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An American trip: October and November 2008

An American trip: October and November 2008

During October and November of 2008, I took a month-long trip around the US of A. The main mode of transport was Amtrak train, and the trip tied in neatly with two conferences I was speaking at – one of which was in Chicago on the day Barack Obama was elected (and one heck of an evening that was). I did a lot of writing on that trip, thinking it was just a few people in the Outer Hebrides and a few friends and colleagues who were reading it – and not realising until recently that others were too, for various reasons. I’m relieved now I didn’t delete the words.

Since demolishing my blog and, essentially, restarting all of my online presence as new as I can, the diaries have gotten messed up, but they should be restored here as a set of 32 postings.

Don’t know which post was the “best”, but a few folk have said the Surviving New Orleans posting is their choice because of the tweeted engagement story in it. Mine is the Texas one, where I seem to have just lost inhibitions and fears and just … wrote.

Oct 18th – Los Angeles and Santa Monica

Oct 20th – Pictures, not words

Oct 21st – Sleepless in Monterey

Oct 23rd – Monterey aquarium

Pier from the sidewalk

Oct 25th – First overnight trip on Amtrak

Oct 25th – Breakfast in Seattle

Oct 26th – An afternoon in the mountains

Oct 26th – New York deli breakfast in Seattle

Oct 27th – Montana at dawn

Oct 28th – Whitefish, Montana

Oct 29th – Sign of the times

Samantha at Tucson station

Oct 29th – Election, American style

Oct 30th – Do bears…?

Oct 30th – Is black the new ginger?

Oct 30th – Election day events in Chicago

Nov 1st – Whitefish to Chicago by Amtrak

Nov 1st – GLLS2008 food

Nov 2nd – American time, British time, Obama time

Nov 4th – Chicago on election day

Walkway

Nov 4th – Outside, it’s America

Nov 5th – “Oh, you look so beautiful, tonight…”

Nov 5th – The morning after

Nov 6th – In America, academics knit

Nov 7th – Goodbye Chicago

Nov 8th – Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee

Nov 8th – Memphis, and the ride to New Orleans

Nov 10th – New Orleans (1)

He won

Nov 10th – New Orleans (2)

Nov 12th – Surviving New Orleans

Nov 13th – Texas: a thousand miles of bugger-all

Nov 13th – The American Dream

Nov 16th – Trip summary

There’s also a set of pictures on Flickr, some of which are embedded in the postings anyway.

Los Angeles and Santa Monica

Los Angeles and Santa Monica

It’s morning, and around 80 degrees. The eight lanes of traffic on the road outside are getting heavy. A mile or so away, jumbo jets are queuing up to take off, on their way to Japan, China, Europe and Australia. The view from the window:

Waking up in LA

As you may have guessed, I’m not in Berneray. Instead, I’m in an airport hotel in Los Angeles, California (Is that last bit necessary? Does anyone *not* know where LA is?). It’s about a week into the trip away, though it seems a very long time ago now since Shonnie Alick dropped me off at Benbecula airport. Yesterday and today are jetlag recovery days. As it’s my first trip abroad as a middle-aged bloke, and as jetlag has hit me hard on the last two US trips, am in chill-out mode for a while. Especially after the 11 hour flight here, though that wasn’t too bad. Heathrow Terminal Five was modern and relaxing, though the range of things to do was a little disappointing. The flight itself was pretty good; some spectacular views of Greenland (below), Canada, the Rockies, the vast midwest desert and Las Vegas

Greenland

That Asus EEE is also damned useful in small spaces; I knocked off a whole presentation and about half of a paper in the seven hours of battery power (yay for solid state memory).

Working at 32,000 feet

LAX wasn’t too bad this time, and I was out of there within an hour of the flight getting in. Non-US arrivals are thoroughly checked; passports are scrutinised (not just checked) on three occasions. Two fingerprints and a picture are taken. The questioning can be detailed; I was worried for a few moments that my reply to “Why are you here?” of “To encourage librarians to use Nintendo Wii’s in their libraries” (which it is) may have misconstrued as taking the mick, but they let me through. Today, like yesterday, I’m off to Santa Monica. Last evening was shopping and pier time; today will be beach time, a swim in the Pacific (surely warmer than the sea off the Uists, though probably not as clean), and possibly a trip to the Getty Center.

Pier from the sidewalk

I’m travelling by Amtrak to get around the US on this trip. This’ll be an interesting experience, and it started yesterday when making the first reservations in the fabulous Union Station in central LA. Amtrak, oddly, seems to operate more like an airline (used to) than airlines do now. They advise you to arrive 90 minutes before, check in your baggage, and do other bits of admin before getting on the train. Tomorrows trip is a mere 8 hours (so no overnights) from LA to Salinas, after which I’ll make my way to Monterey where I’m presenting in a few days time.

Pacific

Logistically, so far so good. Sensibly, US hotels often have laundry rooms, so I’m pretty up to date with clean clothes, supplemented by cheap purchases in the UK (Primark) and the US (Gap). And so, with just laptop, camera and towel packed, it’s off to the beach…