Taking a break today to relax, stabilize my soul, catch up on stuff and look over my shoulder to recap what I've done and where I've been and report to back to You... (or me... via a future look at this blog.)
I believe that history should be taught from the present backwards... so let's start this journey with yesterday.
I took the BART from Coliseum station in Oakland to Union Square in San Francisco, (a $4.20 ride, hmmmm) where I met up with Barbara, a friend from back east who I met through Alexandra (who I've known for eleven years now.) Barbara moved to SF just eight months ago, so we were both exploring the city by the bay more or less for the first time.
|After our authentic Mexican Lunch: SF 3-5/2017|
There are several ways to explore a city. Depending on one's tastes and interests it might be a bar crawl, or a series of restaurants, photographing sites and/or landmarks or a shopping excursion. Our tour could be described as urban hiking with food and drink breaks. Of course, I captured as much as I could on video without taking anything away from my most excellent hostess/companion and you'll be able to see this is an upcoming episode of Vagabond Philosopher.
The day was characterized but not overshadowed by some weird weather, specifically and hail storm that I thankfully missed while I was on the train. Otherwise it was warm, cold, cool, windy and there was something that resembled rain-flakes cris-crossing in the air while the sun was shining. Geo-engineering perhaps??
I have vowed that I wouldn't live anyway colder than Philadelphia and that includes the Bay area. Wandering around Oakland reminded me of being in certain parts of Brooklyn; it has that kind of feel. David Chappell noted that San Francisco is like a east coast city, and I think that comparison extends to Oakland, particularly the downtown area... which was so dead around 12th Street BART station on Saturday, that I had to literally check my phone to make sure it wasn't Sunday. Walking towards the bay (west, I think) I came upon Swan's Market where a number of events, including free wine tasting was going on. I found my way to Miss Ollie's for a pretty good salad, people-watching (another nod to Brooklyn) and a great soundtrack.
So this journey has been going quite smoothly - all signs that I should be doing exactly what I'm doing, the way I'm doing it. During the last five years my awakening has accelerated, exponentially it seems, from the leap it took in 1996 and, dare I speculate from the initial pangs of higher consciousness that I felt in 1982 (which I then described as an attempted nervous breakdown. I tell myself I held it off, but it was, in hindsight, one of the most powerful feelings I've ever experienced.)
I've been riding the rails since New Orleans. My original idea was to ride Amtrak from Miami to California, however, as I later learned, that line was discontinued due to Hurricane Katrina in 2006, so I rode Greyhound from Miami to New Orleans... if only cost $50.00, but that included some Road Rewards discounts and an 0500 departure time.
|Gainesville, Florida Greyhound stop, 2/15 2017|
What I didn't know at the time was New Orleans was hosting the NBA All Star game so I had to split my stays up between New Orleans and Harvey, La., on the west bank of the Mississippi River. This also turned out to be destined as I lived in Harvey in 1980 when I was posted in Louisiana.
Before leaving the country I set two obligations - I had to see my children. My original plan was to spend a month with each. I was in Miami for five weeks with Stazja, who has her own place. Xave is more of a vagabond at this point in time so I spent less time in the SoCal area. Also, because of the nature of the USA Rail Pass, from Amtrak I didn't have weeks to settle in one place for very long.
The trail pass costs $459.00 and is good for 8 rides in 15 days, there are other passes that cost more, last longer and allow more rides (or segments. Some routes are serviced by buses, particularly the Central Valley, so going from train to bus to train, would be three segments.)
I didn't need all the rides on the pass. I broke the trip into maybe five or six segments/rides; from New Orleans to Tucson, where I stayed for two days (thanks to my brother for hooking up the hotel rooms in those cities); Then to Los Angeles, where I stayed with friends (Nancy and Matt) and their pups. I got a ride down to San Diego with my son and stayed there for a couple of nights. (Left there is the rain.) Then up the California coast on Amtrak's Cost Starlight line, which FYI, you can ride from Los Angeles to Seattle, Washington... exquisite scenery, if that's what you're into.
|Typical scenery around San Luis Obispo 2/27 2017|
I spent the eve of my last birthday walking around the Singapore River. I think I covered 10 miles that day as well. I know I was out for five hours.
This year I woke up in San Luis Obispo with the idea of exploring the County. SLO's regional transit system offers a $5.00 day pass (rides are $2.00 each). I thought it would be fun to ride down to Pismo Beach because I'd heard the name and didn't know anything about it.
|3/1 2017 Pismo Beach|
Disappointingly, the actual beach is a mile back so I didn't make that trip, instead I stopped into Huckleberry's Louisiana style restaurant for my birthday meal... which was great!! Then I caught the next bus south to Arroyo Grande, but there was very little there. There was enough however to get what I needed... a little more cash and a little more trail mix.
The train ride from San Luis Obispo to Oakland is the most scene and beautiful I've even encountered, I understand why people fall in love with California. While I was waiting for Amtrak's train #14, which was almost an hour late, I did some exploring around the station. Had another Cajun meal at a cafe called Bon Temps where I briefly encountered an awakening spirit and relayed a message and learned a little bit about the history, both tragic and grand about the history of San Luis Obispo, its economy and general layout. I was most impressed that there are "no bad areas" in SLO, as told to me by Mr. Edward Sweeney, but it's also a little to "white bread" for he and his wife and they have to go elsewhere to get their diversity fix... so to speak.
Being sensitive to ethnic diversity, I also noticed only the occasional POC in the SLO mix, although I didn't sense any overt "isms" while I was there, but then again, I'm not overtly ethnic enough to always raise the hairs on the backs to certain necks. I found it very easy to start cold conversations with people, especially when I had a question about something or the other.
|Amtrak SLO Station Tribute to Chinese Workers|
I arrived at Jack London station in Oakland around 2300, requested a Lyft and got a freelance writer who also contributed a weekly newspaper column. He shared that he's a procrastinator. I suggested that we creative types don't do our best work unless we have a clear and present deadline... it's a matter of adrenaline. I offered, Fight or Flight or Write. He liked it. Totally told me he was gonna use it, properly credited of course. I told him I'd probably forget I said it.
I didn't forget.
Fifty-Five days out of Philly and eight days left in the US. The waves have been flowing smoothly and I've been riding them effortlessly. I am following destiny... not chasing it. In fact, I might rephrase and say, I am walking with destiny.
For many years I've been traveling, searching... for a place that feels like home. I'm heading there now with no unrealistic expectations and a followup plan just in case. I realized as this scheme was coming together so beautifully, that I hadn't planned that it could actually work out. But as I always say - working out is the easy part. All I have to do is do... effortlessly, and the Universe will work... as it should.