I had to apologise to Portland on my last day there for being so grumpy at it the day before. I walked to Paradox Cafe in the relatively early morning, and I saw cats and squirrels and adorable little overgrown gardens, and I had to admit that it was quite nice after all. Or at least, before the trendy hour at which the hipsters get out of bed.
I couldn't find the weird cat when I left my host's house for the station. It wasn't behind the stove, and wherever else it was, it was being there very quietly. I haven't heard from Veronica yet, so I'm going to assume she doesn't blame me for losing stove cat and everything is fine.
But you know what's not fine? RACISM.
(I'm good at segues.)
While waiting at the very beautiful old station in Portland, an apparently friendly woman sat down next to me and started talking, as people seem to do in this country of friendly strangers who make eye contact. She seemed shocked that I was travelling alone (I explained that I was 23, but it didn't make a difference), and we chatted about England, and everything seemed fine until she said "All those Arabs over there not bothering you?"
And I said "... What?"
And then I realised that she had said exactly that. Better still, she went on to talk about "those Muslims", and how they're always fighting each other over there, and they shouldn't come into her country and try and impose sharia law. Luckily it was a day on which my words were working. Once I got over the shock of meeting such a casual bona fide racist, I mentioned the joys of multiculturalism, the many and various ways people kill one another over here, and the much more pressing and real threat presented by Christian fundamentalism, and was relieved when I wasn't seated next to her on the train.
GOOD DAY, MADAM. (is something I did not but conceivably could have said.)
So, 20 hour train ride! It was actually way better than I'd expected. Despite their ridiculous and inefficient reservation and boarding system, I was pleasantly surprised by the Amtrak train. It was double decker! And had great big reclining seats! And mine was not near the casual racist!
There were also some amusing instructions, including not walking around without shoes, and watching our language because it was a "family train". Which was ironic, because what tempted me most to use grown up words were two-year-old Riley and its mother, because the former seemed incapable of obeying any instructions relating to sociable behaviour, and the latter saw fit to let the former play with a noisy toy train ON AN ACTUAL OVERNIGHT TRAIN.
I thought I might compose a poem to Riley to pass the time, but of course my artistic freedom was restrained by the "family train" rule, so instead I put in my headphones and muttered passive aggressively for all those portions of the journey in which I was awake.
But I made it to California, and Bri met me at the station. I have since moved into her house and been excellently fed by her mom and jumped on by her small dogs. In the evening we went to an authentic British pub, which was of course an enriching cultural experience, and Bri and I teamed up against her brother and his wife at darts, and we were awesome.
|We hit all the things.|
|Team England and Team Korea.|
|In search of adventure. And big trees!|
|Finding adventure, but only a small tree.|
|Fording the stream! It was surprisingly cold.|
|And surprisingly deep.|
|This is a bridge, not a tree. But we do like trees.|
|Mr Grumpy Tree Face.|
|We like trees.|
|And then we walk through Ukraine to Russia... Then we take a cruise to Wales... (Source)|