Notes from an AMTRAK train, ripping across the southern States, taken over a nine hour journey. 

For corresponding photo gallery click here

  • One of my favourite things about train travel is peering into peoples back yards. I try to imagine their lives and what they’re up to right now. There’s something so intimate and private about looking into someone’s garden – only the invited and known ever get to see it
  • Massive oil rigs, their torch flames reaching high into the sky – they scare me and look like the past and the future all at once
  • The True Detective Soundtrack never felt more appropriate I play it on loop for four hours
  • At an airport in the middle of nowhere, by which the train has stopped, the most beautiful tan deer skipping through the long grass between the runway and the train track, it’s horns young and proud. I look for it’s friends, but it is alone. I hope it’s not losT
  • I look out at the swamp, marshes and brown water and think ‘how many snakes are out there?’
  • A party of very excited middle aged black women in front of me. They’re doing shots and playing amazing music from their phones. They call everyone ‘baby’. Whenever a man walks past they holla “Whatcha gonna sing for me, baby?” And laugh. I like them. I bet they’re going to NOLA and I bet they’re going to have the most amazing time
  • As I type this, the group of women in front of me started shrieking with delight – it seems my deer friend was not alone as four others just sped past and down to the runway. He wasn’t alone after all
  • Everyone is so chatty I went into the observation car and got drawn into an hour long conversation with two ladies called Donna and Mabel. Donna had, what sounds like an epic marriage to a passionate Argentinian, and had a son who got drugged in Istanbul (she says his drink got spiked, I’m not so sure…) When I say where I’m from they gasp. When they hear I’m here alone, they gasp some more. When I say I know no one where I’m heading, they practically fall over. That sounds like an egotistical thing to say, but it genuinely surprises me that someone by herself is so shocking
  • Talking to Americans makes me realise and appreciate how adventurous and well travelled NZers are. No one I’ve spoken to has been to LA or New York. And these are quite well-to-do, older people. I guess it’s a bubble and I guess helps give perspective about how and why their politics can seem so wrong to us. It’s an isolated world
  • It’s so green down here. I thought Texas and I thought Australian like, dust and desert. As we drew close to Louisiana it was so lush and rich like English countryside. Green meadows, thick Leafy trees. The more I think about it, the more obvious it seems- it’s hot and its very very wet down here – of course it’ll be green. But I guess we think south / border / Mexico/ desert. I guess that’s my own bubble
  • The party ladies around me brought Jell-O shots. The ladies behind me brought a bottle of wine
  • Like some kind of script, as soon as we crossed the river that marked Louisiana, everyone lifted and, their faces lit up and the following hour was like I was in some kind of road trip movie, where I am my own Manic Pixie Dream Girl, played by Zooey Deschanel or Kirsten Dunst. The ladies starting singing Motown. They befriended a nice old guy called Joe, who got off at Lafayette, but not before inviting everyone for Thanksgiving dinner. And then I saw a beautiful rainbow appear from the sun shower
  • *the Shins fade in as the camera pans to show a reflection of me leaning my head against my window, giving a knowing grin of self-discovery and enlightenment whilst those around me dance and sing in slow motion*
  • They sold me a litre of 8.7% IPA for $10. It has a devil on the front and is delicious. This is my dinne
  • The sky out there is so big. So so big. The sunset was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The sun was a huge red ball, hanging low in the sky, the kind I’ve never seen before
  • Did I mention how green it is? It’s just beautiful, in a way I never imagined or figured possible
  • From the train buildings and infrastructure look beaten up and faded by the extreme weather, but everything just looks so lush, so pure, so honest. Dirt roads that you can imagine 1940’s Chevy trucks driving down, schools with football fields that look movie-ready. It’s such a different America, a soulful america and I haven’t even stepped foot on the soil yet. Perhaps that’s my eternal romanticism getting in the way, but I feel it in my bones and my heart and my blood

I’m getting really, so very excited about where I’m going…


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