Just now back on the road again. A short-ish time, but I’d rather be home. Not to complain though, it’s things like this that have taken me all around the world a few times, paying for me to see places I would never know. One pic only for this post – I wasn’t going to do any, but it’s kinda a photo (we)blog so I have to put at least one.
Tonight in Denver. Stepped out after dinner and then a movie. Felt like a warm night out, so I walked unguided. It’s this thing I do all over, and tonight I remember so many of the places I’ve been an done this. On the road, I have many friends in the crew, but none that close, and I often end up on my own. Don’t really mind, as I get to go whenever and wherever I want. And “I want” to wander randomly a lot. I love abandoned places, historical spots, factory districts. I actually prefer dark and seedy sides of the tracks to the clean and plain. Walking around shopping malls and city centers seems pointless – almost no surprises unless you really get lucky. They often put us in the city center, so all you see is Nike, Starbucks, Barnes and Noble. Not bad, but just the same all over the world. I’d rather see the old part of town, the factories, working areas, abandoned buildings.
So tonight, walking around I came to realize this comfortable feeling I’ve developed, setting out on my own in the night (usually), not knowing where I’m going or how far. It feels like instinct, like hunters who would set out in search of something – but they only knew it when they found it. And like instinct, I have a strong feeling for where to go, and my senses heighten to everything. (This never happens in busy cities or malls) I can often find my way around with a clear sense of how to get back – yet in a different way, not retracing my steps. I go for miles and often find a circle back to “start”. I’ve only gotten truly lost twice – once with a friend in Vienne, France – we took a bus into town and when we were ready to leave the buses had stopped. We knew it was a 12 mile walk back but, hey – we’ve got legs and time! So we walked – took a wrong turn (we later found what it was) and went 12 miles. Didn’t find the hotel, but saw a lot. Twice – as we had to retrace and head back to the missed turn. Tried to get from there back but it was just as hard to follow the vague memory of the busride in we had taken – do I remember that landmark or not? So, at one point, we called the hotel for a taxi back. Still – a 25-35 mile hike that day made it seem we didn’t give up – we got somewhere, just not our planned place!
A second time was early this year in Sydney, Australia. I went through the local mall area, and the university, the downtown and outward. Kept going into amazing factory districts, and then into rundown neighborhoods with the most amazing old houses. Then circled back and almost found my way, but a few unclear directions had me confused. So I pulled out the GPS on the phone (easy cheat I usually avoid) and walked back – a good 4-5 hour night walk. Great times, and I could now show you where I went.
It seems strange to me that I have good recall of places, but I have VERY clear memories of these streets and hills and railroad tracks I find. I often see amazing sights of interest BUT it’s often night and I have no camera (or only cell phone that doesn’t do “night shots” well). Memories are better in some ways than the “proof” of a photo. But here’s one – empty tonight but the Union Station in downtown Denver (“Travel by Rail”) it says in old neon on the roof. Beautiful inside, from the era when style was more important than profits. Nicely kept up and/or renovated. I probably saw 20 or more equally great views; waterfalls, old railroad cars, a church called “Pillar of Fire”, the capitol, etc. - but only took this one photo.
Maybe someday I will take a friend or family to one of these places and be a good tour guide: Osaka, Dublin (where the huge Guinness plant makes the fog taste like beer), Vienna, Hamburg (my favorite city in Europe), New York City, Paris, Dallas (very rough, not recommended), Little Rock (my least favorite place on the planet), Portland, Locarno (in Switzerland - amazing), London (of course), Strasbourg, Seattle, Verona (Italy), Boston, Mannheim, Geneva, Adelaide, Barcelona, Munich, Tampa, so many others. I’ve been lucky to scour these places by foot. I’m sure there’s a lot I don’t know about each city, but I did make a big dent in knowing them from the street level, places that are not the normal tourist stops. Some amazing sights. More to come even in the next few weeks, I hope…