Minneapolis was nice. Nicer than I expected. It felt like a smaller Toronto. Still diverse and lively, though. It's probably hella cold in winter, but it felt like the kind of place I could live.
Left all that behind before sunrise this morning, though. I am in Albert Lea now, an honest-to-God American small town. And this is exactly the kind of place I want to visit. You can walk from the highway motels to downtown (God forbid) and every little store has a shabby but quirky feel to it. Everyone you meet on the street says hello.
Half the town is flooded. I saw some flooding up through Wisconsin too. Apparently it hit Iowa hardest, and I'm just across the border here.
I'm in the prairies here now too, I think. It's flat. Corn everywhere. This is the start of my trip into America. I don't think I'll be able to hide from it at the Greyhound stops any more. Today's stop was "at Burger King".
Tonight I'll pick up a six-pack of Bud and get a burger delivered. It's Supernatural time. Well, after the debate.
Yes yes yes.
I am so happy I took up the offer to go to the SPAM museum. This is small town Americana, this is kitsch. I can't get over how unashamedly tacky it is for a company to create a "museum" for its own products, but it is delightfully American. And God knows SPAM is one of my most-missed foods since going vegan.
So today I broke it. I had a SPAM-LT at a bar round the corner from the museum. It's a stone's throw from the factory and the town of its inception, so yanno. I'm an eco-vegan not an ethical vegan, so breaking it for special occasions it fine by me.
I was worried I'd have to this morning, bus stopping as it did next to Burger King. Funny enough, BK in America has a vege burger without cheese. It's gotta be the only fast food joint here that does that. Noice.
So, so far, Minnesota, fuck yeah. Looks like it'd be hell cold in winter, and outside of Minne it looks rather white.... but they got SPAM and corn and soybeans and giant-sized Viking-ass locals. I don't feel like an ogre here.
Sep 27 Albert Lea -> Rapid City
At least, I hope I get to Rapid City. Inexplicably, you need to print out the tickets you buy online "for proof of ID". What!? I had to negotiate with the driver to get on the bus. He took my (expired) drivers' license as insurance and told me to buy another ticket at Sioux Falls. Apparently if I don't have access to a printer, that's $125 down the drain because reasons.
Ugh. This is the interesting experience of buses as I go further west. First bus, driver made announcements, explained to keep your shoes on and the noise down. Second bus it was fine to get on with a booking ID scribbled on a scrap of paper. Kids dropped fries all over the show, but there was a security guard onboard too. Third bus? Bizarre bureaucracy and people in socks stretched over chairs and playing tunes on their phone...
The one thing I do like about buses here is you see all walks of life. Military, Amish, black, white, disabled, poor, students, elderly... All tired. All traveling.
I don't want to stop traveling.
South Dakota is my new favorite state after Nevada. It's flat as hell. It's pure. In the east, the crops make beautiful quilted landscapes in all directions - soy, corn, sunflower... In the west it gets slightly more hilly and cattle graze in yellow pastures. It's amazing. It's like California except less people.
I love the less people. As much as I love traveling, as much as I love the journey... It's the "no people" thing where I finally feel like I am on holiday. Even now, in the tourist center of Rapid City, i feel relaxed because I just spent 10 hours driving through nothing. Pure, beautiful, nothing.
Well not really nothing since this nothing feeds the rest of the country. But, you know.
You know, I thought I was going to write a lot more. Or read. Anything. But what I am enjoying the most is just looking out the windows. Watching the landscape go by. Watching people do their people stuff. It's... the not having to be anywhere, not having to do anything...
I am so happy. So at peace when I have nothing to do and nowhere to be.
Today I take a break in Rapid City. I like SD more than I expected and have booked a trip through the Badlands tomorrow. After that it's on to Billings, which is where the first question mark happens - south to Denver through Wyoming, or south-west to SLC, possibly though Idaho? Who knows?
Mostly I just wish this could go on forever. Doing nothing. I just want to do nothing.
Sep 29? 30? Rapid City -> Badlands -> Billings -> Cheyenne
You know why I can't write? Because the magic would go. Out here I am at peace. Out here I am happy and content. I don't need to read or write or do anything besides stare out the window.
This is the best vacation I have ever taken.
Oct 1 Cheyenne -> Denver -> Helper
God some people are interminable. On the Amtrak I have left the homeless and the felons and the working class behind, and am instead sitting down with snobs.
The oldies aren't so bad - retirees seeing America, retirees traveling to their chalets. But then you get these self-righteous suburban types. I engaged in conversation for all of 30 seconds before wanting to bash my head against the wall when I was told Greyhounds are dirty and they stink and all of the stations are sketchy and wah wah wah. Code for "poor people and people of color offend my delicate sensibilities". Yeah just keep prattling on about your kids and your houses and act all hard-done-by because the train is too hot and it's not traveling fast enough and there's no wi-fi and Jesus Christ shut the fuck up.
So, the company is awful. But the landscape is pretty great. I just need to close my ears and enjoy the view. For the next 8-12 hours. We are running 2 hours late, so I'll be arriving in Helper in the dark.
Why Helper? It has a cool name. It's smack bang in the middle of nowhere, Utah. And I want to be alone. Half an hour in Denver was enough. Looked like a nice city, just like all the others. Meh. I want to feel alone. Then I am free. Then I am happy.
You know where I am happy? At this motel in Helper, Utah. Drinking beer out on the porch, looking up at the balancing rock, talking to the Texas roadtrippers next door.
Now I am sitting in my bed typing all this in and I realize there is so much I haven't written about. The amazing beauty of the South Dakota badlands. The difference between the buses from Rapid to Cheyenne vs Cheyenne to Denver (tail end of the Portland run) - all the Indians disappeared. Seeing a rebel flag flying from a chalet in the Rockies. The insane desert storm we hit going into Utah, that resulted in sunset happening at the same time as a rainbow and some of the most unreal sights I have ever seen. The sheer awesomeness that is Helper, Utah, and my long walk up into the canyon today to try find ghost towns and abandoned coal mines. Running into a mother teaching her kids how to shoot semi-automatics up in said canyon. The bullet holes through every roadsign. The rattlesnake I almost stepped on. The huge jackrabbits. The motel both here and in Rapid where all night long freight trains would go past honking and trundling and making me feel cozy and happy. The NOT getting gaybashed in Wyoming. And, God, the weird, wild empty landscape of that state. But man, South Dakota and Utah have killed it so far. I am so happy. I am so relaxed. I don't want to think about work. I don't want to think about going back to Berlin. I wish I could keep traveling forever. Motels. Small towns. Deserts.
Writing loses the magic.
But I do want to get some of it down so I don't forget. When I am work I go for months and months stressed and drunk and unhappy. Moments like this I realize this is what I should be doing. I need to be free.