I spent a week going through the good moments and bad decision that I’ve made in my life. Brushing through my blurred and booze addled memories with a fine tooth comb. I was trying to find reasons and signs to stop me. To keep me from making my 4th lifestyle overhaul in 6 months.
I started throwing myself into a coma of inaction once my train ticket was purchased. Cooped up inside of my apartment listening to music and deciding if I should emrace the safety of the walls I was in or I should take in all the beauty that Rochester, NY has to offer. Frozen for hours at a time the week preceding my departure. What happens when I am able to live by my own rules? I figured it it out. I Move. I keep moving. I don’t stop moving. This motherfucker can’t seem to sit still for more than a few moments.
My last week was life changing and inspiring thankfully because of my wonderful family and friends. Every interaction were moments of people feeling ambivalent of my departure. I could sense everyone’s internal excitement and disappointment of me leaving. Disappointed only because our bonds are now going to be stretched across the continent. Not because of my decision making.
Their eyes told me everything they wanted to say while their mouths tried to make sense of it all.
I only received words of hope and stories of longing to do what I was about to be embark on. My nerves racked with excitement and tumultuous anxiety.
With all of this support how could I back out now?!
I used alcohol to keep my momentum going and to stop myself from stopping myself. I had found the solution to my solution. The devils brew makes sure I am confident in my impulsive decision making. He persuades me to live harder and to stop my over analyzation of drastic choices. It’s part of the blessing and part of the curse of that fluid.
I’m taking a three day trip across the country with a slight idea of what could and might happen.
I’m going to jump on this train and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m leaving myself to my own thoughts for 3 straight days while watching the country in which I live passes by. Allowing myself to view my fears, hopes, and aspirations for the future as I keep myself present in to the breathe taking plains, hills, valleys, rivers, and canyons are being processed through my eyes.
When I got on the train and made my exit from my home state, I tried to go to sleep as fast as I could. An overnighter from Rochester to Chicago. My sleep was aided by some anti-anxiety medicine from a friend who I expressed my fear and anxiety to.
Thankfully that first night I slept well and through most of the night. I wanted to be fully rested as I enetered Chi Town with the hopes of finding this mysterious deep dish pizza I have heard so much about. Unfortunately deep dish pizza still does not exist in my world. The blisters on my feet from lugging my stuff around still does today. It was certainly not a wasted. I found a slice of pan style pizza and bought 48 ounces of Miller High Life for the next leg of the trip. Another sleep aid and social lubricant.
Still stuck in my own head and expectantly waiting to see the Rocky Mountains, I spent most of my time by myself for the rest of that day. Napping across the country and doing some light reading of Miles Davis’ Autobiography.
I knew to keep my head in the right direction. To not let myself get down on anything that was happening and was about to happen. This fucking train ain’t stopping and neither am I.
At every stop I wondered what life would be like if I derailed from my plan and just started walking at any one of the departures on my trip. I kept those thoughts in passing though , as felt that something great was going to come from this journey. I felt that whatever this feeling was, I knew that it would happen soon. What I hadn’t expected was that it would happen in that train. The next day.
I woke from the train on my second night to an intercom, “Ladies and Gentleman, we will be having an hour stop in Denver right now as we are ahead of schedule. Feel free to get off of the train and stretch your legs. Be back by 8:05 to make sure that we get back on schedule.”
In my drugged induced stooper I knew that I had to get up. I felt like someone else was making me move. I didn’t even realize I had left the train until I was walking up some stairs to cross into the downtown area of Denver.
Once I made my way down the other side of the foot bridge I looked around to take in my surroundings and decide which way to walk in my moments of outdoor freedom. That’s when I saw a red and white VW Bug with a cup of coffee on top of it. Not a normal cup of coffee. This motherfucker had to have been 2 feet tall and just as much across.
I walked up to the vehicle and knocked on the window and asked, “Are you serving coffee out of this thing?” and the man with a little newsie hat, thick rimmed glasses with piercing blue eyes of kindness said, “Yes! I’ll be ready in about 20 minutes.” I told him that I would surely be back for a cup of coffee!
Walking away from the VW I noticed those little city bikes that you can rent. I thought to myself, “Holy fuck I can bike around Denver!!” I put my card into that machine faster than I would be able to put down a shot of whiskey. I bolted off on my little red beach cruiser into the morning of this city. Streets empty, sun shining, and completely outside of myself cruising in the middle of every street I turned on.
Making my way back I dropped the bike back to it’s respective spot and walked over to the VW coffee man. He was sitting in the back seat with a wooden plank hanging out the window and I asked if he was ready to make some joe for me. Surely he was and he placed the book he was reading down on the little plank. “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac. (Of which I have refused to read for some unknown reason) I took it as some sort of sign.
I was so excited to get a real cup of coffee that I turned around and nearly yelled at the two gentlemen walking by, “Hey!! Come get some coffee out of this Bug!” Surely one man come up and said quite casually, “I actually could go for a cup of coffee.”
We got to talking and I described how I was travelling across the country and just stumbled onto this place as I was on a break. So the story goes. I asked him what he did and made some talk about Denver. He was a designer and photographer by the name of John. Kept saying that Denver was a great city but terribly expensive to live in and so on. Real kind fella. I was grateful to have met him and concurrently helped On The Road Coffee get another new customer!
John and I asked the coffee guy how long he had been doing this for. Wouldn’t you believe it, it was his second day with his bad ass dream! John even took our picture and I later noticed that the company is called On The Road Coffee
When I got back on the train I started to see the Rockies from the outskirts Denver. I had been gifted a bottle of wine infused cider and I promised to drink it in the Rocky Mountains. I knew I had to share it with someone too. I couldn’t simply experience the Rockies alone. I find that appreciation comes from more than one set of eyes sometimes. This was one of those times. I needed another pair of eyes to take in all that was around me.
The Rockies hold a special place in my heart because some of my earliest and fondest memories are climbing that mountain as a child in Missoula, MT. I wanted to share that excitement with someone. Just like I did when I was a child. Always in the mountains with a friend on an adventure. I knew that I was about to make a friend for this same adventure.
I paced back and fourth through the train cars looking for one specific person. Noticably looking for someone. I was on a mission to find someone I hadn’t even met yet. I saw him and felt that I saw his past and his future crashing in the same moments creating a pair of eyes that are presently aware. A look of question and of answers. Eyes are the most unique piece of our bodies, in my opinion. His eyes stood out and I knew that I wanted to share my adventure with him.
Our only interaction was a congenial passing. “Hey, how are you doing?” “I’m great man! How are you?” “I’m doing awesome!” “Right on!”
In that moment I knew that this dude was going to be my friend. He had that fire of life in that I search for in the people. The types of I want to spend most my time with in this life. His was fire was burning really bright. Maybe it was the train ride, maybe it was my hopefulness, maybe he really is burning as bright as I see him. I believe the latter.
Grabbing two plastic cups I searched the train for the guy I would later know as Hayden. I found him and told him that I couldn’t drink this cider by myself in the Rockies and feel good about it, I need to share it with someone. He excitedly exclaimed, “Absolutely! I would love some man!”
I shared with the fellow next to him who was also going towards Sacramento from Rochester. Wes. A strange mid-forties fella who looked as though he never found what he was looking for but was anxiously excited to make friends. A crazed look in his eyes that creates a sense of detachment from the conversations I would later have with him. Inconsequential but he was essential in the journey because he ended up being everywhere I was. I poured him a glass too so that we all could cheers to the Rockies.
Now I can’t remember why I left the train car but I do remember that Hayden wanted to go to the viewing car. He told us so and then went there. The viewing car is a glass container where you are able to see much more than in your allotted seats. Windows are taller, wider, and some extra windows so that you may look it. It’s also a point of social interaction like a high school cafeteria. It also ended up being a place of meaningful human connection for my entire trip.
I went to the viewing car to meet up with Hayden. I saw him standing speaking with a beautiful woman wearing a black panama styled hat with a bright smile that opened up as if it were a physical embrace. I nearly lost my breathe when she said hello. I was certainly losing my upright balance between the train moving and meeting this woman. I kept composure. Should she read this, surprise!
Hayden introduced us and that’s when I got the privilege to meet Sarah. With the mountain flying past behind her and the cider taking control of the strings that dance in my heart, I felt that this woman was making the wonder and amazement of the mountains a little jealous.
We were the only people in the viewing car standing up because as all of the seats were taken by people who knew better to claim their spots beforehand. Experienced Amtrakkers. It felt good to be the only ones towering over the folks who were passively gazing out the windows in their silence. Meanwhile I was over here with these two amazing people and very much involved in an out of body experience between Hayden and Sarah.
As the train rolled through the valleys and we were able to see the white waters, Hayden would make excited statements about the water rushing by. He told us that he rafts for a living. He jump over to the window and say this phrase, “Dude, that water is garlicy! Those must be some of the gnarliest waters I have ever seen down there!” He would tell us about his favorite rafting spots in the town he was living in and was constantly looking at the water when we passed by. A perspective I have never took into consideration. My eyes grew wider as I tried to take in all that was around me.
Now I noticed that both Sarah and Hayden were carrying nearly identical pocket journals. I have a weak spot for people who dare to write what they are thinking. Pen and paper is easily the most exciting thing that I see people carry around. They are writing their histories unapologetically for themselves and maybe one day to share with another person.
Writing is a compulsive passion and a documentation of our lives so that we may never forget, just in case our minds fail us one day.
I had the idea that we should all write letters to each other in all of our journals. Something to keep forever. We had only known each other for an hour when we wrote these letters, but all of us acknowledge that the three of us were destined to meet each other. There was an immediate bond that I have not experienced very often in my life. This one is particularly unique because of where we were too.
Here are the ones that were written to me:
I thank you sincerely. Mostly for the wine, but for the hope and courage to continue the lifestyle we’ve adopted. Life isn’t all that complicated. I have a feeling you’re feet will be “itching” for years to come, and know that our paths will cross again. You’ve done more than inspire me, brother. You made me realize my fire is burning hot and bright. Continue to love, explore, wonder, and question. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks for the kindling.”
I cannot tell you how thankful I am that we crossed paths on the best train in the world! It’s awesome to meet someone that has the same kind of spirit- a very rare find. I hope you never stop searching and don’t ever settle. Keep doing what you’re doing- You are honestly living the dream! I genuinely hope that we meet again and share another adventure together. I am already looking forward to it!
Enjoy your life!!!
Now we made sure that none of us would read our respective letters until we were off of the train and not around each other so that we will always have something from this trip to remind us of the soul changing interaction that was created over mere hours of a day.
This concludes part 1. Part two will be written in the proceeding days. Stay posted!