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one crazy leg
lost in a forest
amw
I'm sitting in what i thought was Union Station (the sign is still on the old railyard coming in) but appears to be called Gateway Station now. I can't decide if i'm hot or cold - the Greyhound had the coldest air conditioning ever, which was a stark contrast to the blazing sun outside. I hope the Amtrak isn't as cold because my pack is checked and all i'm wearing is jeans and a tank for the next 18 hours.

The train is late, of course. All i've eaten since this morning is a quick chicken burger at the Chicago Greyhound terminal and what little beef jerky i had left. I gave my chocolate to a woman with a child who looked hungrier than i was. I could probably just pass out when i get on the train. I wonder if they have power outlets and wi-fi?

I did a 10 minute tour of St Louis. Tried to rush it so i wouldn't miss the train, though i did miss KFC's closing time. The city is crazy beautiful, full of those American art deco buildings that i love. The other thing that struck me driving in was the size of that arch. I always figured it was an optical illusion, kinda like how the the Seattle space needle looks taller in your imagination than in real life, but shit is BIG.

I remember as a kid collecting clippings of America, St Louis was one of the skylines i loved. Seattle was in there too, LAX airport with that Googie-looking dome, Chicago and Dallas. Soon i will have seen them all, bar Reno. Maybe on that grand south-west adventure. This turbo-tour of North America is just reminding me how much i want to travel through this country for real. I just wish it wasn't so expensive. I spent most of the bus ride watching TV, but every time i looked out the window my heart leapt, even seeing the same damn cornfields for 6 hours straight. Every mile i go is somewhere new, another part of America i've never visited, and i wish it could go on forever.

* * *

I am loving this train ride. What a way to travel! There is so much leg room it's ridiculous, lots of luggage room, and always something to see out the window. My only complaint is it's freezing fucking cold. I slept in a fetal pretzel position all night, trying desperately to lie on top of every exposed piece of skin. I must've looked quite the sight. Somehow i woke up in Little Rock and got out ostensibly to have a cigarette, but really just to warm up. When it's warmer outside at 4am than it is inside, something is very fucking wrong. The Greyhound was just as bad. Man, i hate air conditioning.

To pass the time i've been watching Supernatural. I tried and stopped a while back because horror often makes it hard for me to sleep, but i started again on this trip. Somehow i feel safer from ghosts on the road than i do at home. I know it's all in my head, but my head feels significantly less anxious when i'm somewhere new and stimulating. In either case, it's the perfect show for this trip - two guys randomly driving around America stopping in seedy motels to kill ghosts and break hearts.

I met a lady in St Louis who travels Amtrak twice a month for work. She knew all the staff and the good seats, and we chatted about places she wanted to visit before she dies (Italy and Vancouver). She was real sweet to me, but cautioned me to watch myself heading out into the country. She said something like: "I'm Catholic, but i think everyone should live the life that they want to live. I wasn't sure about you at first, but when i came up and spoke to you i knew - i understand why you are so full of joy. Just be careful." I think she was subtly referencing my sex change, though it was hard to tell. Talking to her was both comforting and a little unsettling - i like to believe that at the core everyone is a good person and will treat you with respect if you do the same, but i guess she was saying that that isn't always the case. Guess i'll find out when i pull into my first Texas rest stop.

* * *

I feel incongruent drinking black coffee and eating a bagel with Fox News in the background. I should've grabbed waffles or biscuits and gravy. Fortunately there's no one else here, so i can't be fingered as a Yankee impostor. Though, this is a freeway motel, and the dude next door has a DDR plate on his Volvo so perhaps i'm not out of place at all... But jokes aside, i'm trying to eat light because there is so much i want to eat in Texas i don't want to spoil my appetite before i leave the damn motel.

Texas is big. After arriving at Dallas i took another train and three (!) shuttle buses just to get to the rental car lot. The freeways all have multi-lane frontage roads that act as bonus freeways running alongside. Strip malls in the rest of America have nothing on this. And the overpasses are the sexiest i've ever seen, California included. It is filthy hot and i'm burned and loving it.

I had the shower of my life when i checked into the motel yesterday. Then caught up with jenndolari for dinner and a drive. Ate some yummy Tex-Mex, then headed on a night drive around Austin. It's a fabulous town by night, lit with retro neon all over the place. And it is way bigger than i thought. For some reason i was half-expecting every town south of Dallas to be like the wild west with strip malls, but it's got highrises and bus stops and everything. Nifty.

And man, i can't even explain how amazing it was to meet J. She is quite literally my oldest friend. I met her on usenet in 1995ish and although we haven't always been in regular contact, we've seen each other go through a lot, yet never met in person - i'm so happy we finally got the chance. She's just started a new job so doesn't really have much time to hang out, but hopefully i'll see her a few more times before switching back to explore Dallas proper.

* * *

Welcome to Austin. I've been sitting on the step out the front of my motel room typing this in and met my neighbors as they packed up their board games and furry heads to drive out to a local comic store. That crashing you hear is the sound of blue state preconceptions of Texas shattering on 8 gleaming lanes of white concrete. They suggested a place to eat in New Braunfels, so that will be my next stop.
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