After 48 days on the road I finally set my sights on the Pacific Ocean.

Sunny SoCal. Sunny wildfire filled, smoky SoCal. Fully of happy associations and a reunion with my sister, brother-in-law and canine niece and nephew.

Let the West Coast tour begin.

view of the pacific ocean from the train


Trip so far in numbers:

  • 49 Days
  • 8 trains
  • 7 cars
  • 4 buses
  • 3 planes
  • 1 sailboat
  • 21 states + DC

Reluctantly bidding a fond farewell to Chicago, (which will always be home no matter where I live), I headed to Rapid City, South Dakota by way of Dallas, Texas. On the first leg I was hit by inspiration and scratched out a short story from start to finish. The second leg saw the first time I’ve ever felt claustrophobic on a plane. Thankfully I was distracted by conversation with a nice man who filled me in on SoDak in a very diplomatic way. As we were prepared to disembark I noticed his luggage tag identified him as a state representative, which, in the world I used to live in as a writer for Ballotpedia, makes him a celebrity. I double checked him on BP and not only was he for real, but I had created his page on the site back in 2009.

rapid city airport

The difference between Chicago and South Dakota became evident immediately at the airport where it was all but shut down by 8 pm. My old friend Joe picked me up and it was the first time we met in some 7 or 8 years. We’ve been on somewhat similar paths, namely politics, Buddhism, and fiction writing, which led to great late night conversation. It also led to inspiration on the fiction front and a drive to be creative, as well as anxiety over the future as my 80 day trip hit the halfway point. To that end, after a sleepless night I spent some 8+ straight hours revising my novel and finished it completely (at least for now). Took over 5 years but it’s done and now I can die happy.

Joe led me on a whirlwind tour from Rapid City to Yellowstone in the course of a weekend, with overnight stops in Gillette and Casper, where I was as out of place as I am in Alabama, if not more so. As we sat in a bar in Casper inside a hotel that Buffalo Bill Cody built, surrounded by genuine cowboys and surly cowgirl bartenders, Joe pointed out a guy packing an actual six shooter hanging from a holster on his belt and I laughed at the absurdity of it all as I tried to choke down my Wyoming whiskey, which, for lack of a better word was – ahem – harsh.

Once we got back to SoDak I took a day to recover before going with Joe down to an Indian reservation to interview a member of the local school board. The reservation has an unemployment rate of over 90 percent, which is just unimaginable. We also stopped at Wounded Knee, where, walking around the mass grave, all I could hear in my head was women screaming and children crying. The day became ever more surreal when we got back and his roommate gave me a lesson in LARP battling, which led to us outside with foam swords and a shield with a chicken on it.

I have yet to digest everything we did and am sure I left stuff out but that can be for a post later down the line. What I did for certain, however, is made a plan for the future and ate way to many Chex.

Red Rocks, CO
Red Rocks, CO

Joe (godblesshim) drove me down to Denver a long, long 7 hours for the next leg of my trip. I only had one day there but packed it full, going to Red Rocks, attempting to go to a local Whiskey distillery (and failing), and trying to go to a dive bar (and failing when my phone sent me to a place actually called The Dive Bar), and ended it with drinks and karaoke at a place called The Castle with another wonderful old friend.

And from there a 30 hour adventure to San Diego. Buses and breakdowns and trains and tea and the beautiful landscape passing by, inspiring new stories and bringing up wonderful memories.

Empty bus seats
Time for moving on.