As we pulled into the station at Cary, North Carolina, the Amtrak conductor was walking the aisle, whistling an epic version of The Final Countdown. What better possible way to end my first ever Amtrak ride? I left Orlando at 730 at night, rode some 13 hours, arriving at Cary around eight the next morning. I couldn’t get comfortable and barely slept but the time went quickly. Maybe it was the excitement or “newness” of it all. Maybe it was the mindset of being prepared to settle in and let what may happen happen. Whatever the reason, my first Amtrak experience was great. Not one problem.

Watching the sunrise over the North Carolina countryside, with the Dr. Who soundtrack in my ears made for an epic (albeit nerdy) start to the day. Plus, I was randomly assigned next to a guy who turned out to be a comic artist and we bonded over our respective artistic ventures. (Check out his stuff here and follow him on Twitter here).

Speaking of which, I haven’t been doing nearly as many posts about this trip as planned as what time I’ve had to write has mostly gone towards my novel. I scribbled out a good number of pages on the train and still need to type them up. Currently the rough draft stands at 81,974 words.

I left Orlando after spending nearly a week there. It ended up being the perfect amount of time and to my hosts I once again need to extend my thanks. It was lovely.

My last morning in Orlando I have woken early and went for a walk, as I had done most days.  On my way back to the apartment I glanced at the parking lot and noticed that my friend’s car, which he had let me borrow the night before, was missing, along with many other cars. It was then I remembered that they had warned me that portion of the parking lot was going to be resurfaced and any and all cars there would be towed. Having a minor freak out not knowing where the car was, I ran up to the apartment to grab my wallet as I figured I would have to pay to get it back. After 10 minutes of frantic searching I was unable to find my wallet, leading me to further stress out. I tossed my passport and some cash in my pocket and ran to the front office. My friends were still asleep and I figured it would be best if I could rectify the situation before they caught wind of it. Turned out the car had only been moved to another place within the complex and I heaved a sigh of relief. Where was exactly, however, was not clear, leading me to wander quickly around finally finding it 20 minutes later, soaking in sweat from the Florida sun. Running back once again to the apartment I found my wallet laying there as it always had been, but I had simply passed over. Crisis averted. Phew.

Orlando apartment complex
Courtyard of the apartment complex where I stayed

Otherwise, my entire time in Orlando was fantastic. Like some relationships in my life, Orlando and I simply work better when we see each other for short periods at a time. Trying to live together was simply a mistake, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t love one another.

I want to say thank you to all the friends who made my this trip there wonderful, namely Jeremy, Kitty, Michael, Jeff, Sara, Dana, John, Alex, Bob, and all the fine folks at Port Orleans who welcomed me back with open arms and had nothing but wonderful things to say about the memory of my father.

Ethos Vegan Kitchen
Ethos Vegan Kitchen, my favorite restaurant in Orlando.

For my last night there, I met up with old friends, all of whom I knew from working at Chamberlins, a small health food store.  We ended up sitting in the back of a pickup truck in the parking lot of Bar Louie for some time, just enjoying the beautiful night. Felt just like high school, but without all the unnecessary angst. We were going to go somewhere else for drinks but after everyone else had already left on their way, I was unable to get the car I borrowed to shift out of park. They came back to rescue me and, with our powers combined, we managed to figure out what was needed (at least so that I could make it home).

With that debacle, and as it was getting late, we ended up in Bar Louie for one drink to laugh about the situation. It was pretty much indicative of the kind of absurdly wonderful situations I’ve gotten into with those people, They all mean a great deal to me and I’m happy to say I feel as close to them as ever.

Nothing but the best.
Nothing but the best.

I’m set to explore the wilds of North Carolina tonight and tomorrow and then it’s back on the Amtrak to head up to Baltimore. I’ve easily settled into this lifestyle of couch surfing as it were and younger me would be shocked to hear that. He was so riddled with overwhelming fears that this would’ve been unthinkable, something he only would’ve experienced through making up a story about it. Here’s to making things happen in real life and not just on looseleaf pages.

Cheers. (As I end this all I can hear in my head is Rick Steve’s closing line – “Keep on traveling!”)

 All packed up, onto the next stop!
All packed up, onto the next stop!
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