The Penis of the Prairies
May 08, 2006
May 06, 2007
I like the hustle and bustle of the city but after seeing all of these places, I needed a break. Originally I had all but planned to go down to New Orleans via Memphis, but the thought of yet more buildings and bustle - coupled with the fact that the hostels reviewed in both places were looking pretty shady - led me to look for some of the natural beauty that America is also famous for. Specifically, The Rockies.
I could catch the 'California Zephyr' train as far as Denver and then Amtrak supply a bus service that runs up to Boulder (a beautiful town nestled at the bottom of said mountains - more on that later) and down to the 'Southwest Chief' line which runs right past the Grand Canyon. I booked a ticket to Lincoln because it was halfway between Chicago and Denver, and because it sounded a bit less hectic than the much larger Omaha.
The train arrived in Lincoln at 03:30 - three hours late out of Chicago thanks to a 'mechanical problem' - and the guy let me sleep in the station until 07:00. I marched over to the other side of town to the hostel which is located in a fully functional church of all places. I waited until 07:30 when it opened and then went upstairs to the office. The sign on the door said 'Closed until further notice. Sorry for any inconvenience'. Oh well that's ok if you're sorry, I forgive you... except that there are no other hostels in Lincoln. I asked the Holiday Inn how much their rooms were and they said the cheapest was $80. EIGHTY DOLLARS!!?? The hostel would have cost me $10. After swiftly deciding that I wouldn't be staying the night in Lincoln I set about looking for a place to stow away my backpack. Eventually I managed to get a receptionist at a swanky hotel to put it in their baggage locker for free and proceeded to look around the city. Result! The next train wasn't until 00:30 so I had plenty of time to look around.
Lincoln is the Capital City of Nebraska. The 'State Capitol' building (note the spelling) is affectionately known as 'The Penis of the Prairies' to the locals. You only have to look at the picture to see why. I went up to the observation deck on the 14th floor and took a couple of pictures of the surrounding lands... not a single hill or bump in sight. The land is completely flat for hundreds of miles around which is presumably the reason why the train travels at night - it's not exactly the most inspiring scenery. I had a little look around the uni campus, went to a museum - with the largest complete mammoth skeleton ever mounted no less - got some stuff to eat, read my book in the hot sun. It was a good day but I was glad I didn't stay the night... With all the students off for the holidays the town was pretty dead so at 11 (after a few pints of course) I went to the station and left for Boulder.
After gawping at all the buildings in Chicago I had been pretty urbanised. Buildings, concrete, pavements, never-ending grids of streets and traffic lights. Walk, don't walk, no standing, no parking, "can you spare some change", "have a nice day". After a while you begin to forget yourself. You start walking around as if your mind is floating in its own little chamber, watching where you're going and what you're up to, conversing with you - and here's the scary part - you start talking to yourself. Yes my friends I'm afraid it has become an alarming habit, but I think it's because everyone else is doing it. All day there are people walking around having full-blown conversations with themselves, tramps shaking cups in your face, people rushing past you to get their lunch, eating it in two minutes and then rushing off to the next place. Everything is a rush. Everything must be done NOW.