I am searching Amtrak routes. Why? I hate flying. I actually don’t hate to fly. It’s just the thought of flying in a mile high Pringles can. With the right amount of Margaritas I could maybe look forward to it. Unfortunately, Margaritas don’t last for months and it’s the time leading up to the flight that freaks me out. I have single handedly talked Delta into and out of non-cancellable tickets, four times, for the same trip. Once, we flew from Atlanta to Acapulco and drove home. It took six rental cars, one way each. You see, I am persuasive and imaginative. You’d think I could think myself safe. But, then I would be able to think myself thin….Anyway, as I pilfer the railroad routes, I find myself longing for the warm Carribean breeze of the Yucatan, where hotels are old monasteries, dressed in fuschia Bouganvilla. Or, I am sitting in waist high water in Playa Maya. Under the leaning palm tree, sits only a taco stand and a plastic table with four chairs. The water is aquamarine and it’s so clear, you can watch the fish swim past your knees. It’s completely Gilligan’s Island. Or sometimes, my view is a sunset from a tiled patio in San Miguel de Allende, overlooking the cactus and scrubbrush and faraway mountains on one side. Terra cotta rooftops and patios overhang scarred pastel walls of the city, in the other direction. Cobbled streets snake between sidewalks, half a person wide. Church bells ring in the zocolo. A tall stray dog passes me on the street. He seems to be in a hurry to get somewhere.
What a cool guy John Muir was. Not only did he have a bunch of stuff named for him, including plants, butterflies and animals, he’s even on the California state quarter. But what’s most impressive to me, is that he was involved in an accident and lost his sight in one eye, when a metal file punctured it. Months later, he recovered sight, but then,quit his job and six months after the Civil War, he WALKED from Louisville, Kentucky, to Cedar Key, Florida. During that time he kept a journal about all the interesting plants and people along the way. And he did it again in 1868, when we walked from San Francisco to Yosemite. That takes a special kind of spirit. It must. To shrug off the everyday, and just get out onto the earth and walk somewhere. Today, people rarely even walk to the store. But then camping is the number one vacation activity in the U.S. . It’s like, there’s a part of us, that we are trying to reconnect to and it’s kind of like when you take that first sip of Coke, you know, “ahhhhh”, when you finally make it to the thick of a pine forest, or overlooking the Smokey Mountains, or just look up, in the pitch black, alongside a campfire. We’ve been programmed to forget, to want stuff plugged in, prepackaged and broadcast. But when you take a moment to appreciate the great outdoors, the smell of dirt, the feel of moss, the stars, unencumbered by flourescent light, then somehow, you feel alive. That part of you awakens. Watch an ant crawl across your finger. Check out a spiderweb. Google Yosemite. It’s out there. Don’t miss it.
“Most people are on the world, not in it. – have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them – undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.” John Muir
This year, since i’m still worried about going south of the border, to my first love, with the perfect margarita, the neverending mariachis and the most incredible hand made couture, south of Bergdorf Goodman, I’m thinking California, especially after watching Bottleshocked. The movie really did it for me. I’ve always thought of California as a bunch of wind-generated power stations with an incredible coastline, plus a lot of pollution and movie stars, but now, I’m thinking sunsets and wine, surrounded by a lot of grapes. An added bonus is that I can get there without flying. After all, I did fly to Acapulco last time, only to drive back to Columbus. It was incredible the number of rental cars you can burn through on a trip like that. Nevertheless, we never would have stayed at Hotel Hacienda Cocoyoc, www.cocoyoc.com.mx, if we’d flown from Acapulco. But then, we’d never have been extorted on a u-turn in Mexico City, either, but still. The Coastal Starlight has all kind of cool ammenities, plus a double-decker train that hugs the Pacific coast all the way to Washington state. Check it out on www.amtrak.com. Did I mention that there are 14 day and 30 day passes, with unlimited travel? They also have cool family bedrooms that sleep 4. I couldn’t sleep at all between Atlanta and D.C., but I think it was the fact that those tracks were laid in 1869.