Account of my trip from Seattle to Seattle

During the summer of 1993, as a reward to myself for surviving 6 months after breaking up with Suzanne, I took a trip from Seattle, WA to Seattle, WA, via New York. I also passed through Cow Creek, Los Angeles, Yellowstone National Park, Buffalo Gap, New York City, Pittsburgh, and many other large and small places. This document is a concatenation of the notes I made in order to remember what happened, seeing as I have the memory of an oat louse.

August 19th, 8:00 am
Left Seattle on the Green Tortoise. Drove through Washington and most of Oregon. Stopped at Cow Creek in southern Oregon for dinner of some kind of vegetarian pasta dish and salad. Pretty good, considering that there wasn't any meat in it... After dinner, slept on bus while we drove south. For those of you not familiar with the Green Tortoise, it's a sort of alternative bus line. The buses are like old Greyhound or Transit buses which have been extensively remodeled, as well as being painted green. The back half or so of the bus is a big platform covered with foam mattresses. People sleep, read, talk, play cards, etc. back there. In front of that are two tables with seats on either side, kind of like in an RV. In front of that are two benches with foam, kind of like a couch on either side of the bus, facing towards the aisle. Above the tables and rear platform, just below the roof, are sleeping bunks. At night the tables and front benches convert into bunks and sleeping platforms as well. It's actually very comfortable. It's also nice because you can talk to people, play cards, stand up and stretch, etc., unlike on Greyhound.
August 20th, 9:00 am
Arrived in downtown San Francisco. I wandered around downtown for a while, then found a place to get a haircut. Went to a bookstore to get a book on SF to know what to do. Took their recommendation of dim sum in ChinaTown for lunch. Pretty good, but I don't know what the hell I ate. Probably better that way... To work off dim sum, I walked from downtown to the bridge. Along the way, I wandered into area where they were filming some movie with MacCauley Culkin (or whatever the little brat's name from Home Alone was.) He was in the middle of the street with his arm twisted behind his back by some guy. I assume it was part of the movie, but if not, I figured he probably deserved it anyway. Besides, the people with the walkie-talkies were yelling at me. You'd think they'd at least put up a roadblock or sign or something so people wouldn't wander through. I kind of wondered why everyone on the street was standing still, then they all started walking at the same time. So, I wandered on. It's a long way to the bridge. I stopped to take some pictures around the Presidio, but mostly just walked. By the time I got to the bridge I was getting a little tired, but it seemed a waste to walk all that way and not walk across. So I did. On the other side I had the honor to see Lex Luger's WWF (World Wrestling Federation) bus, complete with red, white, and blue paint job. Truly a religious experience. Then I walked back to downtown, by which time my legs and feet were very sore. Walking and biking use completely different muscles, I guess. I had dinner at some little hole-in-the-wall restaurant near the bus station. I left on the Green Tortoise for Los Angeles about 9 pm.
August 21, 10 am
Arrived at the Airport Hostel in Venice. Since I hadn't been able to contact anyone, I checked in there. I rode the bus down to the Santa Monica Pier and hung out there most of the day, reading, talking to an old black guy who was also hanging out, and watching a freestyle frisbee competition. The frisbee people were pretty impressive. Some of them could somehow hold the spinning frisbee on their noses or foreheads or something. They did all kinds of fancy catches and throws, including some where they would do a complete flip in the air, catching the frisbee when they were upside down with the frisbee underneath them, then landing back on their feet. Of course, sometimes they would land on their heads or backs, sometimes on the sand, sometimes in the water. The hostel had a BBQ that night, so I ate there. I stayed in a room with six bunks. Kind of hot, but otherwise pretty comfortable. Almost all of the people there were from other countries, mostly European. A majority were from Germany. Kind of like living there, since I couldn't understand a word anyone said. Even the English have such funky accents that I can't understand them.
August 22
Rented a pair of roller blades from the hostel to try. Didn't seem too hard, although it made my shin muscles very tired and sore. Guess I don't use them much. I skated from the hostel down to the boardwalk in Venice, then to Santa Monica. I rode the bus back. I spent most of the day hanging out around the boardwalk, watching all the wackos. I saw a fire eater who was a good entertainer and a comedian who wasn't. I also watched part of a basketball tournament (for juvenile delinquents, I think). There were teams from LA, SF, NY, etc. Midway through one game a big fight broke out. No knives or guns, fortunately, just a bunch of brothers whaling on each other. Venice is always a good entertainment value. They also had a slam dunk tournament which was pretty good. They used a lot of props, which made it more interesting. A couple of guys dunked over various and sundry people, some sitting down, some standing up, but mostly young, female, and scantily dressed. What more could you ask for? One guy dunked over a car, which was pretty impressive. I stayed in the hostel again.
August 23
Hung out at the beach again. Also wandered through Santa Monica shops. Chris and Dan came in the afternoon, so we went out for drinks and dinner. Decided to go home with Dan to West Covina.
August 24
Hung out with Dan. Had lunch with his parents.
August 25
Rode to Claremont with Dan. Walked from the Webb school to Vons, had a doughnut and some milk for breakfast, then walked down to Mudd. Lots of changes in the last year. The Olin Science Building looks completely finished. It was still a big hole in the ground last I remember seeing it. There was also a new dorm that wasn't there when I graduated. I took some pictures of the Olin Science Building, but for some strange reason didn't take any of the new dorm. Oh well. Dan and I went to the Olive Garden for dinner, where he proceeded to wow a young, impressionable waitress. Had soup, salad, breadsticks, and milk, as always. We went to the Montclair mall for Smoothies, then went to visit Duron. Spent a couple of hours there, talking about Mudd, mostly.
August 26
Borrowed Dan's car to drive up Mt. Baldy (after dropping him off at Webb.) Hiked from the base of the ski area to the Notch. Nice weather, although it did rain and hail a little at the top. Unfortunately, that meant that I couldn't see anything up there. But it was a nice hike. In the afternoon, Dan drove me to the Ontario airport, where I caught a SW Air flight to Oakland. Alan picked me up there and drove me into Berkeley. Had some pretty good burgers for dinner. We got a movie, but it was all fucked up, so we just bullshitted instead. JJ was there, too.
August 27
Did the Berkeley thing. Went to two classes with Alai. Good professors, but boring subject. Went up into the clock tower to see the view. Checked out the wackos in the mall, saw the Naked Man, checked out record stores, etc. Later we rode BART into downtown San Francisco, where I got on the Green Tortoise again for my eastbound journey. Left SF about 11 pm.
August 28
Woke up at Pyramid Lake, which is NE of Reno, NV. Very pretty lake with large rock formations all around. Out in the middle of nowhere. There was a geyser by the lake which shot boiling water and steam about 25 feet into the air. The water pooled after landing, and some were cool enough to soak in, although a bit muddy. Some were too hot to touch, much less sit in. Felt good jumping in the lake afterwards, though. There were some warm spots in the lake, as well. Lots of plant growth in those areas. The lake water was a little bit salty. Made crepes for breakfast, with fruit salad and whipped cream for topping. Drove most of the day through Nevada. Made one stop, at Grand Thunder Mountain, which is not grand, loud, or a mountain. It's kind of the Nevada equivalent of the Watt's Towers, I think. A house and surrounding grounds constructed of all kinds of junk. Lots of rocks, bottles, old cars, farm implements, refrigerators, etc. Built by an Indian Vietnam Vet who thought he needed to build a monument to the Indian Gods or spirits or whatever. Interesting... Stopped for dinner at the Rye Patch Reservoir, where we went swimming again. Made quesadillas and cold, raw vegetable soup for dinner. Was actually pretty good. Drove overnight.
August 29
Had breakfast of granola and fruit at the Snake River Overlook in Idaho. Went white water rafting on the Snake in Wyoming. Fun, but cold. I swam one flat section of the river, just for the hell of it. I was already wet, anyway. One of our drivers swam a less flat section of the river after falling out of the raft going through a big rapid. I was washed backwards along the side of the raft about 10 feet, knocking three people over, but they all fell inside the raft. Camped alongside the Snake near Alpine, Wyoming in a big flat area. Looked like the bottom of a dry lakebed, but may have just been a really wide place in the river valley. A couple of locals got their boat stuck in the shallow water near where we were, so a bunch of us went to help push them out. They offered us a ride afterwords, but we declined, seeing as how they were all stoned out of their minds. Later on they got their truck stuck as well, but I declined to go push them out again. We made pizza for dinner. Pretty good, especially considering that we made it in frying pans over Coleman stoves. Camped there that night.
August 30
Woke up with frost encrusting my sleeping bag and pillow. Didn't want to move, but had to go to the bathroom. Lots of cold fog blowing down the river. Drove to Jenny Lake, in the Tetons. Took a four hour hike around the lake and up to some waterfalls. Really pretty country. I'd like to go back there and backpack up into the mountains for a couple of days. We camped again, this time along a river somewhere in the boonies east of Teton National Park. Had chili and cornbread for dinner. We built a sauna out of bus platform pieces, tarps, and random rocks and poles from the riverbed. We covered it with foam mattresses and sleeping bags for insulation. We heated a bunch of big rocks up in a bonfire, then dumped them in a hole in the center of the sauna. A bunch of us climbed in, sealed off the entrance, and started pouring hot water on the hot rocks. Lots of steam. Wasn't too terribly hot the first time, since the sauna was a bit drafty. But it was warm enough that you could only stand it for 15 minutes or so. Then we ran outside and dove into the river. Big shock. Then we warmed back up by the fire, reheated the rocks, and did it again. This time we sealed the sauna better, and it was really hot. Several people had to leave to keep from passing out. Felt good to me, though. We slept there by the river. When I woke up there was frost on my pillow again.
August 31
Drove through Yellowstone. Visited one area with a short walk over and through lots of steaming pits, geysers, etc. Steamy, smelly, and pretty cool. We also did a short hike along the Yellowstone River with some nice views of the canyon and waterfalls. The hike ended at Artist Point, which was inundated with tourists, probably because it was only 500 feet or so from a parking lot. Didn't hang out there too long. We drove north out of the park and stopped just shy of the Montana border at Boiling River Hot Springs for dinner. It was about a mile walk to the springs, which were coming out of a hill alongside a river. It was a very high volume hot springs. The water was about hot bath or shower temperature. Some of the hot water fell off of 6-10 foot rock cliffs into the river, so you could sit or stand underneath them. One of the falls also had a small cave behind it in which you could sit and have a natural sauna. A loose rock dam had been built along the side of the river to keep most of the cold water out, but if you moved close to the dam the water temperature dropped dramatically. The swirls of hot and cold water made for an interesting effect. The river itself was very shallow, rocky, swift, and cold. You couldn't jump into it, but you could lie down in it if you braced your feet and butt against the rocks on the bottom. If you didn't brace well enough or chose too small rocks, you would go shooting downstream, bumping along the rocks, which was not too comfortable. We hung out at the hot springs for a couple of hours, then ate dinner. We slept on the bus while driving through Montana and into South Dakota.
Sep 1
Woke up in South Dakota. I don't remember what we did for breakfast. We drove through the town of Buffalo Gap twice, I remember. We visited Crazy Horse, which is kind of like Mt. Rushmore, but much, much bigger. It is eventually going to be a statue of an Indian chief sitting on his horse, pointing towards the horizon. All four presidents on Mt. Rushmore would fit in the hole between his arm and the horse's back. They've been working on it for a long time, but since they're only using private funds, it has a long way to go yet. It is much farther along than it was when I saw it last, which was in 1976 or 1977. After going through Buffalo Gap (again) we arrived at the Cuny Cafe, which is on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. We had dinner of Indian Tacos there, which were pretty good. An Indian Taco is Indian Fry Bread with taco filling on top. There were about a gillion mosquitos there. The Indians there told us they knew a good spot to camp, so the bus followed them. They were driving a 4-wheel drive pickup. We were driving a big bus. It was a very interesting ride through hayfields, over ditches, etc, all in the dark. They finally stopped, yelled "Here it is!", and took off. So we camped there. It was on the Cuny Plateau, just above the Badlands. The bus was parked right on the edge of a cliff. There were lots of mosquitos there, too, so I hiked down into the Badlands and slept there. Much quieter and not too many mosquitos. The Europeans up in the bus were all drunk, as usual, and making lots of noise. I liked most of the people on the trip, but they all drank a ton of beer, wine, etc, and about half of them smoked.
Sep 2
The Indians brought us some more fry bread for breakfast, which we had along with oatmeal. We then drove to the town of Scenic, South Dakota, which isn't. We took showers and us meat-eaters had hamburgers. Then we drove to the Badlands National Park, where we took a six mile hike. We had dinner at the end of the hike of seafood and pesto fettucine, along with garlic bread and ice cream. We made the garlic bread by boiling garlic cloves in a big vat of butter, then dunking the bread into it and frying it. Very greasy. We slept on the bus.
Sep 3
We had breakfast by Albert Lea lake in Minnesota. The drivers called what we had Chile Quiles or something, but it looked like your basic egg mess to me. There were a bunch of locals there, having a party. Apparently they had just gotten off work (at 7 am), and so it was time to party. Crazy, man. They sold us a big box of corn for $1. What's money when you're drunk out of your mind? We drove through Wisconsin, and one person got off in Madison. We arrived in Chicago, Illinois about 9 pm. A group of us went to a pizza place for dinner, where we polished off about six enormous pizzas and an indeterminate amount of beer. I only had one beer, but it was big (16 oz) and strong (10% alcohol). It was some German beer called Pauliner achk-haak (or something). Susan and Thomas and I decided to take a walk instead of going to the party that some random people invited us to. Kind of makes you wonder when they ask for $5 each for guys, but the women get in free. We were going to walk to the downtown section, but partway along our walk a police car driving by told us that we were headed into a bad neighborhood and if we didn't turn around it wasn't their fault if we got shot or mugged or worse. So we turned around. When we got back to the bus, Walter, one of the drivers, was on top of the school that we parked next to, acting like some kind of wild animal or something. We screwed around for a while there, then finally left about 3 am.
Sep 4
Woke up in Ohio. Those few of us without hangovers had breakfast of granola and fruit and cereal at Catawba Lake State Park on Lake Erie. We also went swimming. The water was reasonably warm, probably due to the power plant we could see across the lake. Then we drove to Oil City, Pennsylvania. The locals there were very "friendly". Several groups of guys tried to pick up on the women on the bus, and several women tried to pick up on some of us guys. We then drove to the Hearts Content campground in the Allegheny Mountains to camp. Made some Indian dish for dinner (curry, chutney, garbanzo beans, coconut milk, other unidentifiable stuff over rice.) Tasted strange, but good. We also barbecued the corn that we bought back in Minnesota on the campfire. It wasn't very good. I guess you get what you pay for... Slept outside. Not cold, and no mosquitos. No challenge!
Sep 5
Made blueberry pancakes and fruit salad for breakfast. Bus was out of diesel, so the drivers messed around trying to hook up extra gas tanks to it. We finally pushed it to level ground so that the intake lines were covered and it started. It was such a nice day, though, that we decided to stay where we were for awhile. We played some frisbee, then set up an Ultimate game. Unfortunately, my team lost 4-5, but it was fun anyway. Then we drove to another park on the other side of the Alleghenys, this one with a lake. We arrived about 7:30 pm and immediately jumped in the lake. I swam across (about a 1/4 mile). While standing on the other side, the ranger yelled at me from across the lake that swimming wasn't allowed and that I'd have to walk back around the lake. That was a drag since I wasn't wearing shoes or my glasses, and it was all brushy. When I got back they told me that swimming wasn't allowed after 7 pm for some dumb reason. The ranger was a real jerk. The people who didn't go swimming had started unpacking stuff for dinner, and he made them pack it back up because they closed at 9 pm and we wouldn't have time to be out of there by then. We would have had time if he hadn't made them pack everything up, but by the time our drivers came back (they were off filling in their trip logs) we wouldn't have had time. So we went to an RV park across the road to make dinner. We had eggplant parmagiani (sp?) for dinner, which was much better than I expected. Then we had strawberries, apples, and bananas dipped in chocolate for dessert. Good but messy. We drove overnight again.
Sep 6
Woke up in New York near Bear Mountain. We tried to find a place to do the final bus toss (where we take everything out, find our own stuff and pack it up, and then put it all back on), but had some problems. New York isn't exactly the most friendly place in the world. One park we stopped at wanted to charge us $30 to park in their parking lot for 1/2 hour to do the bus toss. So we drove on. The bus was running out of gas and the starter wasn't working right, so whenever we went too fast up an uphill grade, it would die and somebody would have to run around back to the engine compartment to start it. We finally made it to a gas station with a big grassy area and did the bus toss there. We also had breakfast rolls, watermelon, and orange juice with champagne for breakfast, to celebrate our last day. Then we drove into New York City. After 15 bottles of champagne for 38 people, we made a lot of noise coming in. The stereo was cranked way up, people were dancing in the aisles, rocking the bus side-to-side (with the help of the driver), and yelling out the windows. The traffic was all really slow in front of the toll booths, so there were lots of people watching us and laughing and yelling. We arrived in Harlem, where we all got off and said goodbye. The bus left for Boston with only a few people still on it. I went with Ben, Susan, and Thomas to the subway, where we rode down to Manhattan. Susan and Thomas got off at Penn Station to go to Atlantic City. Ben and I went to a youth hostel in downtown Manhattan called the Gershwin Hotel. We met two of the women (from Germany) from the trip there, so got a room with them for $17 each. Pretty cheap, especially for NYC. We all took much needed showers, then the two women went to retrieve some luggage they had left with friends in Queens and to go shopping. Ben and I walked down 5th Avenue to see the sights. We did some of the obligatory things: had pretzels from a street vendor, went up to the top of the Empire State Building, and walked through Central Park. It was a really nice day, so there were lots of people in Central Park roller skating, roller blading, biking, jogging, playing volleyball, etc. In one area a bunch of people were dancing on skates to music. Some of them were pretty amazing. We also saw part of the zoo there. We walked back to the hostel to meet the German women for dinner. They wanted to go to the Hard Rock Cafe, so we did that. It was a good place to go once. The food was pretty good (especially after not having had meat for 10 days) and they played good music. The food was kind of expensive, and the drinks were really expensive, though.
Sep 7
Ben left early in the morning to catch a bus to see a friend in Pennsylvania. The German girls left later on to catch their plane back to Germany. I went to the laundromat. My first attempt at finding one ended in a very sleazy alley, so I decided that I'd rather have dirty clothes and be alive than have clean clothes with blood stains. But I walked around the block and found a decent laundromat. I had lunch at a hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant, which was actually pretty good. I tried to take the subway up to the north end of Central Park so I could walk down through it, then catch a bus or subway to the south end so I could take the ferry to see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. However, my subway trip ended up in Queens instead, so finding my way back took a while and then it was too late to catch a ferry. I did stop at one of the many electronics boutiques on 5th Avenue to look at watches and camera bags. I looked at a bunch of watches, but they were all kind of expensive. The salesman was trying real hard to make a sale, but I kept telling him that I was just looking. So I asked what he had in camera bags. Of course he had "just what I was looking for." How he knew what I was looking for, I'm not sure. So I looked at his bags. They were ok, but not exactly what I wanted. Plus, the price tag said $80, which I thought was ridiculous. When I pointed that out, he said that it was half price today, or $40. Hmmm.... I said I would look in some other stores and decide what I wanted. He said, "How about the watch and the bag for $50?" So, I eventually bargained him down to $42 for both, including tax, which is probably about what they're worth. I had dinner at a Cuban/Chinese restaurant. Wasn't great, but wasn't bad, either. I saw one of the guys from the trip (one of the few from the U.S.) in the hostel, so I talked to him for awhile. Then I went up to the deck on the roof. It was some random guy's birthday and one of his friends had gotten a bunch of party stuff, so we all put on stupid party hats and blew party buzzers, etc.
Sep 8
Got up early, took a shower, and checked out. I walked to Penn Station, bought a 1-way ticket to Pittsburgh, PA for $88, and left at 7:45 am. Rode backwards to Philadelphia, then forwards to Pittsburgh. Don't ask me why they do it that way. The scenery was nice, except for all the iron mills. Arrived at Penn Station about 5:30 pm. Fortunately, this one was in Pittsburgh instead of New York. Some guy in the bus station asked me if I knew a good charity in Pittsburgh, since he had $25,000 he wanted to donate before his plane left in a couple of hours. Apparently his brother had died in a plane crash and he came from South Africa to collect the insurance money, but didn't want to take it back because of apartheid. I don't know what apartheid has to do with insurance money. He had a shitload of cash in his pocket, though. A roll of $100 bills as big as my fist. Not the kind of cash I would want to carry around in my pocket... Took a bus to Carnegie Mellon and found Steve's dorm. Couldn't get in, but fortunately there was a phone outside and he answered when I called. He and his two roommates (actually they have two rooms) are... interesting. One guy had his hand in a plastic bag fishing around in the toilet when I got there. Apparently they had been burning something in a tin can earlier, and it set off the smoke alarm. So they flushed it down the toilet, but the can got stuck. Eventually they had to call maintenance to get it out. The three of them seem to get along really well. They'd drive me crazy in short order. They had already eaten and Steve had to go to a study session, so I went to dinner by myself. Ate at Ali Baba, an Indian restaurant in Oakland, which is the part of Pittsburgh just west of campus. The food was good, but a little expensive.
Sep 9
Steve was in classes too boring for me to attend, so I wandered around CMU, the University of Pittsburgh, and Oakland all morning. Had lunch at Wendy's. Then I met Steve and we went to the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department, where I talked to Lynn Philibin, the Graduate Coordinator. It sounded like I wouldn't have any problem getting in if I wanted to. Only one professor, Rich Stern, is doing work that sounded exciting to me, but his did sound interesting. He was out of town, but I talked to one of his graduate students, Tom Sullivan. He's working on using multiple microphones and beamforming to reduce the effects of environmental noise. It sounded like Prof. Stern has money available for more grad. students, but I'll have to contact him. Steve and I went to Summers (a Korean restaurant) for dinner. I ordered something so hot I couldn't finish it. Really, really hot. We went to a movie on campus called El Mariachi. A very strange movie made on a very small budget ($7,000). I don't know what else to say about it. We called my parents at about 12:30 am (Pittsburgh time), which meant it was my birthday (where I was, anyway), so they sang me Happy Birthday. I was too sleepy to talk much, though. Way past my bedtime.
Sep 10
Went to a presentation given by the research group which Steve worked for over the summer. Interesting to see what he was working on but not very interesting for itself. It was a system which was supposed to allow people to build programs which would allow users to program by linking together little blocks on the screen. I think it was supposed to be impressive because it could easily be adapted to any language. Each to their own. The people presenting it were pretty impressed with theirselves. Next we went to talk to the CS people who are working on SPHINX, a speech recognition system. This was much more interesting and impressive. For anyone who knows anything about speech recognition, it is a large (20,000 word) vocabulary, speaker-independent, continuous-speech recognition system. It was trained by having many different people read the Wall Street Journal to it. You could put on a headset and talk and it would print out what you were saying (more or less) as you said it. It has syntax and grammar models built in, so it would go back and fix things if they seemed wrong due to later words in the sentence. Pretty neat. It didn't do a perfect job, by any means, but it was neat to watch. I'll leave out the rest of the technobabble. If anyone is interested they can ask me about it. We had dinner at Malibu Subs and then saw Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, both of which were pretty good. I was amused to see a mansion in the movie which is just down the street from Suzanne's house in Malibu.
Got tired of writing stuff down, so will just quickly summarize the rest of the trip...

Messed around for a couple more days in Pittsburgh. Read books, played computer games, ate, played cards, played ping pong, ate, played racquetball, played frisbee, ate, etc. Flew to Portland, OR on the 13th, where my parents picked me up. I stayed there for a couple of days. Went canoeing with a high school buddy, built a sauna by the pond, had campfires w/ s'mores, slept outside, read, etc. Eventually took the Green Tortoise back up to Seattle (after a minor detour involving a very slow ferry, lots of cars, and a bad smell, culminating in a drive to Portland instead of Brooks to catch the bus.)

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