October 09, 2006

Home Again

It's hard to drive all across the country by yourself (in a reasonable amount of time) and blog while doing so. I didn't get to write much, or even post many pictures, if I wanted to get home before November. But I'm home again now and I have more than a thousand pictures of America from East to West and North to South. I won't post that many, of course, but I'll post some.

In the meantime, while I put together a gallery and some commentary from the Midwest, here's an email I got from one of my neighbors in Oregon who can relate to some of what I wrote about earlier.
Last April wife and I spent three weeks in Atlanta visiting one of our daughters and her family. We flew from Oregon to Atlanta. While there we rented a car and drove to Williamsburg, Virginia to visit other family members. We drove, thinking we would be able to see some country.

All we saw in the six hundred plus miles from Atlanta to Williamsburg was a tree lined freeway. Pavement and trees. We drove up on Interstate 75 and back on Interstate 85. Nothing but trees and pavement, just like the photograph you included of a freeway in Kentucky.

On another trip to Atlanta we drove to Charleston, S.C., from there to Savannah, and back to Atlanta. On the way back we stopped in Dublin, Georgia for lunch. Ate in a little storefront restaurant that obviously catered to a clientele other than the aristocracy. Ma Hawkins Cafe.

Friendly little old lady waited on us. She recognized that our accent wasn't local, and asked where we were from. "Oregon", we said. She got a blank look on her face and I asked her if she knew where Oregon is. She didn't. I then asked if she knew where California is and she did. I told her that Oregon is just north of California. Her response "I hope you're not as crazy as those Californians."
More soon.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 9, 2006 03:24 PM


Maybe Oregon needs to start some sort of advertising campaign to educate the rest of the country about its existence?

--Fern (Crazy Californian)

Posted by: Fern R at October 9, 2006 04:09 PM

BWAHAHAHAHA! I love that woman.

Fern - Thanks for the idea, but ... well, I think many of us prefer to stay a well-kept secret.

Posted by: Asher Abrams at October 9, 2006 05:19 PM

Well, the little 'ol lady was right on target.

Posted by: Jimmy at October 9, 2006 05:57 PM

Interstate highways are lousy ways to sightsee.

There are a few Interstate-quality roads which are fairly spectacular views. Most of them are designated as "Parkways" these days. Even parkways don't give you much of an acquaintance with the countryside, other than hills and trees.

That is specifically on purpose and by design. Interstates are for getting from place to place with minimum therbligs; sightseeing from one is synonymous with "blocking traffic". Don't try it. If you want to see the country, get off and follow the smaller roads. But you can't do that and still manage Atlanta to Richmond in less than a day.


Posted by: Ric Locke at October 9, 2006 06:26 PM

Great blog, Michael. One small correction. Jesus' first recorded miracle was at Cana in Galilee, not in Qana in Lebanon. (I am aware that some Lebanese Christians have used the similarity in names to make the claim, but it doesn't fit the record in the text.)
Thanks again.

Posted by: colorless.blue.ideas at October 10, 2006 06:42 PM

In the late 80's my family took a trip to the east coast that began in Florida and ended in Boston. At Cape Canaveral we were on a tour bus with a grade school teacher and his family. We were chatting along when he asked what I thought was a 'Joke' question. He wanted to know how we got all the way to Florida from Oregon (to his credit he did know the location of the state). We told him we flew. He was genuinely amazed. He said he didn't know we had airports in Oregon. He also asked how the 'indian situation' was. He thought we were all driving around in covered wagons dodging tomahawks out here.
Traveling in western Europe in the early 90's, it seemed like everyone we met knew where Oregon was. "Ahhh, Nike!" Was the usual response.

Posted by: Lindsey at October 10, 2006 10:08 PM

Colorless.blue.ideas: Jesus' first recorded miracle was at Cana in Galilee, not in Qana in Lebanon.

Qana is in the Upper Galilee region of Lebanon.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2006 11:15 PM

Honest to God true story very similar to yours. Back in the early 80's we had just moved to Houston, TX, from Boise, ID. Met our presumably well-educated neighbors and told them I was from Idaho.

"No, Idaho."
"Oh, Ohio."
"No, I-da-ho." (no jokes please)
"Oh, isn't that somewhere around Kansas?"

Posted by: cardeblu at October 10, 2006 11:30 PM

Unless you live in New York, Chicago is better than your city. Sorry, that's just how it is.

I think this is the silliest thing you have ever written. Unless you hate San Francisco for political reasons this statement is simply absurd on the face of it. And it so obvious that Los Angeles is better than Chicago in about 500 ways that I won't even try. On top of that Miami is a lot more fun than Chicago, people in Philadelphia are generally more interesting than people in Chicago, Boston has much better cultural institutions, etc. I'm sure Dallas and Atlanta fans can chime in as well. Chicago is also renowned throughout the US for having a fairly unattractive population - unless overweight and clinging to late 1980s fashion is your idea of cool.

Posted by: vanya at October 11, 2006 01:31 AM

I think this is the silliest thing you have ever written.

That just goes to show how wrong you are. :)

I'm sure Dallas and Atlanta fans can chime in as well.


Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 11, 2006 01:42 AM

I think this is the silliest thing you have ever written.

That just goes to show how wrong you are. :)

I'm sure Dallas and Atlanta fans can chime in as well.

Dallas? You have got to be kidding me. When were you last in Chicago? 1981?

You're a New Yorker, and I understand you're supposed to hate Chicago. So you get a pass.

And by the way, no, I do not hate San Franscisco for political or any other reasons. It's one of the greatest cities in America. But Chicago is better.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 11, 2006 01:42 AM

You know, I've lived all over the county but Oregon is still home. I've also had the 'you mean you have electricity and everything?' conversation back in the '80's when visiting the East Coast.

So a new ad campaign for Oregon: Just North of California with half the crazies and twice the rain!

And people just might buy it - at least until they hit the Saturday Market in Eugene....

Posted by: Michael at October 11, 2006 02:28 AM

welcome back home dude :).

Posted by: Wissam at October 11, 2006 02:30 AM

As a native Oregonian I'd say our crazies are rising to the heights of those of our southern neighbor. Of course they do have an advantage, they have more people to start with.

Posted by: marchangel at October 11, 2006 06:14 AM

Actually, western Michigan has sand dunes too.

Posted by: Jennifer at October 11, 2006 06:57 AM

I don't hate Chicago at all. I actually like it just fine, but your blithe categorization "Chicago is better than your city" is simply silly and makes you look provincial, or at best immature. My friend from Fort Wayne, Indiana said it best - "Chicago is a city of Indiana and Illinois hicks pretending they live in a big city." Yes, that is unfair but it has a grain of truth to it. Unless skyscrapers are your particular passion, it is hard to prove that Chicago is simply "better" than a dozen other American cities (not to mention Toronto and Montreal). You're also discounting the fact that if you actually live in Chicago the city is all you have, there are no attractions nearby. In Portland you can go to the gorge, go hiking, go to the ocean, etc. One of the biggest complaints I hear from people who move to Chicago from elsewhere is that there is nowhere to go on week-ends in easy driving distance, unless you're a fan of corn fields.

Also Chicago Bears football fans are even ruder, more obnoxious and more violent than Philly fans, which is really saying something.

Also I apologize for posting my original comment in the wrong thread.

Posted by: vanya at October 11, 2006 07:10 AM

I'll never convince you that you're totally wrong Vanya. And I'm fine with that. I knew at least one person would pounce on me when I wrote that sentence, so it might as well be you. :)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 11, 2006 09:51 AM

You are right about the cornfields, though. They aren't a weekend (or weekday) attraction.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 11, 2006 09:52 AM

Oh, and I'm clearly not a Midwestern provincial for a handful of reasons. 1) I live in the Pacific Northwest. 2) Chicago is by far the most cosmopolitan city in the Midwest. 3) I said New York is better.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 11, 2006 09:53 AM

Quick question:
Cross country, fly or take the interstates?

This is important. I am thinking of doing it next year.(March) Your opinion will matter a lot.

Posted by: Terry at October 11, 2006 11:44 AM


Do not take the Interstates. Take side roads. They don't slow you down all that much and they're great!

I'm also a big fan of the train. The train, in some ways, is the best way to see the country. You can't get off and poke around, but you don't have to drive and you see lots of actual countryside.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 11, 2006 11:53 AM

In Indiana, the farms you saw that weren't growing corn were probably growing soybeans, not wheat. Rotating corn and soybeans tends to improve the yield of both.

The fields may be dull much of the time, but on a sunny fall day, they can be spectacular.

You're right about Chicago. It is the greatest. Even Salt Lake, nestled in the Wasatch, can't quite equal the jewel of Chicago's lakefront. Sure, the winters can be tough, but the upper Midwest was built by hearty folk.

(I live in Philadelphia, and even though I lived a couple hours away from Chicago, I find I miss the Windy City more than I expected to.)

And the Bears are undefeated.

Posted by: Bemac at October 12, 2006 08:21 AM

Hey Michael,

I don't know much about Chicago. I was only there once as a child, but you are completely right about driving the interstates in the East. My husband and I took a trip to D.C. about three years ago and drove from there to Virginia Beach for a meeting. We had to leave very early in the morning, and literally had a hard time keeping our eyes open--it was so darned boring. We're from Portland, and we were looking forward to seeing some of the country, thinking that, like here, we'd see panoramas and vistas and whatnot. There it was nothing but trees and road. I longed for the old Gorge highway. Thanks for the "get off the interstate tip." We're driving to South Dakota next summer, and we need all the advice we can get on how to make it interesting.

Posted by: Kat at October 12, 2006 07:06 PM

Its pretty sad that some Americans dont even know where certain states are located, none the less they even exist. We need to educate our children about all 50 states and Geography of the world better.

Posted by: Andrew at October 18, 2006 12:55 AM
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