Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fifth Stop: Butte America

August 15, 2013

LONELINESS is easily attained on the road: all you need to do is think about it. You share the space with everyone around you, but a little change in the velocity, will separate you from them and make a new world, just for you.

Maybe it was not being able to sleep on the bus that night—it gets cold at night in the Midwest—or just the long ride and getting to Butte, Montana so early in the morning that public transit hadn't woken up yet, but anyway, it didn't work for me there. After staying an hour in the station, took a bus to their only Starbucks around 6:30 am, to wash up, get a coffee and get back to the online life. At least the Starbucks staff were nice and smiling—as anonymous reviewers said so online—that early in the morning.

Online research didn't give me any reason to stay in the town either, so decided to leave town in the early evening. There were only chain fast-foods in the area, so without any hesitation jumped into a KFC and had the lunch alone, across the table from the Colonel. Back to the Starbucks again, felt a little better about the environment: a little more diversity, some smiling faces, less bad looks.

Got back to the bus station early; let my to-be couchsurfing host know that I'm leaving; purchased the expensive ticket; brushed my teeth. I was totally ready for the bed bus this time!

(In case you didn't notice: no Glass for the Richest Hill on Earth)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Forth Stop: The City of Presidents

August 12–August 14, 2013

CHANGE was the main force behind this journey, and now that it's almost half done and gone, I can feel the breakage of our routines—mine and the ones of people I meet. We all seek change, and we take turn in acting on it or letting it find us.

Among all the stops so far, Rapid City has been the strangest experience. This time, I didn't know in advance if I have a place to stay in when I get there or not—but, being famous for their Mt. Rushmore national memorial, I was sure I would easily find a hotel room for one night if I had to. During the bus ride to there, my first host let me know that he and his friends will be picking me up at the bus station when I get there; and they did: in a small van.

David and his college friends—all attending South Dakota School of Mines and Technology—were cool and energetic. They wanted to go for a game of disk golf—at Jackson Frisbee Golf Course, by the Rapid Creek, after which the city is named—and I joined them. The course was very well designed and the park was naturally beautiful.

Based on what friends told me, the city is kind of protected from heavy rains and snow by the Black Hills, an isolated small mountain range in the western part of the Great Plains. But it was the same hills that caused the flood of 1972 after a heavy rain, which is in turn the reason for the parks around the creek.

And after the game, I had even more college experience with them: watching some TV and having simple delicious omelette for dinner.


David and his friends were leaving for a week-long camping the next afternoon, so I got out of their way and walked for a few blocks to the city downtown,  which was like a ghost town in the morning.

At Alternate Fuel, a nice local coffee shop

The city woke up a little after a coffee or two

After lunch, it was time to pick up my travel pack and meet another couchsurfer for the afternoon, this time a grad student. Matt was grown up with computers—like I did—and keeps himself busy with small and big electronic and software projects. And to no surprise, he was very excited about the Glass.

The plan for the afternoon was to pick up his friend, John, ride to the woods around Harney Peak, fly his hexacopter—to try out the latest upgrade in the control system—and have a little hiking and rock climbing. The hike was even better than the disk golf game the day before.

After walking for hours in the woods, we went for a sushi in the city mall, which was pretty good for an average-price shop in a small-size city.

Matt kindly gave me a ride to the second couchsurfing host, Arik—who's also the most-experienced couchsurfer in the town. Traveled to lots of places around the world, he's very friendly, understanding and easy to talk to. Later that evening, we talked about cultural differences and affects of tradition in our lives.

Arik plays many instruments, but we didn't have the time for music on a weekday evening

I was not the only one staying with him and his daughters that night. There was also another young man from the roads: biking across the country for one and a half month. He told us many stories from his recent journey, too, specifically about the people he had stayed with in New York—on a boat—and how these burners and surfers are respectful, talk, listen, and establish real human connections.


The best way to get to know the people of a small town is to sit in a popular coffee shop and observe them. That's why in the morning I walked towards the downtown and sat a table at the Alt Fuel, again.

After the breakfast, it was time for a walking around the city and visiting the Dahl, the city art center.

The Art Alley

A graffiti exhibition, from the painters of the Art Alley

After the art center, I got to spend more time with Matt—at his apartment, this time—and he showed me some of his hacks.

Matt dropped me around the Main Street Sq. (!) for a lunch-dinner. The bus station was just two blocks away.

I took another overnights Jefferson Lines bus to Butte, MT, with yet another nice driver who kept talking loudly to one of the passengers sitting at the end of the bus—who apparently used to be a driver himself—and entertaining all of us. They talked about their experience on the road and which cities they like and not like. The passenger finished his part with this comment:
The highway's addictive, man!