Meet Clinton

When I wrote about our 2001 US trip, I meant to include this story, but completely forgot. I’ve just noticed this photo on Flickr, so I thought I’d tell it now.

The guy in the photo came up to us at some traffic lights and started chatting. He was really friendly, he asked us where we were from, and was excited to meet people from England.

He told us his name was Clinton and asked us to take his photo. Then said, “When you get home to England, you can tell your friends you met a black man!”

Even ten years later, it still kind of blows my mind. But I guess not as much as it would have blown his if he’d hung around long enough for us to tell him he – gasp! – wasn’t the first black man we’d ever met.

Chicago to home : 5 September 2001

How ER is this?!

On our last day we had a coffee then got the El just so I could ride it. We left a message for David’s brother at his hotel and then walked along the waterfront to a restaurant called Bennigans. We had brunch there then went to the Field Museum. It was really great, quite like the Natural History Museum and it has a T-Rex named Sue.


From there we picked up our bags and got the subway to the airport. The flight was actually quite good, particularly compared with the outward journey. I watched Shrek, had a bit of a sleep, read a bit, watched an episode of Clocking Off and then we were home. Sadly (and typically) it was foggy and raining.

Got the trains over to Wallasey and Leanne picked us up. Jake even cuter than before, Toby teething so a little grumpy. Had a nice afternoon with them and we’re now watching England vs Albania.

Feels weird to be home, in fact I already can’t remember what America felt like. 

Train to Chicago : 3 September 2001

Sunday on the train was pretty boring and then we arrived in Chicago! Got to the hostel and they said we were only booked in for one night not two and we’d have to stay in a dorm room for the second night. So we phoned Tina from the train and left a message saying we’d love to stay then we went for dinner and David said he’d rather not stay. We rang her again and got the answering machine again, so she probably thinks we’re massive idiots. Which is fair enough.*

We queued for two hours to go up Sears Tower and then we were knackered so we came back to the hostel. Had a really good night’s sleep, thankfully.

Got up late this morning because we hadn’t changed the time on the alarm clock. Tried to move room, but had a right palaver so put our bags in storage and went out.

Walked to the Rock’n’Roll McDonald’s to get the Metro Ducks tour, but it wasn’t running so we got a trolley tour instead and it was great. Chicago is really beautiful.

After the tour, back at the hostel, had no problem changing rooms at all and then we went out for the evening. We walked (quite a long way) to Navy Pier, which was really cool. Sat and had a beer, listening to a soul band and then it started to rain so we went to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for dinner, where David walked face-first into a frying pan like something out of a cartoon.

Had a really nice dinner (and margarita) before getting the subway back. There was an old black guy on the train singing a Stevie Wonder tune and asking what it was. It was Sir Duke and I told him all excitedly. He didn’t understand me at first – I had to say “Dook” instead of “Duke” – and then, when he realised we were English, he started talking about the Queen Mother. Heh.

* See! So stressful!

Cross-country train : 2 September 2001

No pics so here's one from Seattle

It’s 7.30 on Sunday and we’re at a service stop at Minneapolis/St Paul (the Twin Cities). Yesterday, I got up early and went to the newly-arrived observation car*. There was some lovely scenery in Montana, but North Dakota was pretty dull. Sat and read and did some writing. Got talking to a woman who asked if she could buy me a cup of coffee. I said no, I was fine, and she said, “It would make me real happy…” 

Had another game of backgammon with D and I won! Went to the dining car for dinner (catfish and rice) and we were seated with two women travelling alone. Hilary was on her way to Vermont to start college and Tina was on her way home just outside Chicago. Tina invited us to stay with her for the two nights we’re there, but we said we’ve got somewhere we can’t cancel. Now though, I’m thinking maybe we should have accepted. What difference does it make if we pay for the hostel but stay somewhere better? The only thing is it’s 30 miles outside Chicago and I wonder what we’d get to see of Chicago itself. I’m going to ask D what he thinks when he wakes up.** 

* That observation car is one of my happy places: looking up through the glass roof at the leaves rattling in the trees. Gorgeous.

** You would not believe how stressed I got about this. Or maybe – if you’ve been reading my blog for a while – you would. I still feel a bit fretful about it now, ten years on.

Seattle to overnight train : 31 August 2001

Last day in Seattle. Checked out of the hotel then went for brunch at the bagel place. There was a Beatles tribute band on at Harbor Steps so we stood and watched them – they were really good. There was a random guy dancing down the front with coloured chiffon scarves – hilarious.

From there we went to the internet cafe and sent probably our final emails and then on to the Amtrak station. 

I’m writing this on the train*, which has been pretty cool so far. Had a sub for tea and we’re going to have some wine later. 

* We got the train from Seattle to Chicago. It took 48 hours.

Seattle : 30 August 2001

Got up late and went to McD’s for breakfast. Got the bus to the Museum of Flight, which was great. Tried to decide if we could afford to go for a little flight, but thought probably not.

Me and JFK's Air Force One

Later went to the launderette, did a bit of shopping, had tea at Wendy’s and then watched TV. Not very eventful, but we’re kind of winding down, ready to move on tomorrow.