Milwaukee was a good hub for the last couple of weeks, serving as a place to launch trips to Chicago and Denver from, and to see the city itself. Rather lovely it is, too. I would highly recommend a visit. But, it was time to move on, so last night I went to the Greyhound station and got a ticket to Minneapolis, Minnesota. I was getting the 11.15pm bus, and feared it might be a bus coming via Milwaukee from Chicago, (potentially meaning it could already be fairly full), so as soon as I could, I did what other people had done and marked my spot in the queue with my backpack, went outside to have a smoke, then came back in and sat down on the empty seat nearest my bag. As luck would have it, I managed to sit next to a chatty fella. He looked all the world like an urban hipster. One of those that dresses in that style which is tough to work out whether he’s actually a dorky-looking dude who’ll stab you in the eye, or just really into a band you’ve never heard of and mates with Terry Richardson. Turns out he was the former. Within minutes of getting chatting, I’d found out he hates his country, he’s never been outside of the United States, but probably wouldn’t be allowed to leave because he’d committed a felony and been in prison, and that he “don’t like it here [Milwaukee], cos they don’t like me cos I’m white.” Okaaaay. It soon became apparent through the odd hint that, actually, he was the one who was likely a racist. How glad I was to have sat down a couple of seats away from the only other white person in the bus station and that he don’t like the “coloureds.”
Thankfully, the bus was beginning its journey in Milwaukee, so no worries about having to spend seven hours next to a snoring stranger or White Power Johnny. Being on a bus leaving a city, heading somewhere that I’ve never been to, is still thrilling for me. I chucked on my headphones and caught up on the Guardian’s football podcasts from the last few days (sadly, the European Championships has all but passed me by this time, which seems like a shame considering how good a lot of the games have sounded). About 90 minutes later, we were in Madison, Wisconsin picking up a few more passengers, then back on the road again. As we whizzed past the Alliant Energy Centre – seemingly a concert venue – the big electric billboard outside advertised two forthcoming events which I never thought I’d see next to each other. 12 July: Poison In Concert, and 19th July: A talk by His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama. While I was still smiling to myself about that, we passed a sign underneath an illuminated Dunlop sign proclaiming the (presumably) gas station to be a “great place to take a leak.”
On we trundled to Tomah, Wisconsin, and I managed to get about 40 minutes sleep before the driver barked that we’d arrived and would be having a 20 minute break. Not many food options here, considering the Greyhound shack (and it was a shack) was right next to a car park and a solitary restaurant: McDonald’s. I don’t know why I do it to myself, but every now and again, I try a McDonald’s coffee. I last did it in Montevideo, and it was fucking horrible there, just like it was in Tomah.
After the coffee, sleep was out of the question, so I got back to my podcasts. This time, three episodes of This American Life. There was something so perfect about the next part of the journey. Listening to little tales of America, while watching the sky turn from nearly-black to Prussian blue to Cobalt blue and then that lovely area just above the horizon with pale yellows and oranges that indicate the day is rising behind the silhouetted trees.
By the time we arrived in Saint Paul, Minnesota – the first of the Twin Cities – it was 6am. A short trip across the Mississippi, and I was in the other Twin, Minneapolis. Hurrah. I’d spoken to a friend last week, and he was there waiting to pick me up. His name is Prince. You might’ve heard of him. He’s a singer. And he’s got a lovely car, a 1980 Corvette. He had told me it was red, but in the early morning Minnesota light, it looked more cerise. We drove for a little while. Prince pointing out local landmarks and places where he’d got funky with ladies, then went for breakfast at his favourite diner. The waitress there was lovely. She had such a pretty dress, but wore different colour socks. Her name was Cynthia Rose, apparently. Nice name. I ordered the house special: starfish and coffee, maple syrup and jam, butterscotch clouds and a tangerine, a side order of ham. Not bad for ten bucks, too.
Now I’m back at Prince’s gaff. It’s quite large and a bit showy, if truth be told. Everything’s purple. But, the sofa is dead comfy, and I’ve got silk sheets and wifi, so I’m a happy bunny. Better get a few hours kip, I suppose, before I go and see the Minnesota Twins play Arizona Diamondbacks this afternoon.