Friday, September 25, 2009

Modes of Travel

I don't think I like air travel anymore. I still like the sensation of being on a plane--the rise and fall, acceleration and deceleration--and I still like the view from a small plane window. I always request window seats, and whatever time I don't spend reading, I spend with my forehead pressed to the thin Plexiglas separating me from 600 mph of upper troposphere. So, the view and the feeling of flying I like; everything else I don't like.
Airports are always a hassle to get to and from. They are expensive, strict, and full of delays. I chose to fly to Portland to avoid any more hang-ups in getting to the Northwest, but, consistent with Monday's travel attempts, my first flight was delayed, causing my second flight to be rescheduled for four hours later. Though my flights were a hassle, I landed during a pink sunset over green and watery Portland with a crescent moon dangling low in the sky. Seeing something pretty was enough to counteract the sour experiences I may have had that day. But another issue I have with flying is that you simply take off from an ugly place (Phoenix) and land in a pretty place (Portland) without seeing the slow incremental transition between the two. You gain no empirical knowledge of what connects two distinct places on Earth.
Better than air travel, is train travel. The view is more grounded, and usually just as captivating. The gentle rocking and clanking soothes the mind into thinking calm and meditative thoughts about the nature of the world and self. The only problem is that whatever landscapes you may view, they are for viewing only. You can't yell out, "Stop the train; I want to walk through the that meadow!" Many a time I've been riding, looking out the window and have tried to make a mental note to return to such and such village to get more than just a passing glimpse, but it's never happened. I took the Amtrak from Portland to Seattle, and it was one of the few train trips I've every taken in the U.S. I carefully watched how the landscape of one city became the landscape of another, and, luckily, there weren't any places I felt absolutely compelled to return to.
In a couple days I'll get to employ my favorite method of transport: hitchhiking. Hitchhiking is free, affords good views, and you have the flexibility of getting on and off whenever and wherever you please, as well as the excitement of never knowing if you'll actually get a ride. I'm going to have several days to work my way down to San Francisco, and I have no idea what will happen between here and there. But that's in a couple days, and until then, I'm going to enjoy myself in Seattle.

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