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5th Oct 09 – DC by rail

November 19, 2009

As much as I had enjoyed my hitch-hiking experience, I decided that to visit my friend in Washington D.C. I would actually catch the train. I wanted to see as much of her as possible and didn’t have time to account for random detours and really go with the flow which is what makes hitch-hiking a more enjoyable experience. The train experience reminded me of my journey across Europe but for the fact that the trains are considerably bigger with 2 decks, with wide seats and air-conditioning. The latter was not particularly a good thing for me as it was making it too cold to sleep and I asked to be moved from in front of the giant air conditioning vent I’d been seated in front of.

I had boarded the train late evening and was hoping to get to sleep asap in order to wake and make the most of seeing the scenery in the various states we would pass through. After struggling to get to sleep, I made the mistake of taking a sleeping tablet and then couldn’t wake up in the morning. Once I’d finally managed to convince my eyes to stay open it was 9.30am and we’d reached Cumberland, MD. I wandered into the viewing lounge, so called because there are seats facing outwards and so you can see more out of the vast windows, where I overheard the lady next to me speaking on her mobile telephone and saying she’d just seen a 3ft bear cub scrambling up the embankment…next time I will stay away from the sleeping tablets and perhaps I’ll not miss out on treats like that! The many hours that were still to come, which increased by a good couple of hours as a result of mechanical issues with the train, were spent taking in the changing scenery, the autumnal colours, people watching, knitting, and chatting with folk in the lounge about their lives and my traveling experiences.

The evenings in DC were spent catching up with a friend from university who’d been living there for a few years. During the daytime I wandered around the various tourist attractions. I went to art galleries with an Indian guy I found on Couchsurfing who wanted to do the same. I visited the National Cathedral, which my Grandma had recommended, which was very atmospheric with the sun flowing through the windows and casting a colourful patterns on the limestone pillars. I then embarked upon a very warm dash on foot to see the Lincoln memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and attempt to get as close to the White House as possible. I have to say I failed in skipping in front of the White House as I’d boasted I’d be doing, but I was informed by a friendly security guard nearby that I could go see the Dalai Lama if I wanted to give him 100 bucks for the privilege. I refrained as it wasn’t within my budget and I had not seen half of what I wanted to see and I was due to leave imminently.

I learned a lot about US history on the way back on the train courtesy of the chap sat next to me, which added to what I’d learned in the History Museum. He was bemused that I hadn’t known before this trip that the US began as a result of a protest of taxes on tea and was known as the Boston Tea Party. I have to say in my defence, that it is only very recently that history has interested me and I had chosen Geography instead of History in my options at school! He also did concede that with the amount of Kings and Queens that England has had, it is not surprising that I couldn’t get my head around history!

The train got me back to Elkhart, Indiana early in the morning, in time to catch a good breakfast at the local farmer’s market in Goshen consisting of a very tasty pumpkin and bacon fritatta, a “down under” (a cinnamon and sugar-basted pastry) all washed down with coffee. A few more days were spent enjoying time with family and exploring more of Amish country before returning back to the dreary rain of the UK and my search for a job to fund the next leg of my adventure: Canada.

Photograph link to follow shortly.

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