Not Snakes on a Plane…Just Freaks on a Train!

Stories from the road

Note: This piece was originally posted elsewhere on 7th November.

Not snakes on a plane…just freaks on a train!

I decided to complete an entire lap of the planet and have headed west to LA by train.
35 hrs.
2 nights in a sleeper car.
Strange happenings.

But first…

Parade Day

After the Royals won their first title in 30 years the city put on the mother of all victory parades.
I’ve never seen so much blue.
The KC metro area has a population of around 2,000,000 people.
It is estimated that 800,000 filled the city for the motorcade and victory rally.
There were 4 arrests.
Most of the area public schools closed for the day.
They had little choice…more than 400 teachers put in for leave.

KC Parade 1

KC Parade 2

KC Parade 3

Remember, remember, the 5th of November

The 5th of Nov this year made up 24 of the 35 hr train journey from KC to LA. After an amazing night’s sleep, watching the sky roll by as we crossed the plains of Missouri and Kansas, breakfast was served around the time that we ventured into Colorado.

The beauty of the dining car is that you never know who you will be seated with. My companions that morning were 2 middle aged women.
They were both heading to Albuquerque.
That is where the similarities ended.

F1 was from Ohio, a buddhist and meditation teacher of 20+ years
F2 was from parts unknown, opinionated, angry and hated everything that you ever did, said, or thought of doing or saying.

Her mouth would smile, but her eyes were full of nothing but contempt.
In the short time that we were together, she expressed her disdain for:

– the Dalai Lama
– the music scene in Austin, Texas
– Warren Buffett
– F1
– Me!

F1 excused herself first.
I asked F2 what she was going to do with her morning.

“I’m going to read and meditate to try and get over her (i.e. F1)…”
“…and you for that matter.”
I wished her the best for the exercise.
“Oh, I WILL be successful”, was her reply.

I know it takes all kinds…but does she really need to be one of them?

East Bumfuk, NM

Later that morning, somewhere in New Mexico (middle of nowhere) we made an unscheduled stop.
The train had hit a herd of deer.
After a quick check the engine was judged OK to continue.
Bambi was not.
They won’t be making a sequel to that movie anytime soon.
(Sorry kiddies)

Other notables

I had lunch with a group of Amish from Indiana.
They were getting off in Flagstaff (AZ) before catching a bus down to Phoenix for business. One couple is planning to take a cruise from the US to Australia and NZ.
They asked me about kangaroos.

And then there was Amtrak Tom.
Tom was the conductor responsible for my sleeper car.
Tom is large and loud.
Tom told me about his 8,000 slide ViewMaster collection.
I didn’t notice his ring finger, but I’m guessing that Tom is not married.
Tom is too much of a ladies man to be tied down.

(Hands up all those old enough to remember ViewMaster. All those with hands down…ask Google.)

In LA now.
Home on Monday.

Manhattan Beach, CA
Manhattan Beach, CA – “There’s never a mankini around when you need one!”

From the Road…

I recently had cause to make a last minute trip to the US to watch my beloved Kansas City Royals win their first World Series title in 30 years, which as it happens is precisely the length of time that I’ve been following them.

Whilst I was very much looking forward to seeing live baseball and exploring Kansas City (a city I’d never visited before), I had no idea the breadth of people and experiences that I would enjoy on my first trip to the US in more than 20 years.

Over the coming days I will reproduce the travel updates that I sent back home, from my adventures on the road…

Stories from the road

Note: This piece was originally posted elsewhere on 28th October.

From the road…

After an epic transit (even for me) I am settled safely in Kansas City for Game 1 of the 2015 World Series. No, I’m not at Kauffman Stadium watching live – I wasn’t certain that I’d arrive on time so didn’t buy a ticket – that will have to wait for Game 2 tomorrow.

The Transit

50 hours.
That’s what you get when you’re organising on the fly at the last minute. Summary:

14 hour flight…
3 hour layover…
15 hour flight…
3 hours to clear US immigration and make it across town for a…
12 hour bus ride, including a 2.5 hour layover in St Louis before catching my connection to Kansas City, which departed at…2:50 AM.

Fact: You witness some very strange behaviour when hanging out at a Greyhound Bus Terminal at 2 in the morning.

Greenland Arctic 2
Over Greenland, during flight from Dubai to Chicago

The People

On the flights, there weren’t any.
Both legs were < 1/3 full leaving lots of room to stretch out.

Shout Out #1 goes to the Emirates ground staff in Dubai (name unknown) who allowed me to complete my US visa waiver registration at the boarding gate…using her iPhone. Thank you!
(I knew I forgot to do something before I left home.)

Shout Out #2 goes to Stava, a Russian-born taxi driver – living in Chicago for 15 years – who got me to my bus on time. When asked, Stava was proud to say that Vladimir Putin is a good President for Russia. He is from Crimea and has a lot of family that is still there. They all love Vlad. “Crimea should always be a part of Russia”, said Stava. “Kruschev was an idiot to give it away.”

Shout Out #3 goes to Rob, a 50 yo black guy who was my travel companion from Chicago to St Louis. The son of a baptist minister, Rob had just spent 48 hrs on a train from Seattle on his way to St Louis to visit his sisters. It took 5 minutes to work out that we were likeminded souls; we spent the next 5 hours swapping stories.

Shout Out #4 is for Jabar, my taxi driver on a rainy first morning in KC. Jabar is from Afghanistan, but has been living in KC for 32 years. He came here in 1983 with his brother and uncle. His father was killed in the war following the Russian invasion in ’79. He thought it was really cool that someone would travel all the way from Australia to watch the Royals play in the World Series. “You’ve made my day” he said. Actually, he made mine…by dropping me off at the nearest Dennys. I was famished!

Fact: People are people wherever you go. They like to tell their story…and sometimes they’re interested in yours.

All that before I’d even made it to my accommodation.
More to come.

Greenland Arctic 1
Above Greenland
Greenland Arctic 5
Somewhere over Canada

The Marvellous City!

Twelve months ago I was travelling. I found myself in Rio de Janeiro – “The Marvellous City”.

View from Sugarloaf Mountain, looking back towards Copacabana

And marvellous it was.

Alone in a city of 12 million people.

My knowledge of the local language (Brazilian Portuguese) limited to “obrigado” and “de nada”.

From a 1 room apartment on Rua Nossa Senhora, about 100m from Copacabana Beach (thanks Airbnb), I had the perfect base from which to explore the sights.

  • Cristo Redentor (aka Christ the Redeemer)
  • Sugarloaf Mountain
  • Avenida Atlantica, promenading with the locals as the strip is closed to traffic on Sunday mornings – walkers, joggers, cyclists, rollerblades, dogs, even children driving electric toy cars
  • the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema
  • magnificent steakhouses – like Churrascaria Palace (
  • ‘Kilo’ restaurants, where your plate is weighed and you pay by the gram
'Kilo' restaurant chain
‘Kilo’ restaurant chain
Weigh that guy's food
Weigh that guy’s food

My friend Malcolm from Melbourne Yoga ( previously lived in Rio for a number of years. He put me in touch with some friends from his time there (okay, so I wasn’t completely ‘alone’).

This meant multiple visits to Blyss Yoga in Ipanema for a local yoga experience.

Blyss Yoga

I can’t wait until the next time I get to visit Rio. Perhaps in time for the 2016 Olympic Games?