It’s not the Caribbean, but today is very humid and it feels like the Caribbean. It looks sort of like the Caribbean, but an incredibly manicured, affluent version. There is no evident poverty. The hills are lined with pastel coloured houses and mansions with immaculate gardens and lawns.
My mission is to visit all fifty states. I have about ten to go, so I’ve booked four Amtrak rail journeys. That’s rather over covering my bets, but each of the blurbs said that their journey was the most scenic in the states.
At Emeryville, just outside San Francisco, I’m already beginning to think I might have been a little rash. The California Zephyr train to Chicago is positively antique.
The sand is golden and the clear blue sea is swarming with surfers, paddles and boards. I don’t know how they manage to manoeuvre the boards at all. Surely you must get taken out as soon as you set off it’s so crowded out there.
In the departure lounge in Apia a cynically pessimistic little Chinese man carries out a running commentary on how most Samoans need two seats and won’t be able to exit the plane door without pushing each other out. He says that the McDonald’s in Pago Pago is the highest grossing franchise in the USA.
I have a night in Miami before I transfer to Haiti. More pastel buildings but this time art deco on South Beach. It’s about as hip as it gets. And I'm in the Delano Hotel – I got a good deal so I’m in the coolest spot on the planet relaxing with the beautiful people beside the pool bungalows and beds..
The first hour is horribly hairy. Trying to get out of Logan Airport is like being in a Kafka novel. Then there are a whole succession of roundabouts and left turns to challenge me. But I head across Massachusetts to Maine and then New Hampshire and into Vermont and boy, is it worth it. Indian summer has returned and by some extraordinary good luck I have managed to hit peak fall foliage. Sunset is painted all along the verges and reflected in the still green water.
The train chugs past hills that gradually increase in height to mountains capped with the first snow of the winter, turquoise rivers and endless fir trees mingled with birch and aspen.These are turning a golden yellow and when the sun peeps out, as it does on occasion, the views are glorious. Unfortunately, there is still some rain as well. There are very few inhabitants, just the odd lumberjack at a saw mill or floating logs or a farmhand feeding the pigs and a sprinkle of log cabins
Breakfast in Lou Mitchell's old fashioned wooden diner, voted 'best breakfast in the USA’. It's pretty good and we get free doughnut holes (I thought that would be a handful of nothing, but it's the scooped out middles) and little round caramel chocolates called milk duds. Route 66 signs all over the walls, so we have to take photos.