29 Apr

As many of you following my holiday plans will know I have always had a strange affinity for the United States. It is a strange juxtaposition in being home to the most powerful government in the world and yet in terms of history, the country is barely out of puberty compared to other regions such as Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. 

It is home to the most diverse group of people you will ever meet. Many Americans have never left the state they grew up in, let alone visited countries other than Mexico or Canada. 

In the past whenever I have been to the United States – and this will be my fifth time in total – I find that people are both fascinated by foreign accents as much as they show a keen interest in the countries their bearers hail from. 

What surprises me more than anything is their seeming affection for anyone who “speaks the Kings’” considering that the country came into being as a result of a group of revolutionary colonials declaring independence from English rule and being fought tooth and nail every inch of the way to accomplish this.   

With the spectre of revolution once more in the air – I refer of course to the astonishing and concerning rise in popularity of former president and almost certain to be the next Republican nominee for president in 2024, the “Re-Count of Monte Cristo” – I figured it was high time to visit this vast country once again for what may be the last time before "King-Tuten-Conman" ruins it all … 

I wanted to make it a trip to remember, which is why I decided not only to take an entire month to travel to different parts of the country but to do it using only one mode of travel throughout. Since I do not drive and hitch-hiking at my age is not an option, that only leaves bus, plane, or train travel. 

Last time I was in the USA, almost every journey was made by Greyhound and while this was a fun experience back then, now in my 50s, the cramped conditions of bus travel were not very appealing to me. Plus, almost every Greyhound bus terminal looks the same and driving along the interstate, you do not get to see much diversity staring out of the window … 

Inter-Continental plane journeys are cheap and cheerful if you leave aside the long queues at passport control and baggage collection. However, when you are flying at 35,000 feet all you see are white fluffy clouds and while one or two may look pretty, after a while, it gets old quick, so again plane travel was just not a viable option if the motto of this trip was to be “exploration and discovery”. 

13 years ago, I travelled from Santa Barbara to Salinas on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight service between Los Angeles and Seattle and this 7-hour journey was the catalyst to me planning to make every journey on this trip, long or short, using the American train network. 

The plan is to go from Boston to New York, head down to New Orleans, making a short detour to Memphis and then head west first to San Antonio in Texas, then along the US-Mexico border to Los Angeles before a long journey up the West Coast to Seattle, followed by another detour across the border into Canada and Vancouver after which I would head east once again to first Chicago and then Boston to fly back to the UK. 

So, after years of planning, the time has finally arrived for the trip of a lifetime to begin …

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