After almost a month, it was finally time to leave Cincinnati. I’d used the time to get some new things for my trip including two tyres, a wheel-lock, a chain, a bell and some legwear. I’d taken my bike to a shop to replace the chain, the first thing I’d had to replace outside of the spokes. The old chain probably still had a couple of thousand miles in it, but I was in no need to try to squeeze every inch of life out of it. When replacing my chain, the mechanic told me that my headset was indexing, which basically means it doesn’t turn as smoothly as it should, although I chose not to get it fixed.

Abdul and I had been grocery shopping and ended up with 22,000 calories which was well more than I needed, but it was good to be prepared. After packing my bags and bike up, we put my bike in the back of his car and then drove over to the station for my 1 am train.

Lugging my bike and bags from the car to check-in at the station, I was glad that I had Abdul to help although even with his assistance we were still having to go back and forth as there was too much for us to carry it all at once. We spent the time waiting for the train relaxing and talking about the good times until he had to go off for his date. I’d really enjoyed getting to hang out with Abdul for an unexpectedly long time and felt re-energised for the trip to Mexico ahead.

It was a 9 hour train ride up to Chicago and I was fortunate to get both seats to myself. I’d not slept much the night before so, after spending a bit of time staring at the dark as Ohio and then Illinois rolled past, I dropped off to sleep quickly only waking to find myself soon to be arriving in Chicago.

I’d been to Chicago with C back in July, and with 6 hours between the Cardinal arriving and the Southwest Chief pulling into Union Station I could go for a wander. If I’d flown and had a 6 hour layover, I’d have just had to sit and bear it in the airport and got bored but being so close to downtown all I needed to do was put my carry-on luggage in a slightly exorbitantly priced locker and then I was free. I got to see The Bean, walk along Lake Michigan and get a great view of the Chicago downtown during my 3 hour walk and it was wonderful to move my legs.

The Southwest Chief to LA started boarding at 2:30 and I got on and found myself assigned a seat next to a lady who was trying to sleep and encroaching onto my seat. In the 8 hours I sat next to her, she only moved to let me plug my laptop in and didn’t say a word. Thankfully, across the aisle were a couple of friendly guys who I was talking to. John was from DC and going to LA to see friends and next to him was David, an older guy who has travelled on every Amtrak line and was full of stories.

John mentioned that he was hoping to upgrade to a roomette. I’d done some reading before hand and was eager to find out how much it cost as I wasn’t looking forward to spending 43 hours with 3/4 of a seat. There were two roomettes available which instead of being $700 were ‘only $300. It was pretty cramped, but it included all meals and a place to lay down so I decided to go for it. I walked my bags all the way down the train, and gave the conductor my card but due to no good reason it was declined and I found myself on a walk of shame back down to my regular 3/4 of a seat.

On the way to Kansas City, I got an email from Mike. We’d made plans to meet up in LA and then ride together, but there was a slight problem. He wasn’t sure how long it was going to take to organise everything, but it meant he wasn’t going to be turning up on Wednesday as we’d originally hoped.

We arrived late in Kansas City, Missouri and it meant we only had about 30 minutes before we had to leave. I used the time to get off and stretch my legs. I walked round the station’s car park, but there was nothing close by. I tried withdrawing money from a cash machine with my bank card, but even though I’d used it just a few days earlier, it was declined.

Kansas City was a big stop and so when I boarded the train, lots of people had got off and there was a new crew. I spoke with the conductor and arranged to move to a newly empty pair of seats where I pulled my laptop out and sleeping bag out and watched some Sopranos before getting a decent night’s sleep.

When I woke up, I was peckish but too interested in reading my book to grab my food bag. There was a couple sat across from me, Bobby & Sharon, who were on their way back to LA from Kansas City. Sharon offered me a sandwich and a bottle of water and I gladly accepted. She must have thought I didn’t have any food as the rest of the way to LA she kept offering me food while I was playing on my computer.

After arriving in LA, I said my goodbyes to Bobby & Sharon and made my way to meet David, my Warmshowers host. He, along with my friend Carmen, had taken the day off work because I was going to be in town. We met in the station and he helped me re-assemble my bike which we took back to his place. I cleaned up, glad to have a shower, and before long Carmen had come over. Carmen lived and taught in the same area as I did during my first year in Korea and I’d not seen her since she’d left back in the summer of 2009.

The three of us sat round and David popped open a bottle of champagne to celebrate my arrival. We sat round talking and sipping before heading out to get Korean for lunch. After that, David had his taxes to do, and I went out with Carmen and another friend from Korea, Monique, to go and see some of the highlights of LA such as Koreatown and the Hollywood sign.

Cincinnati Union Station

Crossing the Mississippi

Kansas City MO Union Station

Chicago Skyline

Hollywood sign from the back