I’m listening to Willie Nelson and Canned Heat as I write this blog to start the next phase of my road trip to rediscover America. I’m taking a break from analysing what the trip last year told me so that I can head back Stateside – prompted by my Wabash College 50th reunion, but also to fill in some gaps from last year. I was on campus last fall, but this time I’ll be with fellow septuagenarians.
I’ll once again engage folk in conversation to find out what has changed and what America is like today. I found last year that listening and not advocating opened up discussion, so I heard the full spectrum of views – I’m sure I’ll hear that again. I’ll visit family and friends I missed last year, historic sites, places of interest, and places that are in the news.
I’ll be on the road from mid-May til mid-June. When I look at the map of my US travels, there’s a gap in the middle of America. This is because I had fewer people to visit in these states, but also ran out of time. I need to ensure that I’ve heard from folk across the full geography of the Lower 48 in enough depth (Alaska and Hawaii for another time) – so I’ll spend more time in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, the Dakotas, Kansas, Arkansas, and Nebraska.
Change has continued since last fall: Donald Trump has launched his bid for the presidency, has been indicted, found liable for sexual abuse, and leads Joe Biden by 7 points; Biden has launched his re-election bid, and continues to be criticised by some sections of the media for his cognitive abilities (he’s four years older than Trump), irrespective of nailing it at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner; artificial intelligence (AI) has crashed onto the marketplace, and ChatGPT is now every student’s go-to site; Title 42 restrictions have been lifted and 60,000 immigrants gather at the US southern border.
I’ll again travel by car – public transport is minimal in America and the wheels give me flexibility. I’ll bring a suitcase this time – still getting physio and shots for a sore shoulder from lugging a heavy rucksack around last fall.
As last year I’ll be in a lot of motels, bars, and diners. There are many historical sites to visit, presidential libraries, museums, and a lot of space in between. Conversation last year was about the midterms; this trip it will be about 5 November 2024.
I’ll post pics and travelogue on Facebook, political/cultural/historic insights on LinkedIn, pictures on Instagram, will use Twitter if something excites me, and post on my website with more reflective content. A challenge I learned from last year will be to balance the miles travelled with taking the time to drill down into issues and what people tell me. You can be the judge of how I manage – look forward to your comments.