I've been in Seattle for nearly 3 weeks. On Saturday, I'll pack my bicycle in a box and fly the furthest north I've ever been--to Alaska.
After I left Dexter, I took a 4 hour train north to it's big sister city: Portland. From San Francisco to Eugene, Portland to Seattle, and--soon--Vancouver, there's pretty much one dominating theme: homelessness & gentrification.
In Portland there's a joke that you don't meet anyone actually from Portland anymore. And it's true. I met folks born in Portland only in Eugene & Seattle, and they had a wealth of knowledge to share.
From the half-dozen cranes stacking gross luxury apartment complexes in Portland's Pearl District to a new-age/city-integrated sprawl of Amazon's office towers that blight Capitol Hill in Seattle, big tech companies have drastically changed these cities. And if you pack a bowl at the ever-growing tent cities that form in clusters under nearly every bridge in these Pacific Northwest cities, you'll learn how these "developments" aren't helping its people.
I never saw someone sitting in a public space tied-off, needle-in-arm, searching for their vein on the metro in Santiago (as I did in San Franciso's Civic Center BART station).
I just spent 2 weeks living in an intentional community in the forest ~20 miles outside Eugene, OR. This is my first time in Oregon. My-oh-my, is it beautiful! Just a bit cold & wet for my tastes (welcome to the Pacific Northwest!). I give massive cred to the crusties living on the streets here. How do they ever dry their clothes?
I spent a wonderful week with a new friend in Sacramento. I was surprised how much I enjoyed Sacramento. The weather was great, the dumpsters were full of gifts (two unopened 4-packs of Pilsner Urquell?!?), and the streets were easy to navigate by bicycle. Coworking offices were pretty ridiculous ($192/day are you mad?!?), but fortunately I was able to work from home.
I was just finishing dinner, planning to see a friend play a folk punk show in Sac when my friend in Eugene asked what time I'd arrive tomorrow. Looks like my calendar was off-by-one day; my train leaves in a few hours. Whoops! I made a call to a friend, packed my stuff, rode-off to amtrak, and quickly boxed my bicycle. When I awoke on the train the next morning, I was crossing a gorgeous lake via causeway with snow-capped mountains in the distance. Everything was green, and--as we climbed in elevation through the cascades--there was snow on the ground.
My 46-hour train ride from New Orleans (through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, & California) finally arrives at Union Station LAX at 06:00.
I paid my respects to Mahatma Gandhi whoose ashes...are located in a sarcophagus in Santa Monica.
After spending an hour wandering through the massive station, I finally find my bicycle behind an Amtrak employees-only locked door. I present my luggage claim ticket, slide my bicycle out of the box, reassemble it, and load my panniers on. By 07:00, the February sun is high & warm in LA, and I'm happily rolling through the streets. I don't bother to check a map. I'm headed to Santa Monica; a compass indicating "west" is all I need.
After passing through chinatown, I wheel into the first grocery store I find for breakfast, which turns out to be in Echo Park. This is home to PETA's headquarters, where one of my college friends lives & works. We meet for tea, catch up, hit up a couple thrift stores, and I head back down hill.
I biked through Hollywood. This reminds me of Times Square, but it was interesting to see. Then I rode through Beverly Hills. And finally, Santa Monica.
LA is a massive city. Even though it was down-hill, it took me far longer than expected. It was a fun ride, and my friends were relieved when I showed up (mostly) unscathed. I took a long-needed shower, and enjoyed a bowl of their delicious vegan curry 😀
The following weekend I paid my respects to Mahatma Gandhi whoose ashes--little known fact--are located in a sarcophagus in Santa Monic
I'm on a train pulling into New Orleans on Mardi Gras, and the conductor informs us that the streets will be so grid-lock with traffic from the Endymion parade that we won't be able to leave the Amtrak station.
3 hours later, I manage to traverse the 10 miles down-river to the lower 9th ward, where I'm pitching my tent for $15 a day, less than a football field away from the levy that broke in 2005. When I unlatch the front gate and enter, I find a maze of a few dozen tents and a mix of mostly dirty, white travelers in their late 20s. In the middle is an unfinished, 3-story structure. Many long-timers here are doing a work-exchange building it. Much of the wood was dumpstered, needing nails removed.
After settling into my new tent city, I roll my fully-loaded bicycle into the grocery store and start hunting for nuts & bread. I fill my water bottle & go to checkout. The cashier is wearing a white fetish in the shape of a penis around her neck; I suppose it's a whistle.
a hand pops up from the ground...and apparently there's 2 bodies in there. I notice a roll of colorful condoms on the road a few feet from their discrete sex hole, and we leave them to their business.
Around 9, I roll out of my tent to the community around the wood fire. Someone asked about my bike, and I claim ownership, but inform him (S) that I came in via Amtrak. He tells me of his journey bikepacking through SE Asia & China, and---after preparing some food and a visit to the compost toilet, we bike together towards the French Quarter.
The route we took was different than how I came the night before, and probably safer too. After crossing the draw-bridge over the industrial canal, we dash down a grassy hill. A man sleeping by the tracks at the bottom of the hill asks if we have a lighter; we don't.
We meet the street at its dead end, and my new friend from Montreal goes to investigate a bicycle unattended by the road. Alarmingly, a hand pops up from the ground, and I can see the matted hair of someone hiding in shallow drainage ditch. It's broad-daylight, and apparently there's 2 bodies in there. I notice a roll of colorful condoms on the road a few feet from their discrete sex hole, and we leave them to their business.
When we get to Canal St, I part ways with my riding partners. I want to go checkout my cowork office at Lafayette Square; they want to sneak onto a cruise ship.
Mardi Gras itself was crazy. Indeed, I'd never been to carnival before. I had come ill-prepared without a costume, but there was so much waste cluttering the streets that I was able to decorate myself sufficiently before the sun set.