62 days on the road. Over two months. 62 wonderful, exciting, exhausting, disorienting days, with 18 left to go.

Fuzzy orange flowers in San Diego

The trip so far:

  • 62 Days
  • 10 trains
  • 9 cars
  • 6 buses
  • 3 planes
  • 1 sailboat
  • 21 states + DC

Since leaving Rapid City I’ve been inspired to get focused on making something happen with my fiction. For this I credit Joe, whom I stayed with there and had some of the best conversations of the entire trip, and my overwhelming anxiety over what the hell is going to happen when this trip is over. Such concerns are in no way new, but simply ever-growing at the end of each day as the future after this break with all things known comes to an end.

Writing, putting together pieces, revising pieces, endlessly looking through literary journals for ones accepting fiction within the # of words that my works fall, and ones that don’t charge to submit a piece. $2-3 each time you submit a piece to a journal, without any likelihood of it actually seeing the light of publication, adds up, especially when you’ve been unemployed for over 5 months. And so after weeding out many for various reasons, I’ve compiled a spreadsheet of 86 potential journals. Now to make the time to sit down and send ’em out.

But that’s the boring stuff.

Me and a giant hot dog

I immediately settled back into San Diego. The first time I came out here to see my sister was in 2001 with my parents. I didn’t return until 2010, when I drove with my cat from Chicago to the coast. Since then I’ve come back a few times. I had planned to settle here in 2011, but my father got sick and that was that, taking me to Florida despite any plans I may have previously had. Thus I have not, for the most part, run around doing tourist stuff, but simply enjoyed what it would be like to actually live here. Forget that, I am actually living here, for now. Simple things such as being able to walk to the farmer’s market in Little Italy makes me happy and I smiled the whole time I was there.

Alongside that I’ve been playing with my canine niece and nephew, hung out in Balboa Park, including the Japanese friendship garden, visited the pandas at the zoo (my #1 animal. What other animal designed as a carnivore decided somewhere along the way to turn herbivore?), walked around the historic Coronado hotel and gone to the beach. Had delicious vegan/gluten-free food at Native Foods, Plumeria, and Paradise Yogurt, as well as others. My friend Will made the drive down to see a baseball game, where my beloved Cubbies just happened to be in town to take on the Padres. And they actually won. (Sure, they’re still in last place, but Cubbies never say die).

Happiness at the waterfront

After a week and a half or so here I jumped back on the Amtrak to head north to San Francisco. I’d planned on staying in LA for a few days first, but unfortunately it didn’t work out this time. No, it was straight on to SF, to see my childhood best friend and meet his fiance. We hadn’t spoken much the last few years so I scheduled it only for two full days, in the hopes that it would be short but sweet rather than drawn out and miserable.

I jumped on the train here at 6 in the morning after stopping at 7-11 to feed an energy drink habit I picked up in South Dakota. The carbonation and caffeine surging through my body, plus not sleeping much the night before, made the scene that much more surreal when I found myself surrounded on the train by a group of German speaking Quakers. The man who appeared to be the leader looked the stereotype seen in all the movies, the older man with a large grey beard and wire-rimmed glasses. Then he pulled out a 2 liter of soda and started chugging. As all good adventures begin.

Los Angeles Union Station
Los Angeles Union Station

In LA I grabbed a quick bite before hopping on the Coast Starlight that would take me to Oakland, where I’d have to then grab a bus to finally get to SF. After some confusion with the seats, I found myself next to a middle-aged math teacher from a community college I used to leave nearby in Chicagoland. He was a bit toooo friendly, and the 11 hour or so trip was awkward at best. Doing my best to thwart his advances without making the situation any worse than it already was, I bounced around the club car in the hopes (the same hopes I always have) of meeting and talking to a pretty girl. No dice.

On the rails to San Francisco
On the rails to San Francisco

My new friend was headed all the way to SF too, so he, as promised, “took me under his wing” to make sure I got on the right bus in Oakland and off at the right stop, peppering the conversation with way, way too many fun facts along the way. When I stepped into my friend’s car and the ordeal finally ended, I let out a sigh of relief that’s normally reserved for after a good pee.

And so San Francisco.

My friend having to work, I spent the day walking around a huge chunk of the city, overwhelmed and overexcited at the prospect of an entirely new and historic city to explore. The only thing actually on my list was to go to City Lights Bookstore, made famous during the Beat Era. Next to it was Jack Kerouac alley, and numerous other places related to the beats. I sat in Caffe Trieste, drinking my coffee that I was 10 cents short on but given anyway cause it’d be better than “throwing away perfectly good coffee.” Thanks. I felt good here, at home. I’ve never had that feeling the first time visiting a place. It was wonderful. From there to Chinatown for lunch and up to the Chinatown Library, stopping to catch my breath from the steep incline. Found clearance can wine in Cost Plus when searching for a bathroom and drank it walking through the crowds by the water. I laughed at the ships and they just stared back incredulously. Around the entire Fisherman’s Wharf, most of the time spend trying to escape from the tourism clusterf**k, through the hot sun, eventually hiding in the Ferry Building. Friend, dinner, talk, fun, escape, reconnect, catch up, sleep.

At City Lights Bookstore
At City Lights Bookstore
Jack Kerouac Alley
Jack Kerouac Alley

Day 2. Recover. Got excited when I saw the Louse Brooks Society on the map and went to investigate, but instead of finding, say, a museum dedicated to my favorite starlet of the silent era, there was nothing. Back. A patriotic energy drink that was the color of alien piss, box of cereal, box of greens and various snack foods. Surely that didn’t help things. Lay around, try to write, try to read, feel the city, wander. A reunion with another guy from grade school. Cider, wander, laugh, talk, sleep.

There’s little to say for the trip back down the coast other than it was the longest train ride of my life. Miserable and long and never ending. And once again seated next to a middle-aged white guy and no signs of Julie Delpy anywhere on the train. Return San Diego at 2am. Sleep and try to forget the ride ever happen.

And so another few days here then it’s my birthday, when I’ll be celebrating on the mainland, in the air, and, finally, in Hawaii. The non-continental United States awaits. Cheers~


Coffee, journal, sunglasses.
Get busy, kid.