Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cross country corn fields

Going on a road trip through the USA is something that I have always dreamed of doing; at the same time it has been a distant thought. I lacked the time, funds and company to undertake such an endeavor. When it's possible to travel for 2 weeks in exotic Guatemala for less than 300 USD, why would I want to spend the same amount for a weekend in NYC? Well, when I realized that I had the time, company and newly acquired skill of frugality it seemed feasible and full of adventure after all.

So, after some (inadequate) planning, Thomas and I started the East coast portion of the trip. The planned stops included: Chicago, IL; Saugatuck, MI; Niagara Falls, ON; Manchester, VT; Boston, MA; Goshen, NY; New York City, NY; Middletown, DE; Washington DC; somewhere is Smoky Mountain National Park and one last weekend in Nashville, TN. Currently we are in Middletown visiting Thomas's relatives.

Although it's always nice and neat to write something about each destination, or perhaps the highlights of the trip thus far, what I find more interesting is how my perception of the USA has changed, stayed the same and somehow grown more complex with every 100 miles of road traveled.

Being the eternal optimist that I am, I began this trip with high hopes of awakening feelings of pride and wonderment about my motherland that I knew were hiding somewhere in the crevices of my mind. However, as we crossed more state borders and filled up on gas a few more times, one of the only thoughts running through my seemingly inactive mind was: who is consuming all this corn? I thought KS was known for continuous corn fields, but now as I sit in a suburb of Delaware I can nearly see corn from the window.

Three weeks of long drives, happening city night life, beautiful vistas of Niagara falls and mountains in Vermont and I think the USA all boils down to farmlands and suburbs between fast-paced, diverse cities, really? It's obviously not that simple, and as much as I want to be able to clearly define my opinion of the USA or at least be able to describe why I have some of the sentiments that I do, I need some more time and maybe a few more thousand miles on my car before reaching that goal.

Until then, let me say something about all things east of KS. After visiting Chi-town, Boston, NYC and Philly; Chicago (in the summer) is still my favorite city. In my mind it has a little bit of everything...a beautiful lake, shopping downtown, great public transit, panoramic views from Sears Tower, fun night life and it holds it all together with Midwest hospitality. Of course, NYC outdoes Chicago when it comes to crowd watching (think Times Square), museums (think MET), Starbucks per capita, impressive skyscrapers and utter craziness in general. But Boston has Fenway Park, Harvard Square, fresh lobster, feeling like you're on the set of The Departed and of course the quaint bar/restaurant with good food and quirky decorations that Eddie and Staci didn't want us to miss out on.

Philadelphia is the freshest in my memory (we were just there yesterday) and it also has the freshest personality. It's somehow different and knows it. From the historical Old City to the famous cheese steaks, boutiques and art scene of South Street this welcoming city has something to offer every traveler, despite it's rough reputation.

Between all the cities has been a lot of time on the road, the famous "Maid of the Mist" boat tour of Niagara Falls, and camping/hiking in the "green mountains" of Vermont; which is where our lack of planning campsite was saved by a friendly retired couple who gave us a fire starter AND leftovers from the campsite owner's 75th birthday party. Only in America.

DC is coming up this weekend and I'm hoping that by being in the nation's capital I automatically understand the complexities of American politics. Unlikely, but dream big, right?