Final Reservations

I waited until this morning to see whether anything else popped up, but the decision had really become clear last night.

I have just got the last tickets on my pass with a lot of help from the excellent ticketing staff at Union Station, Washington.

This is how it’s going to go:  

I’m going to spend one last night on a train tonight – I leave DC at 10pm and get into Boston Back Bay about 8am then I dash across town to get from Boston North to Portland, ME leaving at 9.05 and then a bus from Portland to Belfast where I hope to get bear-hugged by Mr Neal Foley.

I’ve been promised a bed, lobstah (!) and good clean living – yay!

I’ll be there all through Tuesday and leave at 8am Wednesday morning, back through Boston to New York, arriving at Penn Station at 9.50pm (subject to the usual disclaimers)

So what needs sorting now is what to do in NYC from 9.50pm Wednesday until whatever time I need to leave to get a flight from JFK at 7.30pm Thursday.  Fill me up folks!  Who to stay with?  Who to meet on Thursday? Whether to do anything Wednesday after I arrive – city that never sleeps right?

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

So Tired

Reaching the end, I’m realising how tired I am.  In comes in a few forms:

1.  Ineffective sleep.  Last year I thought it was bad with a 14-hour overnight from DC to Atlanta and the 32-hour marathon from Austin to LA.  So of course I’ve pushed it even further this time.  I’ve spent 7 of the past 25 nights sleeping in a coach seat (I think… my counting abilities may be suffering) – yeah, none of the journeys I’ve done have come without an overnight.  That’s after an 11-hour flight during which I only got an hour or two.  The rest of the time I’ve had lovely comfy beds to sleep in, but sleeping sitting up or even lying down across two seats almost 1 night in 3 is taking it’s toll.

2.  Doing too much.  I’ve found find it really hard to say no to stuff.  That’s because I’m giving up control and asking for help, right? Well yes giving up control, but I realise that I have to ask for help around getting proper rest.  That might mean having to say no to more stuff in the interests of self-care. On the other hand, I can’t imagine anything that I’ve said yes to that I’d rather have had a couple of hours napping over.  And it’s not just other people asking me.  I spent way too much time walking around Chicago the other day, completely of my own accord.  I was just so wrapped up in being somewhere new and not having anyone around that I ended up walking quite a few miles.  My legs ache.  It’s good to have the exercise when the rest of the time I’m sitting down, but it didn’t do much for my energy levels.

3.  Food.  I’ve had fantastic, delicious and nutritious meals courtesy of my hosts and friends along the way.  But I don’t normally eat in restaurants this often and I’m normally quite strict about what I eat and when.  And although I’ve been careful, I have eaten much more bread, cheese and eggs than I would do normally, it’s difficult to get enough vegetables or salad except when I’ve stocked up at supermarkets and sneaky bits of sugar have a way of creeping into everything.  I could have done more to make sure I had what I needed for breakfast every day – I always make it a priority at home, but I find it hard to insist on what I need when people are already being so kind.

4. Time Changes.  I’m not sure about this one, but I think it adds to my tiredness that my body is a little confused about what time it is.  I do always have half an eye on what time it is in the UK.  I’ve also been through all the time zones here in the last three weeks as well as the Daylight Savings Change a couple of weeks ago.  I’m glad that I’ll only have a 5 hour difference to deal with when I get back rather than the PDT/BST that I faced last year.

5. Just Travelling.  It’s tiring in itself isn’t it?  I always forget this.  Just the massive stimulation of going somewhere new ever day.  Meeting new people or seeing old friends that I haven’t talked to before.  Not really knowing where you’re sleeping tonight or what you’ll be doing tomorrow.  Stimulating, exciting, unmissable and exhausting.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Suddenly, I’m almost done!

Well not quite, but this time next week I’ll have been back in London for 24 hours.

So it’s probably time to start counting backwards from then and getting some ideas of things to do between now and Thursday in place.

My flight from New York leaves at 7.30pm so I’ll need to be at the airport by 5.30 I guess.  That means if I want to do an evening thing in NYC with people I know, that will need to be Wednesday night.  So the latest I want to arrive in the city is Wednesday afternoon.

I am currently scheduled up to Sunday afternoon, when Anne has offered to take me up to Philadelphia as she’s going there for a basketball match.  So I have Sunday afternoon/evening thru Wednesday afternoon to fill.

I had hoped (and still do) to meet up with Neal Foley (@podchef) one of my longest-standing social media buddies (he commented on my very first podcast at the end of 2004).  He now lives near Belfast, ME but it really is looking like it’s going to be too difficult to get up there.  I still have 4 segments left on my rail pass.  

So, simplest (at least in terms of travel) first.  I could get a train from Philly to NYC on Sunday if I could find people to put up with me Sunday thru Thursday.

I could also get up to Boston on Sunday evening, see if there are folk to see on Monday and then come back down to NY for a couple of days.

The Maine option looks like Boston Sunday night staying with persons as yet unknown, early start on Monday to get up to Portland on the train then bus to Belfast.  Two nights down on the farm and then Wednesday travelling back down to New York (7.55am start from Belfast – hey I’m staying with a farmer!) getting into Penn Station at 10pm (if it’s on time) just in time to party!

Hmmm…. it’s pretty tight ain’t it?  (Also depending on how they count segments, it might blow out my allocation of journeys on the rail pass and mean some journeys have to be paid extra for)

No matter what, I’m going to need at least one night on a couch in NYC (Wednesday) and possibly somewhere in Boston tomorrow night.  I also need help working out what to do, where and with whom on Wednesday evening (possibly early but also possibly 10pm-ish – I know, that’s early…!)

Show me the way, people!  I’m going to go out and help Anne with some yard work while y’all work this one out for me.  Call it… Solve it while I secateur 🙂


Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

An open letter to those I’ve met on the road

Dear friend

Thank you yet again for your kindness and hospitality during my coast-to-coast journey. You have cheered me along as I’ve plodded on, some of you have supported me financially, some of you have opened your homes to me, all of you have added to my experience in some way and I’ve never failed to be amazed by your generosity.

I’m still on my way (writing this on the train from NOLA to Chicago, it just got dark in darkest Mississippi) but in a week’s time I’ll be almost ready to fly home.

You may have seen my blog, where I’m chronicling the journey and occasionally reflecting on what I’m learning. I’m writing to invite you to take part in this project in a slightly different way and beef up the social part of this social art..

I would love it if you could find a little time to tell your side of the story. What did you see when I blundered through your life? Did you get anything of value out of our interaction? What were you expecting before I arrived? Did anything interesting happen after I’d gone? Did I leave you with anything? All these are just suggestions, they’re what I think I’m most interested in, but feel free to let rip with anything else. However, you should understand that I intend to publish your contribution on the project blog.

If you have the wherewithal to create a video piece where you talk about the experience to camera that would be great, but audio submissions and just good old writing would be lovely too. I’m using posterous so if you contribute something in a medium other than writing, you can host it on your favourite media-sharing site (youtube, vimeo etc for video – I like for audio) and simply include the URL at the beginning of the post and posterous will render it appropriately.

Please e-mail something for publication to . The subject line of your e-mail will become the title of your post – please include your name or twitter name there. Eg “That no-good dirty rascal by @catweazle” That will get it into the pipeline, I will review all submissions and probably stagger publication over a period if I get lots of posts all in one go. All content on the blog is Creative Commons licenced by-nc-sa. By submitting in this way, you are releasing your work under this licence.

If you have anything you’d like to say about the project that you don’t want published, then please just e-mail me directly.


Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Day 18

I couldn’t keep my eyes open at midnight in San Antonio. We were going backwards and forwards, the engines were firing and not firing, but regardless, I knew we weren’t going to be arriving in Lafayette before 10 in the morning so I curled up to sleep in my double seat.

I woke next about 3am. We weren’t moving. I checked my GPS. We hadn’t moved at all, except to run into a siding, we were still in San Antonio. We were told later that our train had had to wait for a freight train, on the track ahead of us, which had broken down. But for all I knew at the time, it could have been us that was stuck and waiting for a new engine. I went back to sleep, knowing that I’d got just as long to get where I was going as we’d had at midnight.

The next time I woke, it was three hours later and people were getting on the train. We were at Houston, which is progress, but I wasn’t jumping up and down with excitement. On the other hand, some of the people who were getting on, had got up early for their 3am train and had been sitting at the station for three hours so they were wide awake and chatty. So I came back to life, slowly, listening to the chatter of three Houston housewives pointing out which neighbourhood we were still in and reminiscing about great burger stands in the city that they had known. Oh Amtrak!

Once we were moving, it was really just a question of how soon we would get there. I enjoyed retracing my steps from the car journey I had with Taylor last year in the opposite direction, Beaumont where I bought jeans and a pair of Chuck C’s and ate at the Catfish Kitchen, the state line into Louisiana, Lake Charles, swamps and small towns.

And at last I was touching down in the charming little station in Lafayette. The first time I haven’t disembarked into a large city.  Time for some R&R.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Random Notes: Patience & Impatience; Vacation vs Work; People not Places

Patience & Impatience

Half of my worrying time I’m thinking about the trip going too quickly and me not doing enough of the “right stuff”. The other half I’m wishing I was further along. Practicing patience is about accepting the present moment exactly as it is and trusting that the future will turn up exactly when and how it’s needed

Vacation vs Work

I really don’t think anything I can say will convince someone who’s made up their mind that this is a holiday scam that I’m actually doing some work except by producing some work.

People not Places

This thing about traversing a network of people rather than places – you know, I ended up in Milwaukee not just because it got me a little closer to Austin – it certainly wasn’t a logical choice if you only look at the map. But for this kind of journey, you have to have a look at the map and your social graph and where those people find themselves. Not only that, but where might there be people on the edges of your social graph (ie the friends of a friends you either don’t know at all or know just a little bit).  We don’t map these things, online social networking has helped us make our graphs explicit and we’ve focused a lot on real-time location which tends to be at a finer level of detail than is needed for this trip. I need to know which town people live in and whether there’s a simple way of me getting there.


Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Next Step NOLA to DC via Chicago

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So what came back from my latest “Solve it while I sizzle?”  Some folk in NYC got in touch. I know I’m going to end up seeing them anyway. But nothing else during the day. After dinner, I sat down with the timetables and started looking.

There are three trains out of New Orleans. I wasn’t keen on getting the Sunset Limited back west through Texas to California. I also found the prospect of getting to the station for 7.05 to get on the Crescent up to Atlanta, DC, Philadelphia or New York less than appetising. So the City of New Orleans seemed to be the right choice. However, I’ve said again and again that this trip is about the people. Where are the people in Chicago? Who do I know there? Answer is, I don’t, really or at least they’re not popping up and saying “Oooh! Me, pick me” the way that others have so far. So I started to look and see where I could go after Chicago. Well I know I want to go and see Neal in Maine, the reality of that is going to be tricky. He lives near Belfast, ME and the nearest train station is Portland which seems to be a bloody long bus ride away at least. If I went there I’d probably have to have an overnight in Boston too. Hmmmm….

I came back to not trying to plan too many steps ahead. All I really needed to do was go to Chicago, but could I do that, not knowing what I’d do or where I might stay if I didn’t have anywhere else to go on to?

That’s when an e-mail pinged into my inbox from Anne. Anne is another friend of Jo Mitchell (in London) and Ann Cummins (who I stayed with in Seattle). We’d had a non-committal conversation back when I was in California. She lives on the Virginia side of Washington and was mailing to see whether I might still be including DC in my plans.

Missing piece of the jigsaw.

I could take one of the trains to DC early evening on Thursday and arrive on Friday afternoon. She’s going to something in Philadelphia on Sunday and is happy to have me tag along. So I could go on from there to Boston (and do the trek into Maine) or hang out in Philly and then move on to NYC. Or anything actually because that’s Sunday and this is Tuesday evening.

That’s my planning process, working yet again. It rocks.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman