– Observations from Across the US

This summer, my family and I are touring the US in our minivan. So far we have covered DC, upstate NY, Chicago, Mt. Rushmore, Little Big Horn, and now we are headed to Yellowstone, Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and Shiloh, TN.

Yes, Shiloh.

Here are some musing from the trip…

The good:
1. A DVD player in the car is key to keeping the children quiet and the driver happy.
After traveling for 8 hours in the car, children can become restless and try to wrestle, play Bocci, or do gymnastics in their seats. However once the movie begins to play and the earphones are on, things get very quiet. So far, I have used movies to bribe, terminate fights, and divert my children’s attention from the fact that it was 3PM and we hadn’t stopped for lunch yet.

2. Minnesota has thousands of windmills.
Both the windmills themselves and the wind farms along I-90 are massive. The wind farms go on for as long as the eye can see. After seeing the coal trains lined up in Gary, IN outside of Chicago, this was a wonderful discovery. Speaking of Chicago…

3. Chicago is one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been in, and it is gorgeous.
Chapel Hill could take a few lessons on the planter boxes. Theirs had blown glass orbs, diverse foliage, and some even had small water features. Right there in the middle of the city!  Thanks to Priceline, we stayed at the Hilton for the same price we would have paid at the Howard Johnsons. Love me some Priceline.

4. Americans are nice.
Granted, it could be because most of the people I’ve spoken with have been in the hospitality industry. To be more specific, 90% of them have been working in Starbucks. However, even those random strangers we have encountered are friendly, and most people can’t wait to tell you what to see in their city.

5. There are Walmarts everywhere in the US. 
For us this is a good thing because we rarely eat fast food, and this is where we buy our lunch fixings such as berries, bread, and cinnamon buns.  On the downside, each  stop at Walmart both adds an hour and subtracts twenty bucks.

6. We are an enterprising country.
Mt. Rushmore is cool but the many nearby theme parks are waaay cooler from a kid’s perspective. I suspect some enterprising parents took their kids to the monument and when the kids got bored the parents got inspired. The rest is history. 

The Bad
7. We are an overweight nation.

There is no ignoring that obesity is an epidemic. Best thing you can do about it is to keep yourself healthy.

8. We’ve become The Gambler
When I was young, my family took a similar trip across the nation, and we listened to 8-track tapes along the way. Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler was a  favorite.  I loved the song about the Gamber’s final words “you’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run.”  Well, based on the amount of casinos in the US, we are running right up to the craps tables. Casinos are EVERYWHERE. You can buy gas and stop for a quick game of blackjack, or drop your kids off at the daycare and hit the slot machine. I’ve yet to see a casino in a church, but then I haven’t made it to Vegas yet either.

The Ugly
9.  Political Radio.

My husband is a political junkie, so we’ve been listening to quite a bit of radio.  Political radio is simply meant to make people mad, regardless of political affiliation. No one seems interested in inspiring people with vision; they are much more interested in drudging up feelings of conflict, anger, hatred, and divisiveness. At the risk of upsetting people, I am even including NPR – their stories are rarely uplifting or tout the virtues of the American spirit. 

In conclusion, driving across the US has only increased my love for this country and its people. Even though our politics can be catty, this is a beautiful nation full of amazing people, and I am proud to be part of it.