This is the story of my first-ever, by-myself, honest-to-goodness paid vacation.
Last Sunday afternoon I left the Kansas City airport with only a (pretty small) backpack and my purse.
My connecting flight from Phoenix to L.A. was delayed for quite a while, but it was totally fine because Fabio was on my plane.
When I say the flight was “delayed,” I mean we LIT’RALLY boarded the plane and then had to get off and back into the airport to wait for them to fix some mechanical issue and do an hour’s worth of paperwork about it. But seriously that’s Fabio and I missed an opportunity to trade seats with him. I made friends with an older guy who lives in Kansas City and works in L.A., so he commutes every single week (how crazy is this guy, eh?) We sat and drank a beer while we waited to re-board our plane and we had a lovely chat. He is the one who took the photo of the back of Fabio. I also met a couple of sisters from Iowa who were headed to L.A. to see a taping of the Ellen show. They watched “Friends” during the flight and giggled real cute-like.
When I landed in L.A., it was pretty late, and my dear friend Dan picked me up from the airport. We headed to a restaurant whose name I cannot remember, but I ordered a crocodile and pork bratwurst and an $8 beer. We sat in this swanky place for a while, stuffing our faces and in between bites talking about REAL LIFE SHIT. Dan is such a great friend and even though I only see him once to a few times each year, our conversations “cut to the chase” (he’s in film, you guys, I can use that phrase if I want) and get to the nitty-gritty of what’s going on in our lives/heads/hearts/butts (by butts I mean souls). After getting real and eating crocodile, Dan took me to USC, where he got his film degree, and showed me around. What a pretty campus! It was so much fun to see a completely different style of architecture from the limestone campus I am used to. I’d show you a picture but I took zero pictures while I was in L.A. Sorry. You can probably Google it, guys. After that we just went back to Dan’s house where I met one of his roommates, Michael. Then it was sleepy time, and we woke up to drink some SERIOUSLY AMAZING COFFEE made by some really weird individual cup-coffee-maker-cup-dealio. Dan, please find out the name of this contraption so I can purchase one/share this with the world. Then, Dan very graciously dropped me off at Union Station and I found my seat on the train that would take up me up the west coast.
On the train, I sat with an amazing woman from New Zealand. Over the next twelve hours, she and I chatted away and got to know each other pretty well. She is in her early 40s and coming to the U.S. for the first time in her life, moving onto the U.K. where she will find temporary work for a year. She started planning this trip over 20 years ago, before she had kids, and it’s incredible to me that I got to meet her as she finally began to take the trip of her life. I also met a young 21-year-old man who is moving from New Mexico for the first time, to San Fransisco with his boyfriend. He was so excited to be moving for the first time, yet frightened, but I have a feeling he is going to do just swell. Meeting these two characters on the train helped me see that everyone truly begins their own journey in their own time, and it doesn’t matter at what pace everyone else is going. It was incredibly reassuring! Also, my New Zealand friend and I exchanged email addresses, so if I am ever in Auckland I have a place to stay! She was an absolute delight.
Here are some pictures of California from my view on and off the train:
Speaking of train food, I should tell you about Kyle. Kyle is the goon who was working in the snack car. He would announce over the intercom that he was back from his break, encouraging everyone on the train to come by for a snack, beer, or “cold pop!” I visited him 3-4 times during my train trip, and he always seemed like he was on a different drug. In a good way. He was spunky, sassy, but also kinda dopey, and had great stories. I really think there were probably some health code violations going on in there, though. Don’t even care, though, because Kyle rules.
My New Zealand friend got off the train at Oakland, so I was able to lie down for a few hours (this was Monday night). Around midnight or so, someone got assigned the seat next to me so I had to try to sleep sitting up. This was difficult for a number of reasons. Aside from the fact that I am a human who usually needs to be in the fetal position to fall asleep, the new person sitting next to me wasn’t a good train-mate. He reeked of cigarettes and booze. Rather than stowing his oversized luggage he just decided to let it take up all our extra space. He stayed up all night watching shit on his computer, which was super distracting and made it harder for me to nod off. Ok, ok, these things really aren’t that bad. Just annoying at the time. I guess the real bummer was just that he didn’t have a pleasant New Zealand accent and that made me really not like him. Anyhow…
I woke up really early, because trying to sleep was mostly futile anyway, and very soon after I was in Oregon!
I was pretty mesmerized with the landscape, and spent the morning staring out the window or doodling in my tiny travel book. As we got closer and closer to my destination (Eugene), the scenery became even more miraculous.
There were a lot of opportunities here for me to take pictures of the gorgeous scenery, but I decided to enjoy it rather than try to get the best snapshot. Sorry, guys. You’ll just have to go there.
Then, after 26 hours on the train, I was in Eugene!
You guys. The air. In Eugene. Was so fresh. Perflaps it was the difference between the stuffy air of the train and the fresh mountain air, but it was unlike anything I’d ever smelled. For several minutes I thought maybe I was at the pool, having just applied sunscreen and ordered fresh hot popcorn at the concession stand. It smelled so amazing and fresh. Immediately I felt a connection with this place.
When I turned 21 I drove with my roommate at the time to Rock Island, Illinois to visit my best friend in the whole world. After a night of wine-drunken bang-cutting, Hannah, Leah, and I joined forces (or foined jorces, reallyl) with Leah’s college friends Dani and Megan to explore Chicago and see Regina Spektor in concert. This was the only time I had met Megan, and even though it was over 3 years ago, she graciously hosted me during my stay in Eugene, where she now lives with her man, Tom.
Megan picked me up from the depot and we went downtown to meet Tom and have some lunch from a food truck. I had some lovely spicy ramen wrap thing that was SO MUCH BETTER THAN THE STUPID DIGIORNO FROM THE TRAIN. I devoured this thing. Then we proceeded to indulge in delicious coffee and lovely doughnuts from Voodoo doughnuts. Yum. Tom went back to work (in the public library building where he does city IT things) and Megan and I climbed Spencer’s Butte! This was the view from the top:
I’ll have you know I climbed this mountain in my flip flops and Chacos-clad Megan was really impressed with me. #hikerswagger
After we climbed a mountain and turned around (#songlyrics) Megan needed to go to class, so we headed to the University of Oregon campus! While Megan was in class I loafed around, going to the library, the art museum (which had a freaky-ass exhibit going on) and other random places like the union and dorms. Needless to say I lost track of where the heck I was, but with some communication and effort Megan and I found each other again.
After leaving campus, Megan took me to Hendrick’s park, where there were many flowers in bloom and the lovers were romantically loving.
After the park, Megan and I went to Falling Sky Brewery where this happened:
Lookah that sampler! This was some tasty, beer, y’all. Then this happened:
You guys, Megan and Tom were the most amazing hosts to me. They basically babysat me, entertained me, discussed some really funny/interesting/weird shit in front of me, and made me feel at home in their home. After the brewery we went to a restaurant called Cornocopia. It reminded me of Tautog’s in VA Beach because it was also a house-turned-restaurant type place. I had the “Good-Frickin’ Chicken Tenders” which really hit the spot. After Cornucopia, we hit up a spot called Sundance natural foods, which is essentially People’s Grocery for Eugenians. Then we went back to their adorable three-bedroom house where I took a shower and proceeded to fall asleep while watching Colbert. The next morning I woke up to Megan cooking the dankest breakfast of eggs, toast, and potates and kale. Tom went to work (I am really going into detail here, I apologize), and I watched Megan water all her magnificent plants in their magnificent backyard. These guys are real active and into eating super healthy and delicious food, and I respect their way of life SO MUCH. I WANT TO GO TO THERE. They inspire me to be more active and healthy in my daily life.
Megan dropped me back off at the depot on her way to work and I picked up a coffee before getting on the bus for Portland! I was feeling so refreshed, and the bus ride was gorgeous.
The bus ride was a quick 2-3 hours and then we were at the Union Station in Portland! I walked for about 20 minutes and arrived at my hostel.
After checking in, I ventured out. I was starving so I found a random spot to eat some pizza and drink a beer. The guy working at the place (can’t remember the name) was very friendly, even though he made a crappy Oz joke when looking at my ID. He recommended visiting Washington Park and the International Rose Garden, so that is what I did next. It was a decent walk, and up some hills, but it was worth it.
I had signed up for a communal hostel spaghetti dinner, so I headed back there and met two young women from Germany, as well as a guy from Australia. We ate dinner together and chatted. I learned a lot about their international travels, and found out that most hostels are generally not as nice as the one where we were staying. After dinner, one of the women and I loafed around town a little bit. We heard about an ice cream place called Salt & Straw, so we headed to get some, but when we got there the line was out the door and to the corner. We decided to pick up some Trader Joe’s wine and drink at the hostel on the patio until 10 (when we were no longer allowed alcohol on the premises). We sat with a lovely couple from Canada and a guy from Texas. When it was 10 we were both tuckered out and went to sleep.
The next morning, after I woke up and got some breakfast and showered, I went with the German ladies and we walked downtown. We went to the Buffalo Exchange thrift store, where I bought a new purse (the only thing other than food/beer I wanted to purchase on my vacation). Then I went to the Powell’s book store across the street, planning to meet up with the ladies later.
After browsing all over the damn place (for at least an hour) I went to the coffee shop in the store and had the best latte of my damn life.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Bluestem Bistro and Radina’s in Manhattan. But seriously, guys, can you start making your lattes like this? I don’t mean the latte art, I don’t give two hoots about that. Just…make it like this. That’s all I’m gonna say.
I bought a book by the Dalai Lama for Neil’s birthday, then left the store and had no idea what to do with myself. I found a random downtown park where I could sit and think.
I decided to visit the Museum of Contemporary Craft, where I was met by a shitton of ceramic bowls.
There were also some knitted things, and this funny fake drivers licence of the Dred Pirate Roberts:
After finishing up at the museum, I decided to walk back toward the hostel, where I loafed it a bit longer in a different park. Many dogs and relaxing humans were to be seen.
At this point I had no idea what the eff to do with myself, so decided to go back to the hostel. In my room, I heard some shenanigans going on out on the patio, so I grabbed the remaining bit of wine I had and headed out there. I chilled with the folks from Canada and some dude goons I met who were on vacation from Austin.
We chatted and got kinda drunk and the dude goons invited me (or did I invite myself?) to chill out with them for the evening. For dinner we settled on pizza and one of the dude goons did this:
The pizza was pretty delicious. We headed back to the hostel with some beers and I POOPED OUT BEFORE TEN O’CLOCK LIKE AN OLD LADY YOU GUYS. Went back to my bed, where there were many more people in my room. A young high school senior from Boston had traveled alone cross-country to check out a swanky college, lovely young lady from Switzerland also on personal travels, an older gentleman who is a scholar of some sort (who really rambled non-stop for like two hours as I tried to fall asleep), and another random human whose name I never caught.
The next morning I woke up to have breakfast and a shower once again, and after check-out the German women and I decided to try Salt & Straw again (for second breakfast).
We walked back to the hostel so I could pee and they could grab their stuff, then I started toward the transit system that would take me to the airport. The seats face the opposite way that you travel. It weirded me out. Here are some snaps of parts of the city I didn’t get to visit:
In the airport I drank a beer before my plane took off.
In the brewery I met a really nice young couple from Indiana who just started chatting it up with me. They were interesting, as well as interested in me, and we touched on some pretty heavy topics during our short 15-minute conversation. They were absolutely lovely and laid-back.
My plane left and I landed in Denver. I was freaking out because I was supposed to board my next plane in about 15 minutes, so I was rushing around the airport trying to figure out where my gate was. Once I found it, it turned out the flight had been delayed for another hour and a half. I relaxed and ate some tacos and had a margarita (I am seriously starting to sound like an alcoholic. I WAS ON VACATION, OK?) When I was finished with that, our flight was pushed back another half hour. Finally, after standing in a weird basement hallway for thirty EXTRA minutes, we boarded the plane. The cabin door was closed, the flight attendant had given the mandatory emergency spiel, but we didn’t take off. The freakin’ flight path “timed out.” So we were stuck in Denver for the night (I really wanted to just get home by this point). However, the hotel they put me up in was pretty awesome.
After spending the night in the hotel and getting back to the airport very early in the morning, myself and the other people on my flight who were sticking it out had basically become like a supportive family. Everyone was in fairly good spirits; much better than the night before. We boarded the plane with no problem and took off! We got some free booze to compensate for our troubles.
AND THEN I WAS FINALLY IN KC AND MY BOYF PICKED ME UP AND I WAS SO HAPPY TO SEE HIM AND SEE KANSAS (Missouri, really) AND THEN HE HAD A DENTIST APPOINTMENT AND THEN WE WENT TO HIS NIECE’S BIRTHDAY PARTY WHERE THERE WAS A DAMN PETTING ZOO THEN WE WENT TO A ROYAL’S GAME WHERE MY BOYF BLACKED OUT LIKE A DUMBASS AND PISSED ME OFF BUT ITS OK BECAUSE WE ARE GOOD AT COMMUNICATING WITH EACH OTHER WHEN WE ARE SOBER AND WE HAD A NICE BREAKFAST AND THEN CAME BACK TO MANHATTAN AND I GOT MY DOG AND WE ATE SO MUCH GRILLED CHICKEN.
The caps represent my excitement to be back in Kansas.
You’re welcome, guys. You basically just went on my vacation with me.