Monday, April 4, 2016

The (Not So) Great American Adventure 2010

This is a travel journal from my Summer 2010 train ride across the USA with two friends Danial and Nana. We were three third-year university students (or Juniors, as per American lingo) who wanted to do something different than the usual road trip to Disney World or meet more fellow Malaysians and eat Malaysian food at the Midwest Games. So we decided on a fantastic train trip from our starting point of Pittsburgh, PA all the way to Seattle, WA. I had to cut short my trip there, as I had to return to KL for an internship, while Danial and Nana would continue to double back towards Pittsburgh through the northers states and the Midwest. My trip lasted a month while theirs continued for another two weeks. Hence while Danial and Nana had a Great American Adventure, mine was not quite so.

We had three cardinal rules:
  1. All disputes and arguments must be settled by Osom or Lat tali lat;
  2. We brought the Chowdown Countdown: a list of 100 top dishes across America. We will have to eat any dish that is found in a city we visit; and
  3. No dengki, no fighting, don't be a dick
Our trip would only be possible if we were absolutely frugal. We took Amtrak passes; packed canned tuna and instant mac 'n cheese; stayed with friends, Couchsurfers and at cheap hostels; laptops and hard disk drives full of movies and TV shows; and cooked at least half our meals. Amtrak passes had limited stops so to maximise our usage of it, each train journey had to be 12+ hours, with the longest clocking in at 23:50, if we were to cover all the ground we wanted.

Along the way, we picked up idiosyncratic habits of assigning middle names, collecting pressed pennies and blatantly disregarding Rule #3 just for spite. We also made time for currently-airing TV shows such as Grey's Anatomy, Lost and also the UEFA Champions League Final between Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan and Louis Van Gaal's Bayern Munich, either by watching live or torrenting.

So on May 12, 2010, my two friends from Penn State arrived at my adopted home of Pittsburgh by Megabus. And so began a trip of a lifetime (and the fantastic log I kept on my old Nokia).

May 12, 2010
Pittsburgh, PA

2:30pm EDT - Danial and Nana sampai Pittsburgh.
2:32pm - Nana calls me. I lie about my whereabouts and ETA as I am running late. Literally running.
2:36pm - Arrive at the Pittsburgh Amtrak Station.
2:40pm - Peluk cium and get our passes and tickets.
3:30pm - Walk to Strip District in search of Old Town White Coffee.
4:05pm - Give up after not finding any.
4:15pm - 54C bus waltzes by without stopping.
4:35pm - Ride another 54C to Oakland.
4:50pm - Arrive at Cathedral Mansions, my pretentiously-named student apartment.
5:00pm - I leave with a bowl of potato salad for Yang's party.
7:00pm - Penguins-Canadiens Game 7 starts.
8:40pm - Penguins lose 5-1.
8:51pm - I lose a game of poker, having gone all in without really knowing wtf I was doing.
9:00pm - Get back home.
9:30pm - Laundry.
11:45pm - Pack.

May 13, 2010
Pittsburgh, PA

9:00am - Nana lepak dengan kawan.
10:30am - Danial, Nik and I bincang pasal social life Nana.
10:35am - Buat/masak burger.
3:55pm - Bank in check.
4:05pm - Check was signed in the wrong spot.
4:15pm - Check was signed properly.
4:25pm - Banked in check.
4:35pm - Gates Building to print Rancangan Rahsia Musim Panas 2010.
5:10pm - Test drive David's Mitsubishi Lancer with Danial and Hassan.
6:00pm - Mandi.
9:01pm - Watch Grey's Anatomy.
10:04pm - Leave for downtown by 61C.
10:08pm - We find a box of biscuits on the back row of seats.
10:30pm - Arrive at Pittsburgh Amtrak Station.
11:30pm - Board the Capitol Limited to Chicago.
11:59pm - Sang "Don't Stop Believin'". Girl behind yells ""I heard that!" and sings along.

May 14, 2010
Chicago, IL

6:52am - Scared by the sight of a train's bangkai by the side of the track, in some small town in Ohio.
8:25am CDT - We change our watches to CDT after the announcement.
8:33am - "If you guys aren't here, I won't have a job and I can't feed my babies," says stewardess R.Santos. She goes on to tell us about her 'girlfriend'.
8:48am - Arrive at Chicago's Union Station.
9:07am - Buy CTA 1-Day Passes at CVS.
9:11am - "I really like your hair! It's one-of-a-kind, man!" proclaims a black guy to Danial as we cross the street back to Union Station. I take the opportunity to say, "I cut it!"
9:13am - Board CTA bus X28 to Hyde Park.
9:39am - Arrive at Hyde Park. Walk to Nj's place.
9:44am - Arrive at Nj's place. Ring door bell.
9:46am - Call her phone.
9:47am - Window opens, Nj's head pops out and says "Sorry! Aku baru mandi!" despite knowing full well when we were arriving.
9:58am - Nj tells us her new TV doesn't get basic cable and that it would be nice if we could fix it since "korang kan lelaki" (sexist). Her TV probably doesn't get any signal because there is no cable attached to it other than the power cable. But she doesn't know that. And that's despite us telling her so.
10:03am - Nj starts to cook chocolate chip pancakes.
10:06am - Nj tells Nana about the time she cooked bubur Maggi sampai hangus for me.
10:09am - Nj's first pancake turns out hangus.
10:10am - Danial photographs the juxtaposition of her embarrassed face and the hangusness of the pancake.
10:30am - Makan! And I pass on to Nj the Manneken Pis figure from Brussels, the drawing and a packet of Choki-Choki.
11:05am - CTA Bus 6 to Downtown.
11:44am - Begin walking tour.
11:50am - Museum of Art. Nana taknak. 'Tak cultured'.
12:40pm - Continue walking tour.
1:00pm - Green tea whatchamacallit and cheese bread at Jamba Juice.
1:20pm - Continue walking tour.
3:00pm - Spend time at The Bean...
4:20pm - Arrive at Giordano's Pizza and eat Chicago deep dish.
5:30pm - Walk to Navy Pier.
5:40pm - Find penny press and shop for souvenirs.
6:10pm - Pictures.
6:46pm - Stop by a Tumi store on sale. Beli hadiah for Papa's birthday!
7:26pm - Using only my memory, I guide us to the bus stop opposite the 7-Eleven to board Bus 6.
8:35pm - Arrive at Nj's building. Ring door bell.
8:37pm - Call Nj but went straight to voicemail.
8:39pm - Nj calls and says she'll be back in 20 minutes.
8:50pm - We walk to the front and observe a cat.
9:15pm - Nj arrives apologizing profusely (memang patut pun!) and we go inside.
9:45pm - Watch 'Wicker Park' because Chicago.

May 15, 2010
Chicago, IL

12:44pm - We see UChicago's unfinished impressive underground library.
12:46pm - After 8 months, Nj finally admits that CMU is smaller than UChicago.
12:48pm - We visit the 'Man Reaches Atomic Age' monument.
1:02pm - Catch sight of Danial's twin (same hair).
1:10pm - Grabbed some free pop (soda) at UChicago's annual Summer Fest. It's a free theme park with free food. Fantastic for our wallets and trip.
1:20pm - Sign indemnity. Get wrist band.
1:45pm - Bungee run thing. I win against Nana tapi dia taknak percaya. Degil gila.
2:10pm - Giant inflatable slide.
2:25pm - My camera fails to take any pictures as we slide down. I am renamed Shazwan "Bateri Habis" Azizan
2:28pm - Tukar bateri spare.
2:32pm - Giant slide again; this time with pictures.

2:38pm - Nj does the Eurobungee thing, as Jay Sern watches on.

2:50pm - We eat apple and caramel dip.
3:15pm - See a rather meh hypnotist.
3:26pm - Fried Oreos and fried Twinkies stall. There was a rather funny "Meet Jesus faster!" sign. I didn't even mind the 'Fryed Oreos' sign.
3:52pm - Sample Honest Tea samples.
4:04pm - Line up at grill. Turned away but sempat merasa tandoori.
4:15pm - Line up for caricatures.
4:38pm - Three of us go for a free green screen group photo. I wear a crown.
4:46pm - Danial takes Nj's place in the line and she comes for a photo with us.
4:52pm - Nana rides a mechanical bull. I get a photo of her which I file under "Tak Boleh Jadi Menteri"

5:12pm - Back at the line, a girl behind us skips the line, and makes a bitchy face when we assume the spot behind her.
5:20pm - Give up on caricatures. Check out the barbecue.
5:28pm - Walk to Treasure Island, the most European supermarket in America. We see the bitchy faced girl again. Again she makes a bitchy face at us.
5:43pm - Kalah osom with Nj, so we buy yellow bell peppers as per her request instead of green.
6:17pm - Balik rumah Nj.
6:33pm - Masak spaghetti, stuffed french toast and garlic bread.
6:41pm - Try out the onion cubing skill I learned a few days ago on Youtube. Nj kagum.
7:02pm - Tumis bawang and yellow bell peppers. Nj cakap bau sedap.
7:36pm - Rebus spaghetti. Nj sebut speggetti instead of spuh-getti. Hahaha.
7:52pm - Makan. Nj cakap sedap gila.
8:03pm - Dangerous candid photo session of us eating at the table with our self-timed cameras dangling on her spiral staircase.

10:20pm - Nana and Nj watch the final episodes of Adamaya. I observe from afar. Not much has changed since I last saw a drama Melayu.
11:00pm - I gave Danial a recap on 'Wicker Park' from last night.
11:30pm - Watch random episodes of Mentor auditions.

May 16, 2010
Chicago, IL
St. Louis, MI

1:26am - Tido.
4:30am - Awoke (as usual) to my 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go' alarm.
4:52am - Nj says good-bye. She reaches out but hesitates to hug anyone sebab "I'm smelly. No, actually, I'm not smelly but yeah..."
5:18am - Bus 6 to Downtown. A box of Oreos in the back row. Coincidence? We agree that if we find a third, it's a sign...or fate or whatever...and we must take it.
5:42am - Bus 151 to Union Station.
6:26am - Board the train to St. Louis.
6:53am - A family in front of us counts down and celebrates the dad's 50th birthday.
12:32pm - "Sungai ke?" asks Nana at the sight of the Mississippi. "Tiada taik" I think to myself.
12:45pm - Arrive at St. Louis Amtrak Station bang on time.
1:02pm - Nana gets all her $17.75 change in coins while buying a Metrolink ticket.
1:29pm - Danial doesn't know where we are while we look for Paul's house.
Danial "Sesat" Ariff.
1:32pm - Nj texts to say we left our bread and my Speedstick.
1:34pm - Paul, our Couchsurfing host, meets us at an intersection. When his housemate calls, he says he's "wrangling the couchsurfers."
1:36pm - "Eh, serai!" proclaims Nana as she points at some pandan leaves.
1:37pm - I reply Nj's text: "That was intentional. Ketiak kau bau."
1:48pm - Tour of Paul's house.
1:52pm - Paul tells us they had six chickens, but two died. They suspected it was due to sembelit because the chickens weren't eating enough rocks. I am worried by this because I have not taken a shit since the 12th. That's 4 days.
2:42pm - Leave for Downtown.
3:38pm - Broadway Oyster House for po'boys and shrimp creole.
4:26pm - Naik the Arch.
4:37pm - A random Pak Cik Yakin volunteers to take our picture. It turns out horribly blurry but you gotta give him credit for his confidence.
5:02pm - Jalan-jalan downtown.
5:08pm - Hujan. I use my umbrella and pull out my backpack's poncho.
5:10pm - I make Danial take a picture of my bag with its poncho; "Aku nak kau upload gambar tu, pastu bila kau balik Penn State bagitau member kau semua. Aku nak, lain kali bila aku datang Penn State masa hujan, semua tanya aku "Eh, beg kau yang ada poncho kan?"" I am met with deathly stares all round.
6:29pm - Balik. Basah kuyup. Nobody home.
7:02pm - Nick opens the door. He was asleep.
8:13pm - Mandi.
9:02pm - I updated Danial's facebook status in rempit speak for the lolz.
9:36pm - Reminded of my lack of deodorant, I text Nj to mail my Speedstick with whatever she plans to send me.
9:37pm - Nj replies, suddenly defensive of her armpits and her own Speedstick ("bau harum, ok!"). Sure.
9:50pm - Easy Mac for dinner. And a can of tuna.
10:20pm - Nana challenges for my blanket. Osom. Kalah :(

May 17, 2010
St. Louis, MI

9:00am - Bangun.
9:15am - Breakfast and tapau-ing a lunch of tuna sandwiches.
10:00am - We begin the long and arduous journey by walking to the Forest Park Metrolink Station.
10:20am - Board Metrolink train to East St. Louis.
10:40am - Board Moreland County Transit Regional Bus 18 to Collinsville.
10:45am - Danial sees a sign for wifi on board. I check my facebook page just because.
10:50am - Walk a mile or so to Cahokia Mounds.
11:23am - Arrive at Cahokia Mounds.

11:50pm - Walk along the Yellow Trail.
12:10pm - Despite being hungry as hell, fate (osom) decides that we eat atop the Monks Mound so we climb first.
12:43pm - Take pictures individually climbing/atop the mound. The sign posts say this is the spot of the oldest civilisation in America.
1:20pm - Lunch atop the Monks Mound peak.
1:45pm - I go down first to take pictures of them coming down. Then they overtake me and take my picture. I beat Nana at osom so the cycle stops. Gedik gila nak lagi satu gambar.
2:07pm - Board MCT 18 bus, which arrived as scheduled.
2:33pm - Nana and I see a man with a badass misai at the Arch. It juts out and loops upward then in. It moves as one with his head when he turns it.
2:40pm - Look for penny press, only to find out there are none. Told to go to Union Station.
3:00pm - Wander around St. Louis Union Station and realize what Paul said was true ("It's now a crappy mall"). Found penny press, as well as cheesy Platform 9¾ mural.
3:30pm - Board the 70 Grand bus for the 30-odd block journey to Ted Drewe's--yet another one of our Chowdown stops.
4:00pm - Arrive and melantak frozen custard at Ted Drewe's.

4:39pm - Arrive at Grand Metrolink station. We see a ridiculously long freight train that doesn't end for 12 minutes.
4:51pm - End of the train.
5:30pm - Arrive at Paul's house. Visit their chickens with Nick. Danial harvests the eggs.

6:45pm - Walk to Delmar in the Loop with Nick.

7:00pm - Watch an awesome free documentary about infrastructure and public transportation: 'Beyond the Motor City'. Nick's friend proclaims "Infrastructure is sexy!" when the film's director gets modest.
8:45pm - Buy a spicy (level 7) pad thai from Noodles & Company.
9:00pm - Arrive at Paul's house.
9:15pm - Dinner while watching Family Guy on Hulu. Nana mandi.
9:45pm - Mandi and packing.
10:40pm - Paul drives us to the St. Louis Amtrak Station.
10:55pm - Arrive at St. Louis Amtrak Station. Farewell with Paul.
11:40pm - Watch 'The Invention of Lying'.

May 18, 2010
Kansas City, MI & Kansas City, KS

1:20am - Finish 'The Invention of Lying'.
2:58am - Nana marah bila kena kacau tengok Gossip Girl.
3:04am - Begin watching 'Youth in Revolt'.
3:25am - Talk to an elderly man carrying a 52oz cup of root beer/Dr. Pepper/Mr. Pibb. The conversation starts by him assuming Nana was my girlfriend "and who knows? Maybe someday wife?" The conversation will go from marriage to courtrooms; alimony; child support; his worthless children; drug abuse and dealing; heart attacks and strokes; family; "ex-wi...almost ex-wife since she is technically still my wife"; his barber shop; farming and ranches; animal husbandry; red angus and black angus beef; the many uses of lidahekor and paru; pressure cooking/cookers; carpentry; Greyhound and Amtrak; the dangers of liberal democrats ("they have women marrying women these days!"); why I shouldn't vote Democrat (a long story about how Dems are against our right to bear arms).
3:32am - Pause the movie since the Old Man is rather interesting.
3:40am - He says he's a barber so I ask his opinion of Danial's hair (it was a Mohawk). He says it's brilliant and that he'd hire me to work at his barbershop in Tulsa, OK.
4:09am - "You seem like a humble person...the way you talk, giving your friend a free haircut. I should turn you in. It's illegal for barbers to give free haircuts in Oklahoma." says the Old Man.
4:18am - He assumes I have some sort of belief. I tell him "I'm a Muslim, just not the blow-up-myself kind" and he says "Jesus welcomes you".
4:22am - My first berak since the day Danial and Nana arrived in Pittsburgh.
4:34am - Old Man assumes (correctly) that I had diarrhea and tells me four poop jokes, mainly about truckers.
5:36am - "Little girl, you're as cute as a bug," says the Old Man to Nana.
5:42am - Board train to Kansas City.
11:20am - Arrive at KC.
11:40am - Dismayed by the manner of our arrival at Kansas City's train station. Dark alleyways into the station, dodgy ramps and stairs.
11:45am - Wowed by the interior of Union Station.
11:50am - Meet Jared and his car Lil' Red. Drive around KC.
12:15am - Lunch at Joe's Pizza. They put honey (and sometimes peanut butter) on their pizza here in KC. They provide bottles of honey, like they do hot sauce and chili flakes.
12:51pm - Rambut Nana panas. It was 80°F.
1:23pm - Drive around KC.
1:44pm - Walk to a bridge at the river.
2:42pm - Balik rumah Jared, David and Jason.
3:15pm - Tour the DIY house, the zombie movie props they're building, lepak, minum².
3:52pm - Danial and I run to HyVee for eggs and Speedstick.
4:28pm - Mandi; Danial and I fight over access to bathroom atas sebab "carpet lawa", "bau sedap", "entah...menarik lah" or "just because". It had absolutely nothing to do with the two Playboy magazines on the toilet. There was a bathroom scale.
Weight: 156 lbs
4:52pm - Lepak/nap.
5:13pm - David gets back home.
6:26pm - Leave for Arthur Bryant's BBQ. David drives a 1975 Oldsmobile 98. It packs the GM Rocket 7.4L V8 engine. He says the best he's ever done was 13 MPGs. His average is 7 MPGs.
6:34pm - KC is a city in both the states of Kansas and Missouri. As we cross the state line into Missouri, I tell Danial, "Danial, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore". Childhood dream come true.
6:42pm - Arrive at Athur Bryant's. Locals insist you have to buy it to-go. Each 'sandwich' is really just a mound of meat, barbecue sauce, two slices of bread, fries and more barbecue sauce, all rolled into a cylinder the size of a kitchen roll. It's easily 2 kilos each.
6:54pm - The plastic bag containing our four sandwiches gives way and koyak, foreshadowing the unforgettable meal up ahead.
7:10pm - Arrive back at the house.
7:15pm - Makan! The bread and fries are soggy by now because of the barbecue sauce. It's become a mush of meat fibers, melted bread and mashed fries swimming in sauce. We just grab handfuls of whatever and throw it on our plates. No time for photos.
7:46pm - Seconds.
7:57pm - David declares himself "this close to a coma".
8:01pm - Jason returns.
8:03pm - Nana enters a mini panic/guilt trip as she discovers that the bottle of barbecue sauce she bought (and ate) contains lard. (She ate the sauce, not the bottle--that wouldn't make sense)
Weight: 164 lbs
8:32pm - Leave for Harling's Bar to see a 14-piece jazz band.
8:48pm - The band had 16 pieces and Danial and I look at each other in displeasure. We meet AJ from Tanzania, and Matt, who loves the Tuesday night free jazz and $2 beers.
9:44pm - A girl joins in our conversation when she hears "five year plan". She studies and translates Albanian poetry. Or was that Slovenian?
11:02pm - Arrive back home.
11:32pm - Farewell with David, who'll leave early the next morning.

May 19, 2010
Kansas City, MI & Kansas City, KS

8:30am - Bangun.
9:15am - Masak.
9:40am - Makan.
10:20am - Mandi.
10:26am - Pussy out when Danial requests osom for body wash.
2:06pm - Jared sends us to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

3:30pm - Danial scolds me, "Kalau kau nak buat perangai Melayu, baik kau pergi Midwest [Games]".
4:45pm - Danial nak kencing but I disagree. Osom. I lost.
4:48pm - We both took a leak. Not in a gay way, I should add.
5:15pm - Merayap along The Link to Union Station.
5:50pm - Explore Union Station.
6:40pm - Nana makan.
6:50pm - Danial buat fitnah 'gayut'.
8:15pm - Merayap lagi along The Link.
8.42pm - Refer a digital map of a mall. I am surprised such a huge screen was touchscreen. Danial sentuh touchscreen tu duluCelaka.
9:06pm - Sampai Union Station.
10:00pm - Jared drives our bags to Kansas City Union Station. Farewell and photos.

10:24pm - Makan! Leftover Arthur Bryant's.

10:38pm - Old lady with a walking stick waits in the rain as her three bags are brought out. She asks for the buggy and is told to "wait till all these people board and the train leaves".
10:43pm - Board the train. Spend so much to restore a train station, you could at least put some decent thought on the train part.
10:52pm - Nana gets a call from her housemate and they argue over the phone bill. "Boleh tak kau jangan jerit kat aku?!" The whole train car would know her household issues if only they understood Malay.

May 20, 2010
Trinidad, CO

2:01am - Makan pil tidur.
10:15am - Bangun. Ambik gambar gunung.

9:28am MDT - Change clocks to MDT.
9:49am - Train arrives at Trinidad, CO. Nana main tangan bayi Quaker.
9:51am - Conductor looks at us quizzically and asks "You guys are gettin' off at Trinidad?" I reply with an emphatic "Yes!" For context, Trinidad is a town of 9,000 people in the middle of a desert, known for used cars, bricks, and a sex change clinic.
10:07am - Our room was given to a Korean guy so we're given another room. I booked a month ago and was quoted $66. A week ago I called to reconfirm and was told no such booking existed. I made another booking--the same room--for $51. Today I still didn't get the room but I paid $49.95 for the night. Fantastic!
10:09am - Renee, motel owner, says "wow, that's a fancy signature ya got there".
10:50am - I download Lost on uTorrent. Danial complain internet lembab. I tell him it's probably his 5-year old laptop.
11:22am - Renee argues with her sister over directions. We suggest osom, as it's served us well. Dia kalah osom dengan adik dia. So we follow the adik's directions.
11:30am - Stop by Lee's BBQ, where we had ½ chiliburgers. We felt cheated when we saw our bowl of fries but no chili or burgers. The waitress kindly explained to us that it's half a burger (half the bun, one patty) in a bowl, sprinkled with cheese, then with chili con carne poured on it, then it's covered with fries. Rating: 9. Kidney beans would have made it a 10. Not a Chowdown stop, but should probably be. SO GOOD.
12:03pm - JR's store for Gatorade and a bathroom break.
12:17pm - A lady warns us against her killer dog (chihuahua) barking at us.
12:25pm - Arrive at base of Simpson's Rest.

12:32pm - I lick a cactus. Because.

12:44pm - Reach the top of Simpson's Rest! My iPod was playing 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love'. I think long and hard to find some fancy meaning.
12:48 - I didn't find any meaning.

1:09pm - We all call anyone just to say we're on top of a hill. I called Intan.
1:37pm - Reach base.
2:00pm - Safeway's for groceries.
2:20pm - Merayap Main St. We found out the town has no penny press. Their best souvenir is a brick with the town's name engraved in it. It's ten bloody dollars. The town used to make bricks.

3:00pm - Balik. Tengok Lost.
4:00pm - Research the times for the Champions League Final as well as the Lost finale.
5:04pm - Mandi, tido.
8:37pm - Bangun, buat-buat tido. Eavesdrop Danial and Nana.
8:48pm - Sit up in bed. Complete Danial's sentence because I already knew. Complete Nana's sentence because I already knew.
9:09pm - Realize Grey's Anatomy is on today. Jump to TV and channel surf till I get ABC.
9:37pm - Guessed correctly he pulled the wires.
9:44pm - Guessed correctly Meredith Grey was having a miscarriage.
9:52pm - Guessed correctly Richard Weber would ask "Are you?"
10:01pm - Realized we missed the first half of the Grey's finale.
11:36pm - Downloaded Picasa to view RAW files on my netbook.

May 21, 2010
Trinidad, CO
Albuquerque, NM

2:07am - Ate a Twinkie. Berus gigi. Tido.
8:00am - Wake up to 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go'.
8:29am - Realize it's 8:29am and pack.
8:39am - Return key. Ciao.
9.09am - Lepak at the Amtrak Station.
9.48am - Train 3 Southwest Chief arrives.
9:52am - Menang osom. Takyah tukar tempat duduk dengan Nana, who crams beside Danial.

3:40pm - Arrive at Albuquerque's Alvarado Transport Center.
4:05pm - A guy yells at a policeman "Hey I'll smoke witchu again! Maybe tomorrow! At 4:20! Yeah, we'll smoke at 4:20!" The policeman smirks and says "Dumbass. Lucky I didn't arrest him."
4:16pm - At a bus stop, an old pak cik correctly guesses Nana is Malaysian. Says he's a photographer who worked in Pittsburgh for a while. He then goes on to tell us about his Malaysian friend Dr. Ong, who is/was a kung fu master who studied in the mountains in Malaysia. He adds "Malaysians are great people. Well, better than the ones over here."
4:29pm - Nampak lori 3 roda.
4:53pm - Sampai rumah Mike and Meaghan, our Couchsurfing hosts.
6:00pm - We play Nerds while we take turns taking showers.
7:00pm - Makan! Mike whips up some home made tacos. I rate this meal as "Paling Puas" because it was sedap, the table was full of condiments, it was all-you-can-eat and most importantly free.
10:54pm - Danial menang lat. He gets dibs on the single bed. I get the airbed (with a built-in electric pump!) and Nana gets the couch.
10:58pm - Nana challenges me to stop saying "that's mean" because apparently it's annoying. I win the ensuing osom. Fate has decided I shouldn't stop. Nana looks at Danial who tells her "ni bukan masalah aku".
11:20pm - Tido.

May 22, 2010
Albuquerque, NM

8:30am - Bangun.
9:00am - Mandi.
10:00am - Mike and Meaghan drive us all to Cecilia's Cafe for breakfast burritos and enchiladas. "For an unpredictable chile fix" says a sign inside. The red chile is thick and burns at the first taste. Also, I note that they call it chile, not chili.
11:00am - Arrive at Old Town.

11:34am - Danial bukak pintu salah at the Albuquerque Museum.
12:35pm - Nana walks to the University of New Mexico's campus.
12:40pm - Danial and I go to Saggio's, a sports bar, for the 2010 UEFA Champions League final. The place has countless TVs.

1:20pm - 1-0 to Inter as Milito scores.
1:55pm - Nana texts "Nak mati kebosanan dah ni".
2:18pm - Nana datang.
2:21pm - 2-0 Inter. Milito again.
2:44pm - Full time. Inter win.
3:08pm - Beli poskad with chili con carne recipe in hopes Mama will master the dish by the time I get back.
3:21pm - Tolong orang yang tak reti guna camera.
3:23pm - Post Office tutup.
3:48pm - We do the Albuquerque Museum backwards.
4:42pm - Candy Lady, where they sell candy shaped like kote, tetek and vagina. And chili-chocolate fudge. Nana buys the fudge. Pedas. I also buy stamps.
4:46pm - 'My Boy Lollipop' plays on the radio and gets stuck in my head for the next few days. Seriously the way she says 'lollipop' is so annoying it's like she wants you to know she knows her qalqalah.
5:04pm - Mailed postcard. Decide to cook dinner for our hosts.
5:42pm - We go to Smith's, a grocery store, where we shop for nasi lemak ingredients. Kecewa takde daun pandan.
6:17pm - Balik. Main trampoline.

6:28pm - Masak!

7:35pm - Makan! Mike tells us they'll be back late, so we save the nasi lemak for breakfast.
8:00pm - Mandi.

May 23, 2010
Albuquerque, NM
Flagstaff, AZ

12:03am - E-mailed Mama and Papa after a pang of 'ah, rindunya rumah'.
12:57am - Tido.
5:47am - Bangun. Sejuk. Ambik selimut lagi satu.
7:01am - Mama talipon, kacau tido.
10:23am - Bangun, makan.
11:16am - Mike makan nasi lemak.

11:46am - We hear Mike saying to Meaghan "Oh, that's a good breakfast!"
11:52am - Nana tak paham/buat-buat tak paham konek jokes. (Konek gi mana?/Kau nak gi mana?)
12:18pm - Flea market and car boot sale.
12:36pm - Danial buys horchata. It's not December so it doesn't count.

12:48pm - A guy offers him "better" horchata.
1:01pm - Mike makes a duplicate key. It took less than 2 minutes. Kagum seketika.
1:02pm - Someone speaks Spanish to Nana. He then asks her "Are you (Red) Indian? Japanese?"
1:20pm - Balik.
2:10pm - Mike and Meaghan drive us to Frontier's Cafe in their almost Ecto-1.

2:20pm - Sampai. Makan.
2:42pm - Sembang dengan mak cik tua. I order the #75 while I wait for coffee.
3:20pm - Alvarado Transport Center. The PA system's jingle sounds so cool.
3:35pm - Berak. Panas gila. Banyak sangat makan pedas kot. Small price to pay for the awesome food I've had.
3:40pm - 3 Southwest Chief arrives.
3:42pm - Toilet paper jauh sangat, so I bend forward to reach for it, triggering the auto-flush toilet. Tak pasal-pasal flush 3 kali.
3:43pm - Danial datang kacau aku berak. Dia suruh board awal nak dapat seat bagus. Padahal masalah tiket dia pun tak settle lagi.
3:48pm - Keluar toilet. Danial and Nana try to settle their ticketing issues.
3:54pm - I realize the jingle isn't from the PA system. It's from an arcade machine behind me.
4:33pm - Danial and Nana successfully changed their tickets.
4:35pm - Board the train.
4:45pm - Train departs.
5:34pm - I feel nauseous. No. Nauseated. 'Nauseous' is wrong, and is a common mistake. At least Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory says so. You're welcome.
7:13pm MST - Change time to MST.
7:23pm - Danial says it's 8:23pm. Ha! Phone dia kuno. Doesn't auto update the time. Danial "Kuno" Ariff
7:46pm - Due to DST and differing time zones, I mistakenly think we should arrive now. Apparently we arrive in an hour's time. Shazwan "Salah" Azizan
7:51pm - Figured it out. The pamphlet said "after Nov 3 all times shown are an hour later". Not only is it after Nov 3 (when the clock goes back an hour) but it's also past May 3 (when the clock goes forward an hour).
7:52pm - Merajuk dengan Arizona, taknak beli teh dia lagi dah.
7:53pm - Danial says "Oh, kau dah pandai merajuk eh? Macam Nana?" I learn from her; I learn from the best.
8:49pm - I see a restaurant. It's a simple square building with a neon red sign that says 'Restaurant'. Just like 'Kedai Kopi' in Shah Alam!
8:53pm - Sampai Flagstaff, AZ. It's in the desert.
8:55pm - "Sejuk gils!" It's freezing outside the train but we can't go anywhere because the train is stopped for a cigarette break and our hostel is on the other side of the station.
9:11pm - We check in. The receptionist's brother graduated from CMU. She lived in Pittsburgh. In Shadyside. On Ellsworth Ave where I live.
9:20pm - We meet Nick, a Kiwi, and talk about our plans. He'll be sticking with us for a bit.
9:30pm - We meet Munir, the altruistic Brazilian. But then again he's Brazilian so he's probably Mounir. He then says if Munir/Mounir is too hard to pronounce, just call him Richard. Danial wants the alias Charleston. I choose Richmond.
10:05pm - Walk 2 miles to Safeways, a grocery store. A guy outside the hostel tells us it's "2.5 miles away" and gives us directions. He also says the bar across the hostel is very dodgy and that he'd "probably get herpes the moment [he] steps inside".
10:30pm - We get to use the Safeways card again. Hooray for savings!
11:10pm - Balik hostel. Masak.
11:45pm - Makan.

May 24, 2010
Flagstaff, AZ

12:20am - Tido.
7:23am - Bangun. Mandi.
7:48am - As I walk out the bathroom without my specs, I offer my shampoo to Nana.
7:49am - Turns out the girl wasn't Nana after all.
7:55am - Makan dengan Austrians who tell me the tour isn't worth it because you don't get to see Lake Powell. Lancau.
8:42am - The receptionist says about me "He's smart!" when I sign at the right spot. The others join in the sarcasm "He's a genius of the group".
8:56am - I plan to buy Gatorade and Danial says he wants Gatorade too. Osom. I lose. He can buy Gatorade.
8:58am - Danial challenges my right to buy Gatorade. Osom. I lose. I can't buy Gatorade. Fuck's sake.
9:01am - Tour van leaves for the Grand Canyon.
9:09am - We both buy Arizona Iced Tea when we stop for snacks.

9:15am - Hantar SMS sayu to Dian about Arizona Iced Tea in Arizona.
9:33am - Danial ugut nak tengok the Lost finale before me and tell me what happens.
9:34am - I scheme my revenge if he does that, but fail to come up with anything good.
10:50am - Take pictures at the Grand Canyon, Arizona signboard while we drink Arizona Iced Tea.
11:20am - Arrive at the Grand Canyon's South Rim.

11:30am - Nana kencing lama sangat, so I don't tell her about the penny press I just used.
11:42am - We stalk SLR-toting pak cik tuas to take our picture. Danial yang bahlul gets a mak cik tua whose first question is "where do I press?" and serves his punishment of 10 ketuk ketampi.

11:54am - We take a picture of Danial pouring Arizona Iced Tea into my mouth with the Arizona Room as the background.


11:56am - Our guide Joey asks us "What drinking game were you guys playing?"
1:05pm - Danial asks, and subsequently answers, a no-shit question. "Kenapa gambar kamera kau lagi gempak daripada gambar kamera aku? Oh...sebab kamera kau memang lagi gempak pun." He stares into the endless void of the canyons and says to no one in particular, "I see."


1:09pm - Sembang with a guy from Melbourne about Aussie rules football, the A-League, Melbourne and Malaysia.
1:44pm - Want the Aussie guy to take our picture but we don't know his name. Melanguk kat tepi dia sampai bini dia sebut nama dia.
1:49pm - His name is Steve and he takes our picture.


2:02pm - Danial and I choose not to go up the peak sebab "dah pasang niat to be the sacrificial lambs". The Aussies laugh saying they know by our tone we're just pussies.
2:10pm - Joey says to me "I like your route!" as I go about the rocks without help. I tell Danial but he doesn't believe me. Prick.


2:20pm - Steve gives us all peach flavored Twizzlers.
3:10pm - Sesi muhasabah diri atop some rocks. Long way down. Great view. You can even hear the roar of the rapids below. The proposed 5-minute session lasts 20 minutes as nobody wants to be the asshole who breaks the silence.
3:49pm - I mention that I'm getting tired of sitting at the edge of rocks and staring blankly into space, having such deep thoughts. Nana mentions "Ala, nak buat cemana, semua pun single kan?" Silence.
3:55pm - Danial and I mengumpat about Nana's apparent racism towards all Asian races solely because she won't/is too shy to talk to the Vietnamese girl in our group.
4:42pm - We stop by Cameron Trading Post, to buy souvenirs. We buy postcards. Nana looks for a penny press machine in vain.
5:00pm - USPS bukak. Tapi tutup.
5:18pm - Nana says "'give up' tu takde dalam kamus hidup aku".
6:20pm - Sampai Flagstaff.
6:50pm - Mandi.
7:20pm - Masak!
7:25pm - Some guy throws away his sheets in the kitchen trash can.
7:40pm - I can't buy detergent because the receptionist is talking to a cop. I think there's a thief. Takut.
7:45pm - The cop tells a guy who just finished packing "Lotsa motels here. You can do all the nonsense you want in there."
7:50pm - Do laundry.
8:00pm - Makan.
8:20pm - Gossip! Nick the Kiwi tells us his roommate is the one who was kicked out. The guy came home the night before at 1:00am smelling like shit. He then started drinking and popping some pills. By 2:00am he was watching porn on his laptop with the volume up. By 3:00am he was masturbating. Until 5:00am.
8:45pm - Hang out at the lounge to watch a movie with the other kids in our tour. Use internet. Chat dengan Papa, who's about to leave for KLIA to get my sister.
10:40pm - Danial and I meet our new roommate, Antoine. He tells us "In Fghance, it is izi for me to saving money because I live at home so I don't pay ghent. Food is also good and is also fghee." Rambut, misai and goatee dia cool gila. He looks like a Guy Fawkes mask.
11:15pm - Hang out with Nick and a Canadian girl, Courtney. They invite us to join them going to Sedona tomorrow. We decide to think about it.
11:50pm - Tido.

May 25, 2010
Flagstaff, AZ & Sedona, AZ

Today I take a road trip to Sedona, AZ. It's 60 miles south of Flagstaff. I ride with Courtney and Nick, but Danial and Nana choose not to follow. Pussies.

 Anyway, the trip is about an hour at most. Sedona is the opposite of the Grand Canyon: where Grand Canyon is scenic holes in the ground, Sedona has red rock mesas sticking out from it. And Sedona has creeks. Courtney, "traveling while on business" as she puts it, offers us a one way ticket there. We'd have to hitch a ride back, which would be fine because both towns are directly connected by a highway.

Our first stop is the Red Rock Information Center, where Courtney makes us lie on the ground and enjoy the sun. I admit this was pretty fun, since Flagstaff is over 6000ft high and it gets pretty cold.

Courtney then makes us do push ups, as the other (mostly old) tourists look in bewilderment. Inside the center, she camwhores with everything and anything. She talks me into taking a picture with a mannequin while groping its breast. I thought "why the hell not?" and got on with it.

We then play with the longboard she brought. I am terrible at balancing anything except a bicycle so I immediately fall and twist my wrist. I also hurt my right butt. Courtney and Nick fare much better and they make a little circuit around a resort's lobby. I sit at one side playing with cacti.

Approaching the town, we see a chapel built in the cracks of some of the rocks. It looks touristy (it is, it has a gift shop, in fact) so we go up and have a look-see. An old Japanese lady volunteers to take our picture; she is baffled by my D-SLR's "not showing the picture on the screen". And the Japs gave us Canon and Nikon.

As we drive along the town, we argue over what/where to eat. We find an info center on 'vortexes'--'energy' spots found across the area. The center is run and sought after by people who frequent psychics and believe the new age bullshit. We see a UFO museum and immediately stop there (there's a barbecue restaurant next door). The museum is closed but has some pretty interesting displays on the outside. Courtney sees a sushi place nearby and we go there for lunch.

After lunch she wants a fix of Starbucks, and to say thanks for driving us there, I pay for her soy milk what have you green tea something something latte. Courtney starts making a scene by bear hugging us--her way of saying "you're welcome" or for the bloody fun of it--I don't know. The Starbucks baristas start hugging each other too. Nick, clearly uncomfortable by this, chooses to sit down. Courtney corners me, but I am smart enough to evade by pointing outside and saying "Holy shit! What's that?" and running away to sit with Nick while she is distracted.

Our next stop is the Sedona Airport, which is on top of one of those huge rocks. We drive up there and we get a panoramic view of the town. The airport specializes in helicopter tours, biplane tours, and Cessna lessons. A private Cessna comes in for landing and we wave at it. Obviously an amateur/beginner, the pilot doesn't even acknowledge us with a tipped wing or whatever. We trek down to Airport Mesa, a smaller mesa beside the airport where there is said to be one of those vortexes. Nobody feels anything. And old man beside me says "I don't feel nothin'". We go back to the car.

Our last stop is a creek--any creek so long as we get to swim. We drive through some interesting terrain and eventually get to a quaint little spot. Nick and I go first as Courtney changes in the car. According to her, as she was putting on her bikini bottom, the park ranger knocks her window and asks her to leave because the car doesn't have a park permit (the whole town is in a state park; no permit, no parking). She says it is hard for her to think of a response with the bikini bottom "not quite there yet" but manages to tell the ranger she has to get the two of us first. When we both get back to the car, the ranger is issuing a ticket to some locals. Courtney insists we have a swim anyway, so she writes a note on her windshield. It says she wants to ask him a question but doesn't want to be disrespectful by interrupting him fining the other kids. "Please come find me by the river rope".

We run to the river rope and each have a go. The water is ridiculously cold as it is actually the snow melting from the mountains.

The kids that got a ticket joined us and told us it was for $55. They said they'd challenge it in court for "religious or spiritual reasons". Righttttt. Two of 'em were in bikinis, the guy had his surfing shorts on, a six pack in their cooler. Syabas.

Anyway, we had our fun and Courtney then sends us to the northern edge of town where we stand cutely beside the sign that says 'Flagstaff 28 miles' and smile and stick our thumbs out. Courtney offers to stand with us while in her bikini but as it turns out she is all talk. But she's cool, don't get me wrong. The problem we faced was that the idiots who drove by thought we were idiots pointing at Flagstaff and giving it the thumbs up. So they gave us the thumbs up in return. And drove on. We then rotated our hands to give them a better idea. Now they think we're giving Flagstaff the thumbs down. At least three cars pass by and shake their heads in dismay. One car gets the idea and drives up to us; it lowers its window........and takes a picture and leaves. A van passes by and the driver looks at us (not at the road). Five minutes later the van comes back in the opposite direction and the driver tells us to wait at the bus stop and he'll make a U-turn. We meet him there and Courtney says good-bye. The driver, Will, is a Navajo Indian who was here for a hike. On the ride back to Flagstaff, he tells us about the Navajo reservation, his tribal customs, his family in Mexico. All three stories had a weed-related tale. He then asks us about weed in Malaysia and New Zealand and The UK. And then he tells us about his friends in the cartel and his great grandpa chief who smokes the stuff all day. Apparently the reservation grows weed and shrooms. He could probably be bullshitting us, but it was fun listening. What scared the shit out of me was his van: all available airbags had exploded. His steering wheel, the glovebox, both B-pillars had a slit in them and dangling airbags. Luckily, we took the state road instead of the Interstate. The speed limit was 40mph.

Got back safely, got ready and packed. I became Shazwan "Hitchhiker" Azizan.

Dinner: a man dressed up like a 19th century British explorer (even a British accent!) cooking pasta, telling us how terrible the prices are that he had to buy in bulk. He offered his pasta. Sedap gila babs, so he is forgiven.

Wanker: a strange man throws away his sheets. We ignore it as it's the hostel's problem. A police officer escorts the man out, telling him there are "other places that you can do your things". The man's room mate tells us he stayed up all night watching porn, popping pills and masturbating--with others in the room the whole time.

Leave for Los Angeles by train at 10:00pm.

May 26, 2010
Los Angeles, CA

7:16am - Arrive in Los Angeles.
8:27am - We eat at some diner.
8:42am - Danial gets the last chip. I am seething. Seething!
9:42am - Danial buruk sangka mamat pamphlet.
9:51am - Arrive at Hostel and check in.
10:21am - Rest and shower and whatnot.
11:10am - We walk to Hollywood and Vine and whatnot.

11:43am - We get to Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character's favorite spot in the film (500) Days of Summer.

12:32pm - We stop by the Los Angeles Automotive Museum. Danial and I geek out whilst Nana walks on pretending she's not interested.

1:41pm - We take a stroll along Rodeo Drive and buy absolutely nothing.

3:06pm - Danial and I head out to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles for our next Chowdown stop. Nana merajuk because she hasn't been to a pharmacy to get "stuff" so she eats alone in Subway.
3:33pm - We arrive at Roscoe's. At the entrance, we're told to surrender firearms.

3:50pm - Danial and I enter a food coma at the first bite of chicken, waffles and gravy.
4:36pm - Meet up with Nana.

4:50pm - We see what we think is a dead man at Pershing Square.
5:02pm - Bomba datang. Why? Is it linked to the dead man?
6:33pm - Beli jam baru at Chinatown. It looks exactly the same as what I was already wearing.
7:39pm - A nice-smelling guy gives us directions.
7:46pm - Shopping for groceries at Trader Joe's. No shrimp!
8:11pm - Back at the hostel.
8:16pm - Masak! Takde can opener. They have every single thing we don't fucking need. Benda-alah siang ikan pun ada. Can opener, yang backpacker paling banyak guna, takde?
8:33pm - Apparently that weird thing on the wall that looks like a soap dispenser is an automatic can opener. Americans...
8:42pm - Nana declares "Mantap lah kau masak, Shazwan!". The cost was only $6 per bowl and it had asparagus, shrimp, lump crab meat and god knows what else.
9:38pm - Nick the Kiwi arrives.
10:15pm - We watch stand up comedy. Comedian asked me where I'm from. He says Malaysia is "behind" America, so I live in the ass of the world. A Dutch girl mentions the twin towers. The crowd insists Malaysia has the penis or perhaps breasts of the world, so America must be the ass.
11:25pm - Pillow talk with Matt, a Scot traveling with his girlfriend. He tells us of the Irish wankers who masturbated on their (double-decker) beds at night. There were 12 people in the room. And the room had an adjoining bathroom.

May 27, 2010
Los Angeles, CA

9:30am - Bangun. Who else?
9:53am - Makan.
10:21am - Mandi.
10:40am - Danial comment kat facebook, pastu delete. Bacul.
10:52am - Mengumpat pasal Nana yang tengah tido above us.
11:56am - Menang tutup lid laptop. Danial in denial.
12:21pm - Danial salah plan.
12:38pm - Old toothless man with a tongkat jumps out of bus, saying "get me out of here. I'm innocent. I didn't do it!"
12:42pm - "You know what the spirits told me? God told me Hollywood days are over. Bomb in front of the Kodak" - some 40+ year old black guy on the Metro 217 bus.
12:47pm - Same guy tells us he is the snake charmer mentioned in Danial's copy of Lonely Planet.
12:58pm - Bus passes by Fairfax High School. The same guy tells us his girlfriend just graduated. High school.
1:04pm - Danial salah lagi.
1:15pm - Strike 3.
2:15pm - "male actress" - Danial.
2:18pm - A suspicious-looking pak cik at the bus stop is actually a Malaysian businessman from Bangi.
2:50pm - Layanan kurang baik at Niketown Beverly Hills. Perhaps it's the adidas jacket.
2:59pm - Fate (Danial winning osom) decides that the new US soccerball home kit needs a darker shade of grey to be 'nice'.
3:36pm - I startled a woman in the Paley Center for the Arts theater. When the film started, she was the only one. When it ended I was there behind her.
4:29pm - "Smells like piss!", "Smells like downtown!", "Hey, it does!"
5:41pm - We stop by a free museum about psychiatry. We're the only ones in there. A creepy receptionist walks us into the lockers to store our cameras and bags. Then she follows us into the first room, a video theater about the dangers of psychiatry. She just stands there peeping at us, making sure we're paying attention. She walks us to the lobotomy debunking section where they tell us how pointless and unproven the method is. We get creeped out enough so we fake an emergency and leave. Outside, a couple who had just left tells us it's a Scientology-funded museum to defame psychiatry--the profession that L. Ron Hubbard failed at, and the industry that dismissed him as a quack.
7:32pm - Back at the hostel we get the internet. MSN with Saf, Phua, Izrin. "I'm in Hollywood *smug smiley*"
8:10pm - Danial pakai baju terbalik.
8:13pm - We go out to see Hollywood at night. As we step outside, to my right I smell piss. To my left I smell shit. A hostel worker says "welcome to East Hollywood".
8:22pm - We walk past a dodgy nightclub where several stretch limos and stretch Hummers pull up. High school prom apparently. In a club.
8:47pm - We walk about aimlessly and have a Subway for dinner.
10:03pm - Some guy outside the Chinese Theater tells us to take the bus despite it being close "for our safety".
10:09pm - On the bus back, we see an entire sidewalk full of homeless people sleeping
10:30pm - Nana ugut "nak bogelkan [aku]" if I didn't clear the seafood in the fridge yang dah berair.

May 28, 2010
Los Angeles, CA

6:30am - Bangun. Tido.
7:18am - Bangun. Buat bodo.
7:30am - Mandi kerbau.
7:36am - We cook breakfast at the canteen. there's a community griddle and waffle iron, and free-flow batter and coffee.
7:38am - My pancake lawa. Nana jeles. Nana gagal. I made brown sugar-ed sauted banana.
8:11am - Danial jatuhkan rak pinggan. Strike 5.
8:25am - Check out.
8:29am - My arms ached from all the lifting of bags across town throughout the trip. I pinched my bicep and concluded dah keras sikit.
9:41am - As we wait for the train, Danial taknak osom for the window seat. Bacul.
9:59am - Takleh naik sebab union restriction punya halKote.
10:21am - Board the Coast Starlight for the 23-hour 50-minute ride to Oakland.

1:01pm - We head to the diner car to buy lunch. Danial and I each buy a vacuum-sealed Black Angus cheeseburger. Nana gets an egg sandwich. We sit down and eat and enjoy the rolling hills and even get to see Highway 1. An old man joins us and tells us he's a farmer. He points out to some cows outside and says those are Red Angus; not tasty.
3:20pm - I get restless and walk around the train, stretching my legs. My eyes are numb from nonstop TV shows and movies. My ears are sore from earbuds. Danial and I go to the diner car to buy Amtrak pins. Just because.
4:02pm - Apparently we took on some WW2 veterans as part of an outreach program. The vets sat in the observation car (it has a glass roof!) and told their heroic WW2 tales on the goddamned PA system. You cannot run away from it. Every car blasted out the narration of three octogenarians recounting their exciting mission of meeting the young and pretty Queen Elizabeth II in London.
5:12pm - The three of us go down to the dining car for tea. Being cheap, we brought our own food.
5:16pm - We took up one table, and an elderly couple took the other. A Latina woman carrying her baby hangs up her phone and starts crying. She sees me see her and she turns away to a corner, hiding her tears. We can hear her sobbing, so we get up and leave to give her the table. She remains crying at the corner. I go to her and tell her the table is all hers. She looks up, all teary-eyed and says "thanks you", as she clumsily sits down. I notice her phone was vibrating and she ignored the call.
5:22pm - We walk back to our seats and say to each other "dramaaaa" in that annoying singsong fashion.
8:08pm - Danial makan tak ajak. He wears his hood when he sees me looking at him. Nana is asleep.
8:37pm - I swap movies with fellow train passengers.
9:25pm - I can't watch more movies so I start using Picasa and sorting my RAW files.

May 29, 2010
Oakland, CA & San Francisco, CA

1:57am - Sleep.
4:52am - I am awakened by the PA system. Danial says it's been going on for a while. he says he's seen the conductor making those announcements; he has a face that wants to be punched.
5:39am - We take on more passengers and the train is slightly crammed. No one bothers as everyone's sleepy/sleeping.
10:34am - We arrive at Oakland after 24 hours and 13 minutes. We get off the train and wait in the station, dazed.
11:20am - BART towards the hostel at Powell Street.
11:43am - The hostel looks dodgy as hell. Peeling paint, dark corridors, suspicious-looking people outside. We're tired so we go in, shower and rest for a while.
12:53pm - We buy groceries to cook at a Trader Joe's.
1:17pm - A man in the hostel's kitchen asks us why two guys are cooking for a girl. Danial says it's because Nana "tak boleh harap". I explain that that means she's useless. Nana nods in agreement and tells him how fantastic the two of us are at making good, cheap meals.
1:32pm - We eat and calculate the cost of the seafood and mushroom pasta, which added up to about $4.38 per bowl. The man says "you guys are doing this right!"
2:06pm - We meet Nana's friend Nabilah for a while.
2:30pm - I sneak to a Clarks shoe store on sale and impulsively buy black loafers at 40% off. I feel good about myself. I then text Dian, telling her I now have 44 pairs of shoes, just because.
3:15pm - We leave for Fisherman's Wharf. We eat crabs and set foot in the Pacific Ocean "nak cukup syarat". Nana bought candy.

6:10pm - We take the Alcatraz Cruise and spend 90 minutes there. After a brief guided tour, we're free to run around and take pictures. It was fantastically cool at first but 90 minutes is a long time on a tourist-filled rock with a dilapidated prison. By the end of it, most people just sat around waiting, looking themselves like prisoners doing time.

May 30, 2010
San Francisco, CA
  • We walk inside some parks and come across a cultish group that loves god through dance. They invite us to dance but Danial is freaked out.

  • We do yet another touristy thing and go see the Golden Gate Bridge.
May 31, 2010
San Francisco, CA
  • We take a 23-hour train ride to Seattle. If any shenanigans happened on the train, our brains were too numb from fatigue, movies and bad posture to bother.
June 1, 2010
Seattle, WA
  • Arrive in Seattle after a 23-hour train journey.
  • Fadzrul, whom we'd all not seen for three years, meets us at the station. He takes us (still with all our luggage) to an Asian town and we have cheap sushi.
  • We go to Fadzrul and Josh's apartment where we meet Josh and their adorable Shiba Inu, Judo.

  • Nana is afraid of Judo and the little dog chases her around the living room. Literally chase her--around the coffee table.
June 2, 2010
Seattle, WA
  • We take a $7 return trip on a ferry boat ("macam McDreamy!" kata Nana) to Bainbridge Island where we walk around the beach, walk around the quaint little town, then sit down and have ice cream near a  boardwalk.

  • We see people throwing fish at Pike Place Market and go to (but specifically not buy anything from) the first ever Starbucks.

June 3, 2010
Seattle, WA
  • Campus tour of UW

  • Josh looks at the songs on my iPod and says "it's gayer than Fuzz and I combined"
  • We had dinner just off campus at UW, where Fadzrul introduced us to Seitan at his favourite Thai restaurant. Seitan pad thai and Thai iced tea all around.
June 4, 2010
Seattle, WA
  • We go downtown and see the exterior set of Seattle-Grace Hospital, the Seattle Space Needle and decide we should go up as we really haven't done anything extremely touristy as yet.

  • We also go see the Sci-Fi Museum

  • We eat dinner at a fast food place called Dick's. It retains its 70s look and feel and (to an extent) prices. Cheeseburgers for $1.40!

June 5, 2010
Seattle, WA
  • Beth's Cafe for our final Chowdown stop. Danial and I shared the 12-egg omelet. On a pan of hashbrowns, stood a 12-egg omelet stuffed with chili, cheese and sour cream, served with toast. And the hashbrowns and toast are bottomless.

  • They gave us paper and crayons to stick messages. I stuck ours beside one made by a family from Pittsburgh. We conclude that Pittsburgh is like the Bangi of the US--it's shitty, nobody likes it, people from there will defend it to their death, everyone knows someone from there, and everywhere you go you'll find someone from Pittsburgh.
  • We buy UW souvenirs. Judo has an altercation with a Rottweiler beside an off-leash dog park.
  • Danial and Nana cook packed lunches and dinners for tomorrow's train journey.
June 6, 2010
Seattle, WA
  • Danial and Nana get on the train to continue their journey to the northern states, the Midwest and back to Pittsburgh.
  • I take some of Nana's books which she had finished reading, to bring back to Pittsburgh. She needed to make room for food supplies as they travel through "national parks and such".
  • Meet Carlos, interning at Amazon. He fixes the templates for regional Amazon websites.
  • Bank balance doesn't allow me to go see the underground city, the Boeing factory or a Seahawks or Sounders game.
June 7, 2010
Seattle, WA
Pittsburgh, PA
  • I fly back to Pittsburgh (SEA-MSP-PIT). I leave Fadzrul and Josh's place at 10:00am and get take off at 12:15pm. A two-hour layover at Minneapolis-Saint Paul and then I land in Pittsburgh by 10:45pm. Back home before midnight.
  • My housemate Nik has made dinner. Having last seen me 26 days earlier, clean shaven, he now thinks I look "macam terrorist, doh".
  • I spend the night doing laundry, converting RAW to JPEG and uploading pictures.
June 8, 2010
Pittsburgh, PA
New York City, NY
  • Aida is in Pittsburgh for a while, staying at my apartment, and will return to Madison, WI in order to host Danial and Nana in a week or so.
  • I give Nana's books (about six of them, very thick, some even hard cover) to a Aida, saying Nana wants to read them and didn't want to bring them across "national parks and such". Nana will go on to meet Aida in Wisconsin, and be presented with her bag load of books for her to carry all the way back to Pittsburgh by train. This, coupled with Nana having found out about my treachery of the Grand Canyon penny press, would lead her to go on and steal my Grand Canyon penny and a pair of my shoes.
  • I pack and leave for KL via NYC at 3:00pm.