What a long strange trip it
was. Well, actually it wasn’t that long, only a month, July 20 to August 20,
and not that strange, only glitchy and trying. For instance: after twenty-four
hours in transit from
The plan was to spend about
3 weeks in Oregon, mostly Portland where two of my three children, all of my
five grandchildren and a great grandson live, not to mention a lifetime of
friends, but then also Eugene and Klamath Falls to visit friends and then to
Chicago to visit another friend, maybe Cleveland, where I was born and raised,
then Minneapolis where a reunion with siblings and my eldest daughter was going
to take place. From there I’d planned to spend a week in
All of the interior travel
was intended to take place on Amtrak, but then, by the time my late month
pension came through all the trains I needed were booked solid so I wound up
flying instead, except for three train rides in
All in all, I was on ten
individual flights in this trip, four train rides – including the train from
There is absolutely nothing pleasant or enjoyable about flying, except maybe getting to look out the window from far above. It’s noisy, cramped and uncomfortable and the crap you have to go through just to get on the plane is a godawful experience. Twice my crotch was tagged as suspect, maybe it was the tiny metal clamp that was used in my vasectomy to close my vas deferens that triggered the scanner, and twice I got felt up. If it happened again I was prepared to threaten to drop my pants to avoid the indignity. I wouldn’t have gone through with it, but you know what I mean.
Contrast that with Amtrak which is a very pleasant ride: smooth, quiet, big seats, ample leg room and of course you’re free to move around. You are also relieved of excessive security, just show your ID and get on. It’s just really slow, not just compared to air travel, but also on its own level, because the main west coast line has only a single track (at least in Oregon) which means whenever two trains meet one has to pull off into a siding and wait for the other to pass. It would still be slow, but a lot faster and at least you’d be moving.
The homeless are a societal problem first. They can’t be blamed for a system that that provides no housing for low income people. The elite are doing fabulously well, but somehow we don’t have wherewithal to guarantee shelter for people with issues or limited means.
It was fine being there, I enjoyed it… not saying I’d ever want to live there again… but I did even think I should go back every couple years, you know, the family and friends thing. Aside from the minor tasks of picking up odds and ends, my only real purpose for the trip was making those contacts.
I alternated between two friends on either side of town, so having stuff in two places was a recipe for forgetting things. I had no car to drive and drew a blank when it came to borrowing a bicycle for short trips. Two friends had fine old bicycles they offered me that they hadn’t used in years, but both had flat tires and the one place I went to get one fixed wanted $22! So I spent lots of time walking and waiting for buses.
It was cold, by my
standards, when I first got to
Soon after that it really
did warm up and hit the mid nineties and up (35 to 38C) for a week and
everybody was freaking, changing plans and all… too hot to do this, too hot to
do that. Meanwhile I was just getting comfortable. It was very dry, even
walking in the heat of the day I could hardly work up a sweat so it was a lot
Since I wasn’t going to be
doing any long distance train rides and flying from
I could visit friends in
I’m going to split this narrative up into parts to make it easier to read.
Amtraking it to
After 11 days in
Spent a couple nights with a
Meanwhile, I hadn’t taken note of the street names right off when I went, so I wasn’t sure how to get back. I knew it had to be close when I got off the main road, but wandered around for 15 or 20 minutes (twenty minutes of walking is at least a mile) until I finally found someone outside; he was watering his garden. Not many people are out at close to 100 degrees. At first I asked to use his phone and then realized I didn’t have my friend’s number. Just then another guy pulled out of his driveway and the first guy says, Lets ask him, he knows everybody… Do you know B? Yes, he’s two doors down… typical of my trip.
About that phone. I brought my retro Nokia with me with the idea of getting a sim card for it. A friend took me to a shop that repairs phones and the guy said they don’t make large sim cards like my phone uses anymore, but I later realized that’s not true at all. A friend recently brought me a USB modem from the states which definitely uses a large sim card. Soon after that I went looking for a burner phone, one you use for a short time and discard, but the cheapest one I could find was $40 and I didn’t think it was worth it for just 3 weeks. The time mentioned above where not having a phone caused disconnections was repeated a couple other times. My only means of connecting was through Messenger and my access to computers was limited to when my friends weren’t using theirs. In the end I managed all right, in spite of being phoneless.
The whole phone thing is far
After two very pleasant days
Spent a couple days with a
friend from my recycling days and his partner. I always try to include them in
my travels back there. He, like a lot of my friends in
Time to head back to
I love the freedom, serendipity, adventure of hitching. I briefly thought of hitching long distance on this trip, but fun and interesting as it might be, it’s also a challenge and a chore. It’s great, but at 81 I really didn’t think I was up for it. At the same time I know I can get anywhere I need to anytime I need to if it comes down to it. I regularly get Armageddon dreams where I’m on the run so hitching is good practice.
So I had to do it. I really had to renew my hitching creds.
I really enjoyed it though
it turned out to be a test of will and stamina and even a test of faith since my
friend’s part of
My friend gave me a ride to the edge of town in a decent place to hitch. It was an intersection with lots of room to pull off.
At 81, I’m Maybe/Probably the World’s Oldest Hitchhiker.
Ever since I learned of the freedom hitching meant and besides had no other means of travel, I embraced it and turned it into an art form. Not saying I was the only one out there or the boldest or most extreme, I’ve met some extreme hitchers in my day… but that also might/could very well be true since I went for weeks at a time in all seasons without a penny in my pocket for food or shelter. I always got taken care of and had no bad experiences with the people who picked me up.
Only saying I had a terrible itch to hitch on this trip.
My K Falls friend drove me a few miles north of town in the direction I was going and let me off at a good place to hitch. It was an intersection which drivers naturally tend to slow down for with plenty of room to turn off. I waited there for about a half hour, but I tend to get restless just standing in place and I like to walk and see more of the countryside in slow motion so I started walking. It’s much harder to pull over for a hitcher when you’re going fast, especially if you’re in a line of cars, but I just had to move.
After a few miles, maybe an
hour of walking, there was an emergency sign board next to the road which had a
place where I could sit for bit. It was a very bad place to hitch since it was
hard for a vehicle going fast to see me amongst the machinery, but I just had
to rest. It was already hot at 10 o’clock. Finally at 10.30 two hours after I
started a native American guy stopped for me. He had actually passed me by but
didn’t see me until too late and doubled back to pick me up. I was already beginning
to lose my faith. I mean, I had no doubt I’d get picked up.. eventually… but
twice in my 70,000 miles on the road I had to wait a day and a half for a ride.
Both times were in
Getting a ride picks up your mood instantly, makes you question why you questioned your faith. He had a cooler in the front seat so asked me to put it in the back so I could sit down. I took my pack, placed it on the roof temporarily, moved the cooler and hopped in. A few seconds after we started he said, Hey it looks like something fell on the road. I look back, SHIT, it’s my pack! So he stops and I run back, but before I could get to it, it got run over. The pack was torn up, a few things got smashed including my legally purchased marijuana, and a book I was reading got tortured, but nonetheless remained intact enough for me to finish. Haha, a fitting start to my trip, I was still laughing about the absurdity of it more than 10 minutes later.
At least I’m on my way. He was a cool older guy who raised 7 kids, all successful. He was still working over age 70, but was soon to retire. He let me off at his tribe’s casino. That cash infusion sure seems to have made a difference in their lives. I waited about a half hour or so and another Amarind picked me up. He was only going a few miles but said there was a day use park farther up he road where I could relax a bit. Digression: I rarely get off the road to relax: What if I leave for a minute and my perfect ride passes by and it’s eight more hours till I get picked up?
I walked quite a ways before
I saw a sign saying I still had another mile and a half to go. As I approached
the park I noticed a semi parked on the far side of the entrance. Then when I
got closer a guy on the other side of the road pointed at the truck and
indicated he was going to give me a ride. He was checking out big machinery at
a logging museum. He had also passed me by at the message sign because of the
difficulty of stopping. He was a Mexican-American who was living in
I rode up high in the big
rig for about an hour and got off at a junction that went over the mountains
He was a good guy. He
insisted I take a bottle of Gatorade with me and it sure came in handy being
out in the heat of a very hot day. I just about finished it by the time the next
ride came by. A young un-hyphenated American couple picked me up in their messy
truck and got me all the way across the mountains and only about 30 minutes
I waited only a few minutes
for the next ride that took me to the southern outskirts of
I very quickly realized my mistake. It was 4.30, near peak hour and the road was very busy with not a great place to turn off. Besides, being at the south end of town meant 90% or more of vehicles were headed every which direction in town rather than through it to the north.
After 5 or 10 minutes of sensing the futility of it I got off the freeway and starting wandering around looking for a bus stop. It was kind of a sparse area, I saw nothing; however there was a pot shop just off the freeway and I figured I’d ask directions and replace my smashed stash while I was at it. The woman behind the counter whips out her smartphone and finds me a bus stop about a half mile away. So I trundle on over and start waiting. After a half hour or so a woman driving by stops to tell me there are no buses there. The bus stop sign seemed relatively current, but who was I to say? So I headed back to the gas station near the pot shop to ask directions and pick up an outrageously priced bottle of water.
On a vacant lot across from
the gas station there was a Latino guy selling fruit so I thought I’d ask him
if he’d seen buses go by and pick up a peach while I was at it. Yes he had seen
buses, but as it turned out it was Saturday and no bus service there. I picked
out a fruit; he gave me four and refused to accept payment. So I started
walking towards the
I finally got to the
First challenge is to find a telephone… well, pay phones don’t hardly exist anymore, except there actually was a couple in the station office… which was closed. Okay, somebody will lend me their phone… and after a couple tries a young girl took up my offer of a dollar for a call.
Turns out he was heading
downtown with a friend anyway for dinner and live music. Beer, eats and live
music, what more can you ask for? Well, I probably would’ve preferred crashing
out, but what’s a couple more hours if I’m relaxing with a couple beers. The whole
day, my nostalgia hitch redux, was an exceptional test of will and stamina. But
it wasn’t over. The only logical train to ride to
Will and Stamina
A few months back I was mentioning (It was maybe a bit like whining) to a friend that I didn’t think I could walk very far anymore, at least without stopping a lot. After my bout with pneumonia five years ago when I went unconscious for more than two days and the resulting dehydration left my legs so stiff that initially I couldn’t lift them off the bed even an inch and couldn’t get around without a walker for two full months, it seemed my legs and back were weaker than before. And besides I’m an old geezer and everything is just naturally winding down, wearing thin, getting creaky.
So I couldn’t have been more surprised that I managed maybe 10 miles (16kms) on my hitch. For sure, I had lots of rest periods, and as mentioned before, I really was at my limit, though if pressed and had no choice I guess I could’ve carried on a bit more. On the other hand, I know from past experience when I push myself too hard, I get sick. Not this time, I managed very well.
Another dimension was the
heat: I don’t mind it that much, can deal with it, but it sure weighs on you. I
can’t imagine anyone liking 100° (38C), except maybe for one fellow I came
across who was wearing a thermal vest over a T-shirt on a very hot day. It
seemed so odd, I had to ask him about it. He responded that he had a back
problem and the only time it didn’t hurt was when it was warm. Hot is easier on
the body than cold, at least until the temperature gets really hot. Before then
it’s relaxing compared to cold which needs fending off and brings aches to
bones and such. In my case my nose starts dripping when the temp goes below 70
(21C). I’ve been through some really cold times in my life, and actively sought
out the cold when I was younger, but today I’d much rather be hot. Here where I
Lots of people live where high temperatures are common so it’s just something you get used to. Since it was very dry – around 30% humidity – while I was out during those temps, I’d be walking in the sun and barely able to work up a sweat... I’d sweat and it would almost instantly dry.
Well, sure there are people who really can’t handle it, but mostly it’s only laziness, a need to never feel discomfited. Tough luck, it’s only going to get hotter. On the other hand some of my fogey friends who keep their air-cons at chill temperatures are full of ailments. Sunset years, beset with lots of infirmities? Why then shouldn’t you be entitled to be as comfortable as you like? Then again, why spend money and use energy to make it freezing inside when it’s perfectly comfortable outside? Okay I’m exaggerating, but that’s how it felt to me.
All that is only to say I believe I owe my (relatively) sprightly condition at 81 at least partly to not letting those kinds of things affect me. Heat, or in my younger days cold, is not going to stop me from my goals and I just keep plugging away; no matter how tired I am I keep plodding, trudging along. I find it difficult to rest until I reach my destination. It isn’t just will. Stamina doesn’t come without effort and consciousness. Karma also helps: I’m blessed with a strong constitution, but by itself that wouldn’t do it if I didn’t also exercise and eat healthy.
A lot of it is attitude. If you know it’s healthy food and you care about health, you grow to like it. You don’t bemoan having to walk a little, you look at it as an opportunity. If it’s hot, what the hell, get out there, extend yourself, carry on your life, see what you can do. Don’t go overboard, just put in a little effort.
Okay, that’s enough lecturing and moralizing for today.
I arrived in
My plane to
My original plan was a
couple nights in
First stop the inner burbs
Like quite a few of my
friends who became parents in
But keeping the kids in
He and his wife both hate living in the US and since he does all of his work online he could technically do it anywhere… except working hours in the US is 8pm to 5am in Cambodia, making for a strange schedule.
He has a Tesla, so I got a chance to ride around in it quite a bit. It’s a fine vehicle, though I understand there are technical/computer type problems with windows and peripheral stuff. As for the mechanics, drive and power, it’s superior. You’re on the freeway going 60mph and you want to pass another vehicle, you hit the accelerator and almost instantly, it seems, you’re there… it was incredibly fast and seamless with no downshifting, no engine roar. I was really impressed.
The car has a monitor with a touchscreen that includes a map which can take you down to individual buildings and up to the whole state and country. It’s impossible to get lost: Where’s the fun in that? In fact getting lost and dealing with other inconveniences because of lack of a telephone on the trip makes me think I really have to get a smartphone before my next one. But we’ll see, I’ve held off so far.
After two very pleasant
days I’m off to
Family’s important, but my
life is in
No problem with my siblings and never has been, we get along fine. We mostly hung around my sister’s house, but we did make a couple of excursions; one to a natural history museum that had a full size mammoth on display, another to a large public garden, which was very cool.
We reminisced, told stories, looked at old pics, took it easy. On a previous visit, my brother-in-law asked, Wouldn’t you like to live here? Well, the burbs have their peace and lots of trees and such, but I responded, No Way, if I lived in this area I’d be in the center city where there are shops and bars, people on the streets and public transportation. The burbs have always represented the worst of both worlds to me; it’s green and far from the city, but it’s nothing like country living where you can really experience a bit of the natural world. It’s close enough to take advantage of the city’s culture, but far enough that it’s a chore and excursion every time you go. There’s nothing pleasant about driving, it’s tense and stressful, something you have to do. People drive fast for that reason, you just want to get it over with. You can’t go anywhere or do anything without getting in your car. Also where my sister lives it’s on a steep hill so not even conducive for cycling. The only time driving is enjoyable is when you’re out for a leisurely drive in the countryside on a peaceful, uncrowded highway.
One thing I did was get a checkup, free under Obamacare rules. Everything was fine except for an elevated number connected to possible prostate problems (and hypertension which I was already aware of). I was told enlarged prostate or cancer. As per Wiki, enlargement is very common among older men and doesn’t come from malignancy. Therefore according to the description in Wiki my take was that the only time you’d want or need to do anything about it, drugs or surgery, is if it interferes with urination. Before then it’s only an inconvenience, like having to pee often. As for cancer: according to Wiki that elevated number has nothing to do with cancer, further the only way to know is a biopsy which involves sticking a device up your urethra that hacks off pieces of the prostate for testing. The only way that could ever happen is back there, otherwise it’d probably cost bigly. Going back there won’t happen for at least a couple years, so I’m just going to live with it for now.
Another goal was to find a
pair of quality sandals at a second hand store, but didn’t see a single pair in
two stores in two cities. I only wore sandals on the trip, but had to wear
socks since the cheap sandals I got here in Cambo were rubbing my feet the wrong
way. Fact is the only time I wear shoes in
Another goal was basic
boxer shorts underwear. It took three big stores to find them in my size which
is very common, and it wasn’t even the everyday brand I preferred. Meanwhile a
thing called boxer briefs were plentiful. They’re just briefs with long legs,
nothing boxer about them. Is there some nefarious conspiracy to force men to
wear those misnomered undies? Thinking about it I probably could’ve found
Hanes/Fruit of the Loom type boxers in one of the malls in
I managed to find rain gauges, to replace the one I brought here 8 years ago which was so clouded with age I could barely see through it anymore and in case other people wanted one.
It was a great visit, I’m lucky to have such a good hearted family.
The original plan was to
spend a week at my daughter’s house at the south end of the big
I’ve been driving in
Only to say that driving in
However, Cambo mode did not
go down very well with my daughter and resolutely didn’t go down well with my
son-in-law so the first thing I did on my return to
Fascinating how eyes work; I can see that tree far in the distance, but sometimes I won’t recognize a friend from only 10 meters away until I see a gesture I know. I can clearly see a street sign from a block away, but I can’t read it till I’m up close. I believe it has to do at least partly with an infection I got in my right eye when I went unconscious with pneumonia. It was very strange in the beginning; In my hospital bed I’d be looking at a light on the wall and slowly the image would split into two and the right image would drift off up to a meter away from the left which remained focused. My right eye was never the same. I didn’t think about it, but I might’ve been able to pass the test with my right eye closed.
Well If I wanted a license I had to get an eye doctor to sign off that I was okay to drive, but It was too late to make an appointment, I only had two days before my flight. Son-in-law was adamant, I couldn’t come without a license. What about borrowing a bicycle, I ask. Too steep there daughter says, nobody has a bicycle. It wouldn’t make sense to go there if walking was as far as I could get.
Well daughter, hate to tell
you this but I don’t have the money to buy a new ticket.. about $1100 one way
But then I thought,
At first It seemed like I
might be able to find a cheap place to stay for a night. There was a place
advertised for $70 night in
My flight out of MN left at 6AM,
Arrived in HNL at about 8pm
and found concrete benches to crash on. I wasn’t the only sleepover traveler. An
airport cop came by and directed me to a spot where he had herded the other
sleepovers. To keep an eye on us and get our information. Sleeping on a very
hard surface is a challenge for almost anybody, let alone an old geezer, but I
managed. A thick garden kneeling pad I’d picked up in
At about 6AM I saw people carrying take out coffee cups. I hadn’t noticed anything like that in my earlier wanderings so at first I thought they might be bringing them from outside, but then I figured I had to check it out. And there it was, a big chain coffee spot. (I’m not mentioning names since the billionaire bastard owner is a sleazy side, cheap action, union fighter.) The cheapest selection of fresh coffee; $5 with taxes. I don’t understand why airports insist on passengers having to pay exorbitant prices for everything, how fair is that? Not everybody is flush. We’re stuck, we have no choice.
Allright, I was all perked
up with 5 hours before my flight and figured I’d take a bus to town just to
check it out. Very conveniently there was a bus that went to downtown and the popular
It was good enough observing
the scene, I really enjoyed riding that bus. You really get a cross section of
people riding public transportation. The cross section is predominantly the
lower half of society but it still gives a window into the place’s vibrations.
It wasn’t much time but I really did appreciate the experience and at least I
can say I was in
Time to check in to my next
to last flight. I get to the counter and the woman says I need an onward ticket
before they will let me on the plane. The
In the end result, I lucked out. It was a big plane, maybe 500 seats and all were filled except for around 15 or so way in the back, but I got 4 in a row… Wowee-Zowie! Compensating somewhat for the previous night’s hard sleep. The flight attendants said in the beginning that people should stay in their assigned seats and they did. I would’ve gladly shared.
All in all, five flights, 54 hours in transit and I’m home! Well, not quite, I still had to take a bus the next day to Kampot, about a three hour ride.
Before I go a few words
about buying tickets through Kayak and the other cheap web sites. Twice I found
cheap tickets that met my needs only to be hit with a price hike after starting
the booking process. Both times they were still competitive even after adding
the extra $100 bucks or so to the advertised price. Another time I followed up
on a cheap ticket only to find it didn’t include a check in bag, which was
another $120 added to the cost. Speaking of backpacks, mine was small enough to
be considered carry on, so on the commuter flight to
It was a good trip in spite of glitches from beginning to end and if I can swing it, I’ll go back in a couple years. Meanwhile I’m so glad to be home.