Day 089 – Oakland to Vancouver BC

27 Aug 2021

It has become clear to me that trying to synchronize posts with dates (kept sequential, of course!), travel, experiences, and thoughts is a Sisyphean task. So – I’m giving up on it. Posts will be titled with the day of my trip (not when I wrote the post) measured from 29 May 2021 – the day I left Namibia to “go travel” with one way tickets. While I will return to Namibia, I honestly don’t know when.

Getting here was really pretty pleasant after literally days of ensuring, tediously, that the COVID rules for entering Canada were strictly followed. Once I got over the panic of the original COVID testing site not being able to do the test, it was finally arranged with a new testing site two minutes before the deadline for Wed appointments. The test was done on Wed AM (for a Friday flight) and I had the (negative) results within an hour, for free! Nice start! Then my daughter took me to SFO…

At SFO waiting to check in for the flight to Vancouver.
An old volcano – not Mt. Saint Helens.
Another old volcano – again not Mt. Saint Helens.
This IS Mt. Saint Helens when erupting in 1980. Imagine both of the volcanos above looking like this! Aisch.
Vancouver before landing (obviously).
From the air just before landing in Vancouver. Note the logs in the river waiting for processing at some logging mill somewhere. I never saw it.

Landed and proceeded (slowly) through immigration, customs, health, etc. Canadian laws concerning crossing the border in this day of COVID are very stringent. I studied and prepared as much as possible, and it paid off. I cleared immigration, customs, and COVID screenings painlessly. Fortunately I was not randomly selected for post arrival testing so I walked out of the airport yesterday free to move and explore with no further travel obligations! One now-amusing event was convincing the immigrations official (who was delightful, just incredulous) that I really did come into Canada just to ride the train! She kept saying “what else will you do while you are here?”

On the way into Vancouver from the airport. A less-pleasant but “not a big deal” event was the Uber driver in Vancouver who I was assigned, then saw arrive at the meeting area, then got notified he had cancelled his availability – only to then notice that the fare had gone up 50% due to demand. He was very experienced, and I’m sure cancelled to take a higher fare. Oh well – I just moved over to a taxi. People …
The hallway to my hostel room. I was one of four in the room. The others were a group of three from Toronto in Vancouver for holiday. Very nice folks.
The Bar/Restaurant in the hostel. Actually it was quite nice/adequate!

This was my first hostel experience in many decades, and it’s interesting and welcome. The beds are comfortable, and the hostel was 100% full last night. I haven’t seen my three roommates at all since checking in about 19:00 last night and it’s now about 16:00 Saturday.

When I toured Western Europe on a motorcycle in the summer of 1971, and again in 1981 when crossing the USA from Connecticut to California dipping into both Canada and Mexico enroute (on a different motorcycle), I camped out most nights. On both trips, sometimes a friendly local would invite me to sleep in a spare room and take advantage of a shower (probably in self-defense), and often invited me to a meal with the family.

Somewhere in the USA between Connecticut and California in about October/November of 1981. My cycle was a Honda 900 on this trip. No hostels as explained above!

Travelogue interjection:
In one way, I think of my “real” travelling just beginning from the San Francisco area. I’m solo now, by intent for the first time. Three weeks ago I took the train to Chicago (discussed in the previous post), then was in Maize, Kansas visiting with a few members of Marilyn’s extended family for a few days, then visited with Roger and Kris, good friends for almost 30 years, who now live in, and are originally from, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, my high school buddy intending to go on the trip from Chicago to Seattle on a train had to cancel at the last minute so I flew to Seattle for a four day visit (in a later post) then back to the San Francisco area for some family events. Yesterday I flew from SF to Vancouver because wild fires had knocked out the train tracks heading up the coast so Amtrak cancelled my train. I’ll be in Vancouver for two days and depart here Monday on “The Canadian” train to Toronto – four days and four nights on the train.

Route for “The Canadian” train departing Monday from Vancouver. I get off in Toronto four days, and four nights, later.

Then a couple of days in Toronto, and taking trains through Niagara Falls to head back to Washington D.C. where I’ll see more friends, and then to North Carolina for a Peace Corps service friend from Namibia. After that – I’m not sure yet. Most likely (but not fully decided as yet) I’ll work my way back across the USA to end up on the west coast and put my boat back in the water to live aboard when I’m in the USA but keep my home and residence in Namibia, also. That’s the current plan.

Serendipity is often the result of the kind of coincidence that springs from planning and anticipation. A while back I purchased the ebook version of “Out of Instanbul: A Journey of Discovery Along the Silk Road” by Bernard Ollivier which I think is the perfect book to read as I start this journey. A two hour airplane ride slipped by in only minutes as the author – a journalist in his 60’s who was a journalist and teacher for over 30 years – described his inner life as he prepared for his solo trip of 3000 km walking from Istanbul to Tehran. I was moved by his writing as it related so closely to my own life at this moment, and had to share the experience. So I drafted my own inadequate prose to a new friend I’m making in Illinois and hope to meet on a trip back across the USA in mid to late September.

Note the book on my Kindle propped up on the seat table.

And therein lies the constant challenge for me: comparison. As much as I know there is ALWAYS someone that is “more” of something than I am – and there always will be for everyone – I can’t help but want my own ability to express a story or a feeling and capture a reader’s interest, and often am in awe of an author’s ability to do just that. Of course in Bernard’s case (I don’t think he’ll mind me calling him Bernard), he’s been honing that craft for many decades, he’s travelled all over the damn place, experienced the death of a beloved spouse, has memories of shared international journeys with her, and rejoiced in a close family. I don’t have those experiences – I have my own. I just hope to be able to express the depth of personal experience with a fraction of his skills, or of the skills of many “real” authors.

People often react to the number of life experiences I’ve had, but I feel it is a pale reflection of what I have been able to touch upon in yearning for a greater experience. The world, and life, have so much to offer but I live with the constant feeling of having fallen short in self-satisfaction with progress . In fairness, I am able to appreciate and cherish being able to do more, and learn more, in my 70’s. I would rather “get it” now, than never. Heile Selasse is quoted in “A man who says, ‘I have learned enough and will learn no further,’ should be considered as knowing nothing at all.” For example, I have never had the richness that comes from decades of building a relationship with a life partner, but perhaps there is still time to do what I can in the time I have left. And the deep friendships I am building with some are incredibly satisfying and challenging all at the same time. I am grateful, and fortunate and have had advantages that were not available to many, many people.

That’s MORE than enough “naval gazing” for now! Stay tuned.

Day 070b-071: Some things are best left unsaid

7-8 August

No photos – you will thank me.

After departing the train in Chicago Union Station Saturday evening, we went to the Chinatown Hotel in that part of Chicago known as (wait for it …) Chinatown! It was a perfectly fine if basic hotel. I’d stay there again in a heartbeat. Clean, simple, polite, etc. Near public transportation, and LOTS of Chinese Restaurants and shops that would have been gangs of fun in better times. No elevators as it turned out and our rooms were on the third floor. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have cared but my travelling companion, Marilyn, isn’t fond of stairs. She turned out to be a hero, and very tired.

I won’t embellish this story. In the lobby of the hotel what had formerly been only a vague but slowly growing unease turned into full-blow active food poisoning. It was brutal. Details will be left undefined.

That night, no sleep but I memorized the way to the toilet very quickly (fortunately it was in our suite) and the path will be etched in my memory for years, as short as it was, from pure repetition.

Next day we didn’t even consider using our pre-paid tickets to the Field Museum (damn) and I essentially slept all day except for thankfully, but slowly, decreasing visits to the toilet. That, alone, is probably TMI – sorry.

Marilyn made at least six round trips up and down the 40 steps in the stairway (she counted), sometimes laden with bags for both of us, or food for herself (or for me the next day), or the need to go to the desk to do something we should have been able to do on the phone, etc. She got lost in Chinatown searching for a Sprite for me and was rescued by a really nice group of young people offering to help, then we found the next day that the Sprite was available literally across the street from the hotel.

I may – emphasis on MAY – get Marilyn to approve a written form of the stories from the Chinatown Hotel that were so entertaining to members of her family later in the week. But not right now. To hear her tell her story of getting lost, and the entire incident, is hilarious – – – now.

I do, however, have to sneak in a joke and an acknowledgement of an extraordinary person – Marilyn. We were married 45 years ago, divorced about 40 years ago, and over the years have developed a very deep and appreciative friendship. We travelled well together and she has become one of my most trusted and valued friends. She pretty much saved my life in Chicago (not literally, but it sure felt that way). Thank god she didn’t eat a hamburger on the train for lunch. If we had both been sick it would have been much, much worse.

Now the joke: I found out how to get along really well with your ex-wife – just give her your credit card and shut up. (pause).

So – to keep this brief – Saturday evening and most of Sunday were absolutely miserable for me, exhausting but quiet for her, and will be the source of entertaining stories about travel for years that come from a very dark place in my memories.

And that is enough said about being in Chicago. We delayed our flight from Sunday night to Monday morning, and arrived in Wichita on Day 072 without further incident.

Day 070 – CORN, CORN, CORN, soybeans, CORN, CORN, CORN

Written: 7 August 2021

Woke up in the morning somewhere into Nebraska.

Was asleep in Denver to the left – and we slept through almost all of Nebraska. The first town sign I saw on Friday morning (Day 70) was for Omaha, Nebraska – right against the border on the map, above. And we were then in Iowa.

And then – corn fields. Lots and lots of corn fields.

Corn fields.

Then a bit farther – more corn fields.

More corn fields.

The next stretch of travelling was interesting in that the corn fields were interrupted by a single patch of something …

Travelling through corn fields, and more corn fields, then something different in the middle, then corn again.

SOYBEANS! The scenery on this leg of the journey was incredibly diverse.


Then more corn fields.

Even more corn fields.

Lots of small towns and railroad tracks – all of which were built around and because of … corn fields.

The settlers here had some kind of hang-up on names starting with “O” (Omaha, Osceola, Ottumwa).

And now, for something completely different (thank you Monty Python)…
About 51 years ago, when I was 20, I drove cross country with three classmates to Ottumwa, Iowa, for the Antique Aircraft Association Fly In, where I got to be a passenger in some of the earliest airplanes. My favorite ride was in a Ryan PT-22 where I was a front seat passenger in an open cockpit with NO PARACHUTE! No room in the cockpit), and yes the pilot did aerobatics. I don’t know if it was the same exact airplane you see below, but it was the same design.

Back to corn…
And there were loads of railroad tracks connecting the towns so they could move corn back and forth.

Houses right against the tracks were the norm in these small towns. Note there were no fences!

Bet you thought there was going to be another picture of a corn field!!!

By this time I was in a corn stupor and missed any photos of entering Chicago. Also (as it turned out) I was on the leading edge of getting really sick with food poisoning and didn’t think much about taking photos.

On the way from Union Station to the hotel in Chinatown,

I started to feel “not so good”, and when we got to the hotel lobby, waiting around did it. Story of THAT sad episode in the next post. Let’s just say that was NOT a fun night – nor the next day. The story of that sad occurrence, one of the genre of travel stories that is always more interesting when being retold than in the moment, will be in the next post.

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Day 069 – Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and MUD, Lots and Lots of Mud and Rocks

Written 6 August 2021

Today is mostly a visual tour. No energy to write with much “meaning”, and a very interesting day for travels.

Moving left to right, we were asleep (night time) through most of Nevada. Going through Grand Junction brought back memories of a crush I had on a girl from there when I was in college. sigh…

The mud slides described below occurred around Glenwood Springs, just past Grand Junction.

We woke up Fri morning well into Utah so I (unfortunately) missed photos of the Great Salt Lake.. We were already a couple of hours late because of freight trains ahead of us.

The images below are in rough order of what we travelled through on Friday.

We were warned that mud slides in Colorado may force the train to stop and we’d be given “alternate transportation” to Chicago (busses -blargh!). Spoiler alert – we didn’t have to stop. but it was close. It is hard to give a perspective on the damage and debris from the slide that occurred on July 28 (I think), but if you’re interested, there is a good writeup with images at

Small towns always marked with retro-feeling signs at the train stops – like this one for American Fork, Utah.
We pass through many small towns – like this one in Helper, Utah.
A typical view of the river enroute. Camping out and boating on the river in inflatables in a very popular local outing. We saw dozens of similar setups along the way. Turns out there is apparently a local custom – look carefully at the guy in the photo close to the river “mooning” the train!
Now aren’t you glad I pointed that out to you? LOL.
Farmland under low hills in Utah, gave way to …
High desert scrub desert, then to …
Desert with no scrub brush. Also the next video.
Miles, and miles — and miles.
Small town in spectacular scenery. Somewhere in Colorado or Eastern Utah.
Entering Glenwood Springs – people waiting for the train westbound. Note the Amish (or Mennonite?), or “old school” Morman attire of the people on the right. Sorry, I don’t know for sure.
Entering the canyon – rock walls were about 1 meter from the train!
A view in Glenwood Springs Canyon just prior to the mud slides. Note the two level highway on the left. That I-70 – Eastbound top level, Westbound bottom level, and a bicycle track below that that went the entire distance. Both top and bottoms are 2 lanes.
One of the areas of mud slide. You can make out the two lanes of the freeway on the left side of the photo (bottom level through the trees), and see where the slide in this area covered both roads. The bicycle track can be seen at the bottom. Note the burned trees from previous wildfires – possibly a contributing cause for the mud slides by destabilizing the dirt.
Another slide area in video.
Wildfire damage.
This is looking straight up from my window – the top of the nearest rock peak is probably 100 meters high or more, and there are MUCH higher peaks behind that!
Video of the mountains just beside the train. We went VERY slowly so the engineers could ensure the track was clear. Fine by me!
Starting to come out of the mud slide area, but note the slide on the left covering the upper road and spilling onto the lower road.
The mudslides changed the course of the Colorado River. In this photo, the river literally covers the lower road.
Note the slide went below the upper level here (the vertical beam is the highway support), and completely covered the lower road. You can see bare traces of the bicycle path below the lower road.
After most of the damage. This is what the freeway normally looks like. Beautiful!
The Colorado River after leaving the canyon and before entering Denver.

About this point, I went to bed after dark, and slept through a stop on Denver.

Day 068_Actual Travel Begins!

Written: 5 August 2021

(it’s true most of this was written on 5 August on the train – but I could not get a signal strong/long enough to even insert the images, much less post the article. So – I’m actually posting this on 9 August. I’ll catch up on days 69 – 71 (today) before getting to current stuff.)

This morning my daughter got up HOURS early to provide transportation to the Train Station in Emeryville, CA. I’m making the first leg of travel with a very dear friend going back 45 years. Heavy traffic in the Oakland area (as usual), then to a totally unfamiliar procedure at the Amtrak Train Station, and we finally got on board! The next 2 ½ days we will take the California Zephyr train to Chicago!

This map shows day (red) and night (blue) sections of the route – We departed from Oakland (on the far left) and went to Chicago (In the middle – kind of the “hub”). The photos later of the woods were taken in the first red area of that route, California and Nevada.

The train is SOOOO relaxing! I have a “roomette” to myself, which has ample room for one, sufficient room for two, and the chairs fold out into a comfortable twin size bed.

My “roomette” – Plenty of room for one – workable for two. Marilyn and I each had separate roomettes right across the hall from each other.
Very comfortable bed made from the two seats stretched out.

I just sit and watch the world go by at a leisurely pace! Delightful. And soporific – I nap, and nap, and doze, and then get tired of dozing so I nap again. This first day I’m not “practiced” on photos and what might be interesting, so I’ll just post a few photos and images taken along the way. I sent a friend in Namibia some video with a little audio when I first got started, and his comment was “You sounded really tired!” And he’s right. Day 1 of this trip is trying to decompress.

Some views and video taken from Oakland to just entering Nevada (daytime, day 1 of this trip).

Home for the next three days.
You don’t realize how BIG these passenger trains are until you’re right next to them.
The hallway – my roomette is the second door on the left. This is all on the second floor (upper deck) of the car.
We are approaching the Sierra Nevadas – a mountain chain still in the California border.
Still in the Sierras, just before Nevada.
The dining car – don’t know the passengers but we met different people at every meal. We are now in Nevada.
I know, I know – give me some time and I’ll figure out how to edit out videos of my leg. LOL. We are maybe 20 minutes out of the station.
Forests typical of the Sierras. Miles and miles and miles.
More forests.

One thing strikes me immediately – the sheer size of the economy in this country as opposed to Namibia. When we go through towns, the STUFF I see – numbers of cars, campers, stores, junk, infrastructure, roads, buildings, businesses – etc. etc. etc. It is no wonder people from many countries see the USA as a land of opportunity. The poverty, homelessness and desperation that are present in almost every society are here also – but the riches and abundance tend to overwhelm them when viewed from the outside.

I’ve lived in Namibia for over six years and have experienced the very, very poor to the very, very rich and most things in between. I’ve not seen a single societal characteristic or behavior that I haven’t also seen in the USA. But the economy is so vast it can easily overwhelm being able to see the all-too-human aspects of the culture here.

Now I’m going to veg out and try to be ready to experience an entire day, tomorrow.

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