Gone to Look for America


When my wife’s position fell to the sickle of the Great Recession we decided to seize the moment and go on a road trip to Arizona to see our son who is in law school there.

So we spent all of October and the first couple of weeks of November on an excellent adventure across America, receiving the hospitality of family and friends, with some nights in Best Westerns to fill in the gaps.  Every town in America worthy of the name has a Best Western and a Subway, and I imagined the archaeologists of the future deciding these were the hallmarks of American civilization in the early Twenty-First century, much as a stoa was in the Hellenistic culture of the ancient world.

Subway is important, too, because you can split a foot-long “Veggie Delite” for 5 bucks and cheaply get enough fresh vegetables to avoid scurvy.

Our trip took 43 days; we drove 7,601 miles and visited 27 different states. The sun was shining all but two days.  No car trouble.  One oil change.

Some highlights:

  • The Frank Lloyd Wright house “Falling Waters” in Western PA
  • A stay at Potawatomi Inn in Pokagon State Park in Indiana
  • My Coe College Reunion where I sung in the alumni choir with my former director, Dr. Allan Kellar
  • Seeing my first newly shot bison carcass outside Pierre, SD with “Roger from the Prairie”
  • Badlands National Park in SD
  • The Black Hills National Park and Mount Rushmore in SD
  • Devil’s Tower in Wyoming
  • A few days in a friend’s cozy cabin outside Rocky Mountain National Park in CO
  • Taking the waters in Glenwood Springs, CO
  • Arches National Park in Utah
  • Driving through Monument Valley on the border of Utah and Arizona
  • The sun on the red rocks in Sedona, AZ
  • The Calexico concert at the Rialto in Tucson
  • Hiking Bear Canyon outside Tucson
  • Eating Texas barbecue in El Paso, TX
  • Eating a chicken fried steak in Ozona, TX
  • The Riverwalk in San Antonio, TX
  • Seeing the Alamo after all these years since my Davy Crocket cap
  • Eating the best Tex-Mex food on an outdoor patio (in November!) in San Antonio, TX
  • Seeing my first bayou
  • Eating blackened redfish and seafood gumbo in New Orleans, LA
  • Seeing how beautiful the Old South is in the fall, with yellow leaves still on the trees.

The autumn of 2010 was a season fraught with fear and anger, with a highly divided electorate during a nasty campaign season.  We saw evidence of that on billboards.

Still, the countryside abides and rolling through the miles one is struck by its vastness and the diversity of its scenic beauty.

Here’s what I noticed about Americans:

  • They don’t use their blinkers.
  • The obesity epidemic is not a fiction of the media
  • “Beef: It’s what’s for dinner!” is not a marketing slogan, but a way of life
  • They like to drive big trucks

Here’s what I noticed about America:

  • Texas is really big
  • The Interstate Highway System is an impressive piece of infrastructure
  • Our National Parks are stunning
  • There are many sections of many towns and cities that could be anywhere in America
  • You can get the same Subway sandwich made exactly the same way in all 27 states that we visited, except no provolone in Mississippi
  • Many cities in the South still look prosperous (perhaps they won the Civil War after all)

Many thanks to all the wonderful folks who hosted us.

(Photos from top:  Rocky Mountain National Park, Arches National Park, Mount Rushmore, The Alamo)

5 thoughts on “Gone to Look for America

  1. >A few things:1. It's great to see old people getting out and about ;-)2. Love the pics.3. You may need to adjust your mileage figure.4. 'They don’t use their blinkers'. Clearly not a comment on American foreign policy ;-)5. Did I mention that I love the pics? Are/were you growing a goatee?

  2. >Jason,I loved your cat recipe, btw. Another predilection we share. Thanks for the correction, I changed the mileage (an extra 0 had popped in). I stopped shaving in Colorado. Decided I didn't need to impress the gal who made my sub. So now I have a full beard, but all the votes aren't in on wether to keep it. I had one for many years until 1995, but it is now white and I look a bit Santa-ish.“Blinker” is American slang for directional signal! But point taken. And our domestic policy is pretty blinkered as well.As to the “old” remark, I do now qualify for senior discounts in many places. Imagine that.

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