk's on Tuesday. Yay for Amtrak.

Friday, November 11, 2005

In Limbo

Okay, so now things are in limbo. I've decided that the bus and I are not going to be friends. It's just not going to work out. When I tried to get the bus inspected for PA state safety inspection the mechanic told me he's amazed I didn't die driving back from Chicago. The brakes have some serious problems. That combined with lots of other minor issues for inspection and my continued discomfort even thinking about driving it, means that I've put the bus in storage to wait for the PA title and then sell it. I'm fine with that. Now I'm moving on to a new plan, but it involves waiting in limbo for another week plus.

At this point, I'm going to drive to Florida with my brother on November 20 or 21. We will be spending Thanksgiving with Turk and his girlfriend and her family, which sounds really cool. From there I will head out and spend a month (perhaps two) traveling the USA and Canada via train. Amtrak and ViaRail Canada offer a lovely thing called the North America Rail Pass, which will allow me to travel all over the place for one low price for 30 days. I'm very excited. My train trip from LA to Philly 5 years ago was one of the coolest experiences I've had and led to the development of a great friendship with two really amazing people. And that was only 3 days. Imagine the things that could happen in 30 days. SO FREAKIN' COOL!!!!

From there... is not entirely worked out yet. But, it'll get worked out over the course of the next 6 weeks. So, that's how things stand now. I'm not going to lie, I'm frustrated that things have not worked out entirely as planned. But, I'm beginning to get to a point in my life where I'm getting a little bit better (note the little bit) at taking these changes and trying to make the best of them and adapt. I'll admit I'm still not always totally great at it, but trust me, there are people who can tell you that I used to be much worse. I'm working on changing. Anyway, that's about it at the moment.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


So, things went a little askew over the past several days, but in a good way. Friday I picked up the bus and was still pretty uncomfortable driving it. It has some issues with wanting to stall out when you are at a stop and go to move again. It's very frustrating. I don't like stalling out, I don't like the idea of people behind me being angry at me. I know, I'm wierd.

But, anyway, so I was freaked out driving the bus and came to the realization that there was no way I was getting it packed up and heading out the next morning very early to make it to Detroit that night for the Halloween party I'd been hoping to go to. So, I very sadly got back to my grandmother's house, stopping on the way to call my friend in Detroit and tell him I wouldn't make it there. Then I got home and decided to go back out to Starbucks and play on the internet. At Starbucks I got to hang out with my senior prom date who works there. He just graduated college and is chilling at Starbucks a bit longer before looking for a real job. Sounds great.

So, I'm chilling at Starbucks on the internet and decide to scope out flights to Detroit for giggles, mostly because of a suggestion my brilliant friend Hazel gave me. She told me I should take a train to Detroit and hang out for the weekend and think about the bus deal later. However, since a train would take a REALLY long time to get to Detroit, I looked for flights. I got lucky and found an E-saver and flew out to Detroit Saturday morning. I surprised my friend when I called him and told him I was driving down the street that leaves the airport and heads into his town. He expected me to be sad and moping in Philly. Not this girl, no way. As Sarah put it so well "Spontaneity is the theme of this year for you."

The weekend in Detroit was great. I had an awesome time at the Halloween party and an really awesome rest of the weekend hanging out with my friend and his family. He has a huge family, 12 brothers and sisters, something like 8 of which still live within 15 miles of each other. They are so much fun to hang out around. They are wild and fun and loud and great. The party on Halloween reminded me of the parties I used to go to with my parents, only this time everyone was related. On Monday my friend had to work, so I went and checked out Belle Isle. It was really beautiful and sad at the same time. I got some fabulous pictures, which I'll try and post somewhere.

Now I'm sitting at the Detroit airport waiting to head back to philly. I managed to get onto an earlier flight, which is good, cause I didn't like getting in all late. It looks like Jake's surgery has been scheduled for tomorrow, which is good too, cause that means I can take him down there. Then I am taking the bus to get looked at on Thursday, to see if the guys at Lehman's can figure out a way to make it happier without spending too much money. That's about all for now, I've got to go make sure I'm still sitting at the right gate for my flight.
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