The train was eight hours late.
And not that it took eight more hours for us to arrive at our destination, nonono, it´d be too simple don‘t you think? It actually took eight extra hours for the train to ARRIVE at the train station! Result? We spent the night in the station, on the benches.
That said, it was surprisingly easy to sleep and I remember actually dreaming some random stuff, which by all means prove that I did indeed sleep.
The train ride was rather uneventful, we sat, read books, looked at the landscape. Youhou! Then we arrived in Chicago. Again, eight hours later than we were supposed to. The train-people directed us towards an already long line where we proceeded to stand, seemingly for hours. This wait was made less boring though by the presence of an Amish family featuring two little Amish girls. They were all dressed up in their blue dresses and white bonnets. They spent the time playing with another girl, making faces and mumming with plus toys. That was THE cute. I want the same ! When we have children, we will dress them just the same! They will be awfully cute and grow up to hate their parents with the fiercest rage for ruining their childhood.
Anyway, let us go back to the main story arc. The connecting train we were supposed to take to Saint-Paul (Minnesota) was obviously long gone. But instead of giving us a hotel room and make us wait for the next train the day after, Amtrak decided we would have much more fun crossing three states by bus!
So we went. The bus was rather old, with no seat-belts but way too much air-conditioning. The driver helped the people set their wares in the trunk and started driving. He did not think it would be useful to present himself or even to give any indications he could talk. During the ride –which was advertise as taking five hours while it took us almost nine actually- the only words he did utter were the name of the stops he delivered the passengers to. He did his job but hell, I‘d never want to have such a driver in a bus full of tourists. They would never even dare enter the coach to start with!
So yes, this ride was indeed a bore. On the positive side, the sky was cloudless and the moon full. At some point we crossed a huge river, its banks covered by lush trees, inundated by the moonlight. It ticked me as we passed it that the river must be the Mississippi. It was a really weird feeling. The bloody MISSISSIPPI! And I was crossing it ! On a bus! It‘s like with so many things that happened during this trip: Stuff that just days before had only existed in Donald Duck Comics and Hollywood Movies became real before my very eyes. So all of this was true… T‘was a strange, harrowing feeling. Almost mythological if you want. This was the only upside of this long and tiresome trip.
Once in Saint-Paul (sometime around three in the morning) the driver freed his capti…no, “passengers“ and drove away. We were left alone wandering in the midst of a city a quarter-million-people strong with no idea where to go next.
Thankfully, we met a Techno-DJ who gently escorted us to a hotel just off the city center so we were fine. (Linnea here, we were in fact somewhat scared of this man at first because he seemed like he was on drugs but he was in fact a very nice person, just an insomniac)
The day after we went back to the center, under some evil smoldering heat wave and rented a car then proceeded to drive to Canada (I mean, Linnea drove a car, because she said I can‘t drive it on grounds that I don‘t have some kind of license or stuff). On the way, the landscape became greener and greener and some actual mountains appeared. Interestingly enough, this area around the West of the Great Lakes had been intensively settled by Nordic settlers that left their trace in the place-names we saw.
Once in Thunder Bay, a couple hours later and in the middle of the night we had to make our way to a place Linnea had booked us to spend the night. This was some kind of Conference center apparently, but the GPS could not find it. As a result, we wandered aimlessly in what appeared to be some university campus for waaay too long. Ultimately, we found the place. It wasn‘t much of a conference center. In fact it was just a student housing cluster. It felt strange to spend a night in a student dorm after having managed to escape such places years before but it had a bed and we slept.
Text by Lyonel Perabo | | Photos by Linnea Nordström