My USA Daily Diary!

With this file, due to it's sheer size and content you would probably be best advised to try to get a print out of it if you can. Photographs assosiated with all of the places mentioned below will be made available to view and download as soon as I can (it takes time to scan in nearly 500 exposures!) although the final number will depend on the amount of quota space. I will try to reduce their loading time by using the FIF format, clickable thumb nails and clear labelling...

Tuesday 2nd April '96

I arrived at Kalamazoo Train/ Greyhound/ Indian Trails depot at 2:15PM then it took me thirty minutes to get myself the US Rail Pass because apparently mine was the first one that they've actually issued there! The pass was a fifteen day, continental rail card that meant that I could get unlimited rail travel (yipee!!) throughout the USA and set me back the huge sum of... $245! After that I booked a ticket on a Greyhound from Kalamazoo to New York's Penn Station ($71) and at 3:15PM left the station by Greyhound touting my new rail pass and pink bus slip.

We had to change busses in Detroit and promptly got searched by the DEA looking for and I quote: "drugs, knives and other weapons, and small nuclear attack submarines"!!? The only people that were really frisked, had their bags searched and everything else was a group of about twenty Amish people from Cleveland! I was sitting next to two self convicted armed robbers that had served five years in the Pen' so the first thing I heard from them other than that was "You don't want to go to New York." Despite the DEA search thorough as it was I later got offered a not-too-small selection of "quality merchandise" as it was described, even though to me it looked like a mix of sugar and flour with maybe a few side line drugs (I'm writing a novel on Drug Running hence my amateur knowledge on the subject) "cheap because you're my friend!" Ya right hoser. The guy trying to push them didn't get anywhere so took them himself and began mumbling african chants (that's what everyone thought they sounded like!) and wandering up and down the bus, and the fact that he was getting on for a good seven feet tall meant that everyone had atleast three eyes on him for the entire journey. Anyway so far so good and only another 14 days 9 hours 10 minutes to go! Trying to sleep on busses is like trying to find a cactus in the arctic! Impossible!

Wednesday 3rd April '96

Got into New York at 10:10AM, Penn Station then had to catch the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to Babylon Station (train station...) and then on to Bay Shore where I was met by Aaron Forstell and a friend of his, Sal. The first thing we did was go to the New York Mall - the third largest mall in the world and then onto EMS camping supplies because Aaron and Sal were due to leave that week for a few days hiking in North New York State. After a tour of most of the islands high spots we headed back to Aarons house and zoned out later that night after more revelry!

Thursday 4th April '96

Sal took Aaron and I into Babylon train station at 2PM and we took the LIRR then the subway to Battery Park and booked seats on the Battery Park Ferry ($7) for 2:30PM to go and see the Statue of Liberty and then on to Ellis Island where all the immigrants in the early 1900's had to go to be screened/ processed by the US Immigration authorities before they were allowed entry and citizenship into the USA. Now however the Island is pretty much just for tourists since times have moved on. The 'Crown Level' of the Statue of Liberty, Liberty Island was closed when we were there due to high winds and so forth but you could still go to the center observation deck, the queues were huge, we were low on time and you could see exactly the same view from the ground so we toured about the island mixing with all the other European tourists that were there in their gaudy sun glasses.

We took the 3:30PM ferry back to Battery Park and then headed off towards the Twin World Trade Center Towers that dominate the sky line in New York and I found myself being played pinball with by the New Yorkers because of the bag I was carrying (if you have bags they head FOR you not AROUND you! So some of the pedestrians ended up being bounced back by me as I began playing their game! To go up to the top of the Trade Center (Tower 2) cost $8 and that day visibility was 25 miles! In my estimation it's one of the best places to see just how large New York was - stretching from sky line to sky line (the other two being the Empire State Building and the Manhattan Building both of which are dwarfed by the Trade Center Towers). The Towers themselves are 1,350 feet tall and it's an odd experience to look out of a window on the Observation deck and see the other tower (Tower 1) right outside! New York had a hard bedrock base which is why the sky scrapers there are able to achieve great heights! There were probably more sky scrapers in that one city than there are in the whole of the UK and there's certainly nothing to compare with them in the UK!

At 6PM we headed back to the station by subway, said our farewells and I got onto the train for Baltimore! I got into Baltimore at 9PM and took a taxi to the Hyatt Hotel in the Old Harbour where I stayed the night and stayed there until Teresa and David Monke came round at about 10PM then we all went out to Club 4100, downtown where we stayed until it got early enough for us to leave!

Friday 5th April '96

I got up at 8:30AM and took the taxi back to Penn Station (Baltimore - there are alot of Penn Stations!) where I booked a seat on the train into Washington D.C. The temperature was 20 degrees Celcius and on that day there was 96% humidity - no clouds in sight! I arrived at Union Station in D.C. at around 10:30AM and headed for the Capitol Building (the building nearest to the station) and queued for about 30 minutes - I was expecting to pay to get in to see D.C.s sights but surprisingly about 99% of D.C. is FREE!! Again I didn't have that much time so I spent half an hour in the Capitol amd learnt that no other building in the state is allowed to be higher that about six stories because the Capitol should be higher than, and is, every other building there to display it's importance! I left the Capitol at about 12PM and headed for the Justice Building - the worlds largest white-marble-only building - very impressive, marble floors, cielings and walls all of which add together to portray it's importance. Washington is the worlds only city where the government buildings were designed to be the most dominant buildings in the city over and above all commercial and residential buildings and it pulls this trick off with ease. There's alot to see in D.C. and you could spend your entire vacation in the Smithsonian museums (there are 17 15 of which are in D.C. with the other two being located in NY) and National Library of Congress (said to have nearly every book ever printed) alone let alone going to see all the other sites there such as the Washington Memorial (the worlds largest free-standing monument), the White House, the Reflecting Pool of the Mall way, the Vietnam War Memorial, Lincon Memorial, National Archive building and many many others! I got back to Baltimore at 7PM then Dave, Teresa and I went out to the GM sea food restaurant.

Saturday 6th April '96

Had to be up and out for 7:30AM and at Penn station for the 8:43AM train to Dallas, Texas. Everything was going fine until we hit the highway then, where yesterday there had been nothing there were suddenly roadworks! My favourite quote was "%%* how the hell do we get round this lot!?" when the train was due to leave in five minutes... Interesting feeling because I HAD to get that train. As it happens I made it! With 3 seconds to spare and from then on it was a two and a half train haul to Dallas...

Sunday 7th April '96

The train pulled into Chicago at 1PM, by 1:50PM we had gotten into the concrete sided station. This was the first lay over of the journey so I stowed all my luggage in a nearby locker and made my way over to the Sear's Tower, the worlds tallest building standing at a height of 1,707 feet - there's no better way to see the city all at once - 108 floors and an elevator that elevated you to them in seven seconds, it was like riding a vertical express train. It cost $6.50 to get to the Observation Deck and this included a "100 reasons why you should move to Chicago" type video which lasted 15 minutes. The Tower, like the Twin World Trade Center Towers in New York was a mall, subway station - a community in itself. I had to leave by 4PM however to be able to get to the next connecting train to Dallas, The Texas Eagle on time so I got my bags from the lockers, paid the dues then waited... I did alot of that. It was delayed until 5:10PM - delays are normal on trains, next time I take the plane everywhere.

Monday 8th April '96

The train got into Dallas at 4:10PM, and as the doors opened on it I was blasted by the heat - a cool 35 degrees Celcius and it has to be said that Dallas had the best weather of the entire journey, if only it could be like that here in Bangor! No clouds, a warm westerly breeze and the glaring sun! Shelby Cain met me from the station after work at 6PM and we went round to one of his friend's flats then went out drinking at TGI Fridays. That used up a good few hours and we finally got into Plano at around 11PM that night. TGI Fridays made a welcome change from the hot dogs, M&Ms and Skittles that stocked the shelves of the Amtrak Diner car. Things just got better and better!

Tuesday 9th April '96

Shelby had to go to a company meeting in Midland so left early so I decided to take a taxi into Dallas to take a look around there - it was a 45 minute journey and I went into the Dallas World Aquarium and then up the Dallas Tower, next to Union Station where visibility was 30 miles. Dallas is alot larger than most people think and from this vantage point it was easy to see that. I booked a taxi cab for the next day, Wednesday to take me back to Union Station then went window gazing along the boulevards souvenir hunting. The Dallas Aquarium houses one of the most extensive collections of fish in the world ranging from amazonian fish to temperate fishes but because the interior was dark trying to get photos was neigh impossible without a flash - which you couldn't use because it would scare the fish (and hundreds of faces staring at them doesn't scare them!?). The Tower looks, from the outside like a huge golf ball on a tee but on the inside there was a revolving restaurant where I had lunch and then and Observation deck.

Wednesday 10th April '96

Shelby got back into town at 11AM and we went over to Arby's for lunch. When we got back to the appartment there was a message on the answer phone saying that the taxi that was supposed to collect me and take me to Union Station had crashed and so they wouldn't be able to collect me... that then meant a mad dash through the phone book and the bookers telling me "That's only fifteen notice! Sorry no cabs next time book in advance." I did! Finally though I did get a cab, so I left Plano at 12:30PM. The Iranian taxi cab driver picked up that I was a Brit straight off, afterall it wasn't hard... and he went on for the entire trip about how the British cheated the Jews out of the country by selling them a piece of religious sand after WWI and WWII, generally his entire topic of conversation revolved around british ethical issues and immigration visas. I thought that Israel was formed after a war in the Middle East but my history isn't up to much so I didn't contradict him - that and the fact I didn't want to be left on a highway. Forty five minutes of hell later we arrived! and I did a "There's my train!" impression and raced off - into the station but he didn't seem to suss that one. I felt lucky. The Train to Tuscon, Arizona left the station on time at 3:15PM.

Thursday 11th April '96

The train arrived three hours late! in Tuscon, and the air was warm and humid but still it was still light. Tuscon doesn't observe daylight savings time so it was chaos with the watches again. I was met at the station by Paula and Charlie and then we went to this great little place that served great tortias! By this time I was really beginning to hate railway food so after that we went out to an all night mall and I stocked up food for the return train journey - something I should have done before!

Friday 12th April '96

There isn't that much to see tourist wise around Tuscon save desert, and all their host of venemous spiders, snakes, bugs and insects so we went into Sabino Canyon, about a 30 minute drive from where I was staying. The air was hot and dry and heck was there static in the air - EVERYTHING hissed and crackled when you touched it - I've never had my hair stand on end before but the Tuscon air managed it every time! Sabino Canyon is a National Nature Reserve so is still pretty much in it's natural state which is excellent! It made the perfect hiking country - loose, dry scree, cacti everywhere so if you tripped you'd be forever picking spines out of sensitive areas and perfect weather. When I go again I'm aiming to go hiking proper as opposed to the trekking about that we did there. All said though it was very different from anything I've ever seen - not that many cacti in the UK save in the garden centers. When we got back home later that night I made the supper - Shepard's Pie, pancakes and Raspberry Merangue among other things and it seemed to go down rather well... so much so they wanted the recipies.

Saturday 13th April '96

I took the 9:25AM train out from Tuscon to Chicago but it turned out to be the 9:50AM train because it was, again, late. I remet Melissa Baird on the train - we had met on the train from Chicago to Dallas and talked for two days straight... it would turn out we would do the same again on the way back - four days of talking on a TRAIN!!? That has to say something - she's a fantastic girl (she's 20) and we ended up exchanging addresses although saying that I did get five people's addresses while on the train but hers was the best one. Don't ask me whet we talked about there's way too much even for these pages! Later that night at around 1AM (yes I was awake still) the USA Border Patrol came throught the train looking for luggageless mexicans - they found four who were arrested on the spot, and curiously the mexicans didn't say anything, just accepted they'd been caught which made them look more guilty.

Sunday 14th April '96

Spent allllll day on the train talking with Melissa! (She did talk back aswell...)

Monday 15th April '96

I arrived back in Chicago at 1:30PM then had to head straight back out on a train for Detroit, again Melissa's train aswell - coincidence!? I arrived back in Kalamazoo at 5:45PM then packed my bags and re checkedtrain times to Indianapolis for the following day.

Tuesday 16th April '96

I spent the morning and most of the afternoon looking around Michigan by bus - first heading out of Kalamazoo and then touring it by foot later on in the afternoon. The train for Chicago and then to Indianapolis was on time at 5:02PM and left without a hitch. I got into Chicago again at 6PM Chicago time and then headed back out at 8PM on another delayed train for Indianapolis. This was the shortest train journey of my entire trip, so it was typical then that this is when someone nicked my camera... luckily it was the cheapy Olympus camera as opposed to my Nikon so it wasn't mourned that much and neither was the film because that was a free film so had trashy photos on it.

Wednesday 17th April '96

I was collected from Indianapolis train station at 12:50AM by Stephanie and Deb Staggs and their mom - we took the scenic route back to Muncie not that anyone knew WHICH route we were taking - let's just say I know Indianapolis now because we went round in circles for long enough while there!

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