My trip across the United States of America (USA) (2003.11)
From 2003.11.01 through 2003.11.28, I went on a trip between the West coast and the East coast of the United States of America (USA).
During this trip I shared many happy times with family and friends, and I saw many beautiful places and things.
This document has links to a total of 1933 images from my trip.
My photographs of my trip vary in technical and aesthetic quality. A picture begins with a selection of subject. The camera captures the image, but imposes its technical constraints on the image, such as resolution, focus, contrast, color imbalance, and exposure time effects (like motion blur).
I wanted to write a meaningful caption for many of the images, but I have been busy with other projects. There are many images to which I would like to add comments, and perhaps some day I will add those comments.
3. Amazing facts about my trip
15 States (CA,AZ,NM,CO,KS,MO,IL,IN,OH,PA,NY,MA,CT,NJ,RI)
20 Trains (Amtrak, MTA, NJT, SEPTA)
5 Cabs (NYC, Philadelphia)
1 Bus (Cape Cod to Boston)
8 Car trips (Drivers: Sam, Peggy, Tom, Serge, Dad, Arthur, Mark)
3 Hotels (2 x Pennsylvania, 1 x Massachusetts)
3 Universities (Penn, Harvard, MIT)
1 Wedding (Chris and Peggy)
2,700 Unique photographs
4 Random encounters with psychiatrists
2 Childhood homes (West Philadelphia, South Philadelphia)
5 Major cities (Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, Boston, Philadelphia)
10 Years living in California
$31 Parking ticket (72 hour limit exceeded on my block in Irvine, CA)
Nov. 1 (Sat): Amtrak:"Southwest Chief" (4): CA [Dep. 6:45 PM, PST]
Nov. 2 (Sun): Amtrak:"Southwest Chief" (4): CA/AZ/NM/CO/KS
Nov. 3 (Mon): Amtrak:"Southwest Chief" (4): KS/MO/IA/IL..3-7 PM...LSL:IL/IN/OH
Nov. 4 (Tue): Amtrak:"Lake Shore Limited"(48): OH/PA/NY [Arr. 1:50 PM, EST]
Nov. 5 (Wed): Brooklyn, NY : Brother's Apartment
Nov. 6 (Thr): Brooklyn, NY : Brother's Apartment
Nov. 7 (Fri): Brooklyn, NY : Brother's Apartment
Nov. 8 (Sat): Brooklyn, NY : Chris and Peggy's Wedding Rehearsal Dinner / Tux
Nov. 9 (Sun): Brooklyn, NY : Chris and Peggy's Wedding : Prospect Park
Nov. 10 (Mon): Brooklyn, NY : Brother's Apt; Ret.tux/Peggy Contacts:Manhattan
Nov. 11 (Tue): Brooklyn, NY : Brother's Apt
Nov. 12 (Wed): Brooklyn, NY : Brother's Apt; Stage Deli: A.Clay, J.Zeitlin
Nov. 13 (Thr): Philadelphia, PA: Holiday Inn; Sergio Cortes
Nov. 14 (Fri): Philadelphia, PA: U. Penn, Downtown, South Philly; Holiday Inn
Nov. 15 (Sat): Philadelphia, PA: U. Penn; Psychiatrist; Brooklyn, NY: Bro's Apt
Nov. 16 (Sun): Brooklyn, NY : Brother's Apartment
Nov. 17 (Mon): Brooklyn, NY : Brother's Apartment; Chris/Peggy back from Paris
Nov. 18 (Tue): Brooklyn, NY : Brother's Apartment; Chris teaches; watch DVDs
Nov. 19 (Wed): Amtrak: Train 86: NYC -> Boston, South Station; Hotel
Nov. 20 (Thr): Boston, MA: Arthur Clay: Harvard, MIT; Dad -> Cape Cod
Nov. 21 (Fri): West Yarmouth, MA (Cape Cod): Dad, Jean, Eva
Nov. 22 (Sat): West Yarmouth, MA (Cape Cod): Dad, Jean, Eva; Bill
Nov. 23 (Sun): West Yarmouth, MA (Cape Cod): Dad, Jean, Eva; Dinner Mom & Mark
Nov. 24 (Mon): Barnstable,MA -> Boston South Station -> NYP(NYC) -> Brooklyn,NY
Nov. 25 (Tue): Amtrak: "Lake Shore Limited" (49): NY (NYC->Buffalo...)
Nov. 26 (Wed): Amtrak: "Lake Shore Limited" (49): NY/PA/OH/IN/IL; SC:IL/IA/MO
Nov. 27 (Thr): Amtrak:"Southwest Chief" (3): KS/CO/NM/AZ
Nov. 28 (Fri): Amtrak:"Southwest Chief" (3): AZ/CA(8AM); Pacific Surfliner->Irv
5. Background story
I was born in Pennsylvania in 1970, and I lived there until 1993 when I left the University of Pennsylvania to start graduate school at University of California, Irvine (UCI). I finished my 10th year in Southern California in the Fall of 2003. Meanwhile, my parents, and my brother, and my other relatives live on the East coast. Unfortunately, I became very afraid of airplane travel soon after arriving in California, and so I had not visited my family often during the past decade.
Early in 2003, my brother, Chris, and his girlfriend, Peggy, announced, after having lived together for 10 years, that they would get married in November in their long-time home town of Brooklyn, New York. I was greatly honored, and emotionally moved, by the invitation to serve as the "Best Man".
I was eager to attend the wedding, but the idea of flying made me very anxious. The feeling of dread increased as the wedding date approached. In the past I didn't give serious thought to alternatives to flying because I imagined myself becoming just as anxious during a long, drawn-out trip on the ground as during a significantly shorter, but more intense, plane trip. However, a couple of weeks before the wedding my mother proposed train travel. My brother did some research and mentioned that crossing the country by train only requires three days. After mentally visualizing the trip for a week, I bought the train tickets. The feeling of doom faded. I became excited about the trip.
I planned to stay on the East coast for approximately three weeks to give myself enough time to have the kind of casual, subtle, close experiences that lead to a feeling of family. My relationships with my relatives is deeply satisfying.
Visiting familiar places that I haven't seen in many years is also a very stimulating and satisfying activity. Sometimes I am flooded with memories, and I imagine myself simply stepping back in to an earlier phase of my life. I am particularly overcome with complex feelings when some setting is essentially a perfect match to my old memories, and when I can recall my frame of mind when I last visited the place; it really seems like it would just take a modest effort to actually become an earlier incarnation of myself. I have no desire to be six years old again, for example, but when I visited my childhood home and neighborhood school during this trip, and contemplated how close I was to being able to step in to that life again, I was stunned. Sure, I am taller and more cynical than I was when I was six years old, but, wow, I could march right up to my old bedroom, wake at 7 A.M., and walk to school to do kindergarten assignments! This type of thinking reminds me of a fun mental exercise I sometimes did in my teenage years: Upon waking up in the morning, but not yet opening my eyes, I would imagine the bedroom around me being one from my past. I would visualize all the furniture, walls, windows, and gradually the rest of the house. It was really a strange exercise because as long as I kept my eyes closed, and as long as I didn't hear any uncharacteristic ambient sound, I really couldn't be certain I wasn't actually in the other bedroom. This was much less of an intellectual leap compared to imagining being on Mars or being kissed by [insert contemporary sex idol name here], because my limited sensory data supported the theory of being in my own bed. This is self-delusion, and it also makes me think of unobserved quantities in quantum mechanics (like "Schrodinger's Cat"). I guess a subplot of my life is epistemology.
6. Fun notes
Acela (a type of Amtrak train) can travel at 150 miles per hour, and can go from Boston to New York City in 3.5 hours on an actual route.
My one-way trip of 3215 miles (as Amtrak travels from Los Angeles to New York City) required approximately 66 hours, which implies an average train speed of 48.7 miles per hour. (With layovers the average travel speed is approximately 40 miles per hour.) In theory, an Acela train could travel the same distance in less than a single day! However there might be many reasons why this is not practical. Reaching speeds of 90 miles per hour on the train I was riding (which was not an Acela train) was described as "taking it up a notch" in an announcement to passengers.
A train engine had an indicator that read "560 gallons", which might be fuel. I did not know how often the train was refueled.
When the train was near or within the state of Colorado, my ink pen leaked ink, and my shampoo bottle opened with a loud popping noise (almost a bang). Upon arriving on each coast (East and West), I noticed that any closed plastic bottles with significant empty space were partly crushed by the air pressure. (My ink pen, a Pilot Precise V-7 fine rolling ball pen, also leaked when I traveled on airplanes.)
General observation: Individuals and groups of people across the USA waved to the train, and I could easily see smiles on their faces. All kinds of people waved at the train, including workers with hard hats at a refinery, and dudes at a ranch, etc. It was very heartwarming to see.
Advice: Get a detailed street map (street level detail) for any city you plan to visit. It will pay for itself! Although I had maps for many parts of my trip, I neglected to get a detailed map of Brooklyn, New York, and not having this map wasted some of my time and money. (Note: Now, several years after 2003, portable computers, and portable GPS devices, and advanced cellular phones (e.g., the iPhone), and Google maps, make it easy to determine a person's current location and plan routes.)
Advice: Travel only with the most essential clothes and things. Before starting a trip, put all of the clothes and things that you think you will need, and then simply remove half of everything! I was really glad I only had a backpack and a cloth bag, but I think I could have travelled comfortably with even less clothing and even less stuff.
Comment: My photographs only reflect a small piece of the experience of going to the places depicted. A person must go to the places to absorb the other aspects of the locations (sounds, colors, smells, motion, personality of people).
Weird experience: On South Street in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, an owner of a store ran outside the store and yelled at me for taking a photograph of his store window dispay. I think he thought I may have been "casing the joint" (i.e., planning a theft), or maybe he thought I was attempting to steal the appearance of his display. The idea of "copyrighting" a store window seems possible, but I would argue that my personal photograph counts as "fair use".
Weird experience #2: In front of the CNN studios in New York City, a security guard approached me and told me that I had to stop taking photographs with my tripod. I could continue to take pictures of the Rockefeller Center plaza, but I had to collapse the tripod. I was creeped out.
At the University of Pennsylvania I saw an exhibit in the lobby of the David Rittenhouse Laboratories (DRL) showing the "Sudbury Neutrino Observatory" (SNO) project, which I also worked on at Penn when I was a student, writing software to make measurements of photomultiplier tubes.
New York City subway travels roughly 10 blocks per minute (including stops). Brooklyn to 57th street Manhattan: Roughly 20 minutes.
A building next to the train tracks, visible from the Atrak train between NYC and Boston, has the following Biblical quote: "Is it nothing to you, all who pass by?" -- Lamentations
Announcement on train: "The next station stop in approximately (pause) *now*...is Utica." (Chuckles among the passengers)
Midtown Manhattan real estate: rentals: $2 000 - $8 000 per month; purchase: $450 000 - $1 400 000.