Chicago/Hillside 2006 trip, part 1: Inland Empire to Denver to Chicago
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Page updated 25-Dec-2008


It was my fourth or fifth bus trip across the US. I started in Seattle and ended in Scranton, Pennsylvania for the annual Hillside wrestling retreat. But first I was going to spend a week in Chicago.

I decided to go through Boise because I'd never been that way. I'd been through Montana and North Dakota a few times. The bus went through Ellensburg, Yakima, Pendleton (Oregon), Boise (Idaho), Wyoming, Salt Lake City, and Denver. Another bus continued through Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois to Chicago. Along the way I compared the price of gasoline: $2.99/gallon in Seattle, $2.98 in eastern Washington, $2.60 in Wyoming, $2.99 in Iowa and Illinois. Wyoming is an oil-producing region, so this was not surprising.

I had four interesting seatmates on the way down:

The Brazilian guy's name was Rainier. I said, "But that's a mountain." He said, "It was originally a French name." His English was so good I didn't even realize he was foreign. He said he'd studied it two years. I was shocked because I know so many people who have been here ten years and still have a thick accent and limited vocabulary. I thought it was due to the complexity of the language: arbitrary spelling, expressions that aren't predictable, and one word having seventy meanings. But he said English was easy. "German was hard. I tried German and failed." Funny, because I found German easy since it's so close to English. (Another friend from Switzerland also told me English was easy. So tell me again why so many Asian restaurants have such atrocious grammar in their signs...?)

I asked what surprised him most about the US, between his expectations vs what he saw. He said the race consciousness. In Brazil there are no pure white or pure black people, everybody is mixed. Social differences are based on class rather than race. There is an upper and lower class but no middle. Now he lives in Moscow, Idaho and attends the university there. I pointed out that Americans would laugh if he said he went to Idaho to find racial harmony. (Try NYC , south Seattle, etc...) Still I can see how from a Brazilian viewpoint, race consciousness seems like an unnecessary distraction from people's real problems.

The other thing that surprised Rainier was Americans' ignorance of their own history. Frequently he would know it better than they did. "How can this be in the sole superpower?" I said it's because of the schools, they don't teach history or geography beyond the US mythology, they're too busy teaching "diversity". Plus, people have a sense that history isn't relevant to them: so many times old ideas have been blown away by new discoveries and ideas that people are skeptical of anything in the past. I pointed out that the schools in the US suck but the universities are excellent. He agreed that's a paradox. He said, "I'm glad I didn't get an American education."

He said Brazil's government is corrupt and was recently a dictatorship like Argentina. I asked about Curibita. He said, "Foreigners always ask about that, which is surprising because it's such a minor city." (Curitiba is famous for its livability due to a series of well-designed transportation and environmental initiatives starting in the 1960s, including the world's largest bus rapid transit network.)

It's 33 hours from Seattle to Denver, and 22 more to Chicago. For those who wonder "How can you stand it?" and "Does the bus stop at hotels for the night?", I've put together a list of Greyhound survival tips.

Continue to part 2.

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Sluggo is Mike Orr, a helluva friendly guy in Seattle. Email me if you have feedback.