America: Summer 2018 Part 1

America: Summer 2018 Part 1

Rita and I took a trip from Latvia to America and back again by way of Ireland and England. I keep promising my brother Paul an itinerary. I figured I would do it by way of a blog post. In this post, I will attempt to share each place we traveled to with a few photos and some very short soundbites. Do not expect much. I will be writing quickly with a savage intensity reserved mostly for punk rock circle pits and savaging a frozen pizza late at night when no one is watching.

May 29: Riga-Stockholm

A Swedish Book

Our trip began, as trips usually do, at the Riga airport. To get to Ireland, we flew through Stockholm. So now I have been in Sweden.

May 29- 31: Dublin

Dublin Castle

This whole trip began for me when I bought tickets to Father John Misty in Dublin. I bought the tickets a long time ago because Rita said airplane tickets were cheap. Little did I know that she would get asked to present at a conference at Stanford, and these little concert tickets would be the start of an epic journey back to the USA.

Every city we went to felt strange and awkward the first night of arrival. Humans take some time to acclimate to a new environment, I think. Dublin felt really weird with our attic hotel room that was stuffy and hot. Everything was a bit out of sorts.

Book of Kells

But the next day was really nice. Rita went to see her Irish Folklore Archive brethren while I went to the Book of Kells. I loved the beauty and tranquility of St. Stephen’s Green during my morning walk.

Father John Purple

Then we saw Father John Misty at Vicar Street. The show was a bit underwhelming only because I do not know his songs as well as I should. Everyone else was singing along, and I felt like I was enjoying the music. I think I am just a few years too old to really understand his level of unique millennial  melancholy. Good stuff though! We made some friends in the third row and then moved back as the concert continued.


Our Dublin adventure also included my first real Irish pub, a trip to Dublin castle, and a flight to Iceland.


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May 31-June 1: Iceland>San Francisco


Yes, we had to stop in Iceland to get from Ireland to San Francisco; there, I learned how expensive it is, and how strange and magical a place Iceland appears to be from the plane and airport.

Now in Whizz! Pink!

We arrived in San Francisco after a deliberately awful nine-hour flight on Whizz air, where the flight attendants wear bright pink uniforms, and people never stop talking, and nothing is free.


We figured out how to get a train from the airport directly to our hotel somewhere near downtown… When the train stopped and we got out, some woman told us not to go up the stairs because of drug dealers. Well, silly here, there were drug dealers at EVERY opening to the subway!

I have to admit I was a bit terrified walking through the gauntlet of homeless drug addicts and dealers. One legless guy in a wheelchair told us about how he was feeding rats. We saw drug deals, users and even an arrest on our two block walk to the hotel. Not a good start for our American journey.

But the hotel was nice, and again, the next day was not as bad as the night we arrived. I walked to the CVS while Rita worked in our hotel. I saw lots of homeless people and police, but the city was very nice.


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June 1-3: Palo Alto

The Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies (AABS) conference itself was at Stanford, and we stayed just across the tracks in Palo Alto at a lovely Airbnb.

The best thing about Palo Alto and Stanford from Rita’s point of view were the palm trees. She loves them. I liked the Rodin sculpture garden. I was a bit in awe that we could just look at and touch priceless works of art sitting outside. It was pretty cool. The Baltic conference was a great success, and I actually attended one session.

Stanford has such a beautiful and iconic campus, but I felt like we did not belong there. Silicon valley is not a place for me and my humble roots. I did notice that many people cannot afford housing there, so they park their RVs on the streets.

The strangest thing about being in America up to this point is that most of the people we had encountered were not originally from America. It would be like going to Latvia and meeting a bunch of people like me.


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June 4-5: The California Zephyr

When I learned that we were going to California, and I figured that I would have to visit my family in Nebraska, I immediately thought of that train that goes from California to Omaha, the California Zephyr. I thought it would be a really cool way to travel across the country and for Rita to see lots of the most beautiful and inaccessible parts of the West. It was indeed!


The highlight for me was being on the tracks next to where we went white water rafting last year. We stood high above the river, and our guide told us that one part of the Colorado River was only accessible by hiking and by train. It has some of the most challenging rapids anywhere in the world. I got to see that stretch of the river thanks to Amtrak.

The big takeaways are that there are lots of Amish people on the train, and this made Rita very happy. There are somehow homeless people on the train. One of which had some emergency, so we had to stop to let him off so he could go to Truckee to recover. We also had a nice meal on the train in a community setting where we met two blokes from New Zealand. Rita was really surprised at the Colorado tradition of mooning the train from the river. Those people sure can balance in those rafts!

Physically, the trip took us through the Sierra Nevada mountains, which are much more impressive than I had imagined, then through the strange empty beauty of Nevada, through Utah (while we slept), and finally Colorado which just gets more and more incredible as the trip continues. Emotionally, the trip took us everywhere.



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I thought I could do all of this in under a 1000 words. What a fool I was!

Part 2: Coming Soon!


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