I thoroughly enjoyed my 30-day rail pass with Amtrak. In fact, to me, its the only way to travel in the States especially that fuel prices have jumped so much which prices road tripping out of the market. I´ve seen some amazing scenery and done it in such comfort that the thought of the 26 hour Greyhound trip that lay ahead filled me with dread. I just cannot understand how so many backpackers choose it over the train. I enjoyed Amtrak, I endured Greyhound.
Even recounting the time from when I left Chicago to arriving in Montreal makes me shudder. I arrived in Cleveland Bus Station at one in the morning with an hour wait for my connection. An aged Greyhound Cop approached me - a real fuckin doughnut eater - and said that they had selected me for a random security search. Himself and this half retarded spotty redneck fuck quized me in their room. Asked me did I have any weapons (!!) on me . I told them that I didn´t but that i had a camping knife down in the middle of my backpack. The Goons started giving me grief about it, saying that I wasn´t allowed to have a knife on the bus. I pointed out that I didn´t. That it was in my bag beneath the fucking bus not strapped to the inside of my leg. They told me that i wasnt allowed to have one there either and that some fella before had slit the drivers throat with a knife concealed in his bag like mine. Funny that one never made the news. Muppets.
So anyway, they searched my smaller bag, taking all of the contents out. When it finally dawned on them that I wasnt a threat to anyone, they told me to clear off. After I boarded the next bus I went to get my camera out of my bag. No sign of it. Fucking pricks. Either nicked it or forgot to put it back into my bag. I was fucking raging. I rang them from the next station. They claimed to know nothing about it. Thing is that I´d seen them grab a few more backpackers in for ´random inspection´too. Strange they didnt think of searching any of the hundreds of nutjobs walking around the station. I always expect that stuff to happen in developing countries and certainly not in the US.
It was really disappointing to leave the country on such a sour note. I had such a good time in the gaff and met a lot of really good skins and very few bad ones. The thing about the States is that that you know what you get there. The good and the bad. I´ve spent quite a bit of time there and I´ve always liked the place and the people.
The one question I was consistently asked was "what do people in Ireland think of us". I tell them all the same thing - we generally like the people and the place while not agreeing with the politics. My experience with these cops and an experience I had the next day with the border police in Albany - a good five hours from the border - where they approached everyone with slightly dark skin (and me !) asking for their passports made me imagine for a moment that I was living in some Eastern Bloc country during Communism - "Papers please".
This was something that I´d never experienced before in the States and absolutely not something that I enjoyed. It has become increasingly more paranoid as a nation and for many reasons not one that sits comfortably within its own skin. On reflection, this was something that had been echoed to me by most of the people I´d befriended on this trip anyway. Although I´d chosen my locations pretty sharpely ( I know what I like and I know what I dont) so I had pretty much steered clear of any real redneck areas (one summer in South Carolina gave me a lifetimes worth!) From the people I had met they were all pretty unhappy about the direction their country has taken and were predominantly strong supporters of the Boy Obama.