the USA. a conclusion

September 26, 2011 - Leave a Response

With two days left in this country it is time for a conclusion. I’m surprised to realize, that I’m actually sad to leave. In fact, I got quite attached to this country (and that is independent from private factors, that I won’t go into here but that are contributing to the fact) . This is why:

  • The boundlessness of the USA is legendary. That is what I assumed it to be, a legend. An illusion. I was proofed wrong. Once you’re in – which turned out to be much easier then expected – an area just slightly smaller than and as geographically diverse as Europe is waiting for you to be explored. Even though border controls are history in the European Schengen area, you can clearly feel the national borders. Language and cultural differences are fine, but separate train and bus networks aren’t. I don’t even mention different tax system, health insurance and phone networks. In the states, all that doesn’t bother you the slightest. Off you go.  It is an incredible feeling of freedom, that you could travel/move to a tropical island, an isolate glacier, a Mediterranean climate or whatever else may cross your mind and all you had to do is to pack your things and get going.
  • The USA is an incredibly culturally diverse country. You would say, Europe has all the different languages and cultures in its different countries. Well, every major American city has all that in their neighborhoods. And it doesn’t stop at Littly Italy or the Irish community. Chinatown is ’round the corner…
    Yes, there is inequality between the different origins and there is xenophobia. The general attitude, however, is that you are welcome in this country to achieve what you want.  Most people are at least 3rd generation immigrants and in fact, the stories of people that came to this country to start a new life, are at the heart of the American myth.
  • So are stories of personal achievement. Even though only a small fraction of the people that arrived on this continent actually made it from a dishwasher to a millionaire, many started small businesses or farms. Unlike in many other places, success isn’t necessarily confronted with envy or at least suspicion, but admiration. I wouldn’t be surprised, if this attitude may occasionally turn into terror, if one decides not to do anything. But that’s not really an issue for me.
  • Very obviously, the USA are a gorgeous place. I dedicated most of my writing and photography on this journal to the countless natural beauties and spectacular cities.
  • The biggest surprise to me was the high quality and deliciousness of American cooking. Yes, there is a lot of awful junk food, but you’ve got a choice. Be it a Chinese restaurant in NYC, seafood at Jersey shore, soul food in the south, an Italian restaurant in Boulder, CO or any of the countless, tiny diners down the road. Never in my life I had such a good food for affordable prices than here.

It is not all good.

  • The strong individualism often comes with recklessness. A lot of people will drive SUVs or other overdimensioned vehicles, just because “they can,” not caring about climate change and global responsibility. Many hate paying taxes and social insurance contributions, ignoring the situation of people with less luck.
  • The religious right of the US is frightening to say the least. The way how certain politicians and media people agitate against homosexuals, Muslims or the social state is revolting.
  • A lot have been said and written about the double standards in American politics, which question the grandness of the US rather a lot. I try not to judge a country by its politics alone, even though I’m aware, that they represent the general zeitgeist of their voters at least to some extend.
All in all, my 3-month stay in the USA gave me a much deeper insight in this country and I’m highly impressed, even though there are a lot of nasty things, that bug me.  But the same is true to many countries.

This will be the last article on this blog for a long time. I hope you
enjoyed my travel journal and thank you for reading.

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San Francisco, CA

September 9, 2011 - Leave a Response

A lot have been written about San Francisco and every one seems to like it. There are reason for that. Being distinctively American with giant skyscrapers, art-deco bridges and all sorts of ethnically neighborhoods, it has a friendly touch than cities as, say, New York, nice little house, a considerably good working public transport system and distances aren’t to long that you couldn’t cross them on a bike. And obviously, there’s the beauty of the Pacific and the Bay.
But what’s the point in building one of the world’s most beautiful bridges at a spot, that seems to be covered by fog 24/7 all year round?

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Storey Country, Nevada

September 9, 2011 - Leave a Response

I’ve been a bit too busy traveling to update this blog. Writing these lines, you see, I didn’t die in the desert. Surprisingly so, if you have a look at these pictures.
Storey County is situated right south of Reno. Only about 4000 people call this vast, desert area home. With a density of less than 6 persons per square kilometer, it is still among the top ten most populated counties in Nevada. I’d say, it empty as f***.

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Drive from Denver to Reno, Nevada

August 28, 2011 - Leave a Response

Whereas the drive from Tennessee to Denver was rather plain, driving from there further to Reno, Nevada was outright breath-taking. We (same guy ans car as the trip before plus other rider sharers) left early in the morning to take I-70 right through the Rockies. Steep Canyons, threatening rocks and empty desert accompanied our way as we drove into Utah. We arrived and stopped in Salt Lake City around seven in the evening, ready to hit Nevada’s desert as night fell. Good timing, as the desert isn’t horribly hot at night and vision of stars is outstanding. Nonetheless, driving 9 hours through the darkness can be tedious, so we were happy to arrive in Reno as the next day began.

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Boulder, CO

August 28, 2011 - Leave a Response

My friends I’m staying showed me around in the beautifully situated town of Boulder, just about 20 min northwest of Denver. It’s a hippy hipster college town right at the slope of the Rockies, with a couple of walks right from the city’s center. A nice place to hang out, I suppose.

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Boulder is internationally renown for it’s tea. This is one of it’s plentiful teahouses.

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Drive from Jackson, TN to Denver, CO

August 25, 2011 - One Response

After a couple of days in Jackson, Tennessee, I took on a rideshare I found on Craigslist all the way to Denver, Colorado. That 18-h drive took us through Missouri and Kansas, well into the west.
The sight of the Great Plains was an impressive one. Not pretty, but vast, artificial emptiness. No hill, no trees, just one big field. The kind of area, where you’d wanted to commit suicide if you’d happened to grow/end up here.
Once we approached Denver, however, the scenery changed drastically. Colorado’s capitol is located right at the bottom of the Rocky Mountain’s foothills that mark the western end of the plains. Lush, sandy hills, covered with rocks, conifers and dry meadows give you quite a wild west experience, totally different from everything I’ve seen east of the Mississippi river.
Unfortunately, driving all night and an one-mile-altitude makes feel like jet lagged. Looking forward to hit the sack to be fit tomorrow to explore the area.

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Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina/Tennessee

August 21, 2011 - Leave a Response

The Smoky Mountains are probably the most spectacular part of the Appalachians and the US’s most popular national park. Even though we didn’t feel like stay spending to much time in the park, we used the occasion to camp in the backcountry on our way from South Carolina to Tennessee. It’s free, after all.
It was a four mile hike up the mountains to our dedicated campsite. As you might expected, it turned pitch-black before we reached the site. So we had to put up our tent right next to path (don’t tell that to a park ranger), without actually seeing where we were. Considering bear warnings and the predicted thunderstorm, we were happy to survive that night and even get a couple of hours of sleep.
So how are the Smoky Mountains? Well, I’d like to be able to answer that question. It’s packed with a vast range of wild life (with more than 1500 black bears being the highlights) and plants (more tree species than the entirety of Northern Europe) and has some spectacular views over steep mountains and deep valleys. Worth a longer stay I would say.

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Congaree National Park, South Carolina

August 17, 2011 - Leave a Response

Being in the sweaty South, we obviously wanted to see one of these classy swamps full of mosquitos and alligators. Congaree National Park, a two-hours drive south of Charlotte, NC was our swamp of choice.
Even though there were no alligators and only a few mosquitos (the latter to our benefit), the park was packed with surprise and oddities. Drought out for a couple of weeks at least it was more of a floodplain than a swamp, but still exciting. Definitely worth a visit.

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Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

August 15, 2011 - Leave a Response

This weekend we started on a road trip to Tennessee, with our first stop at a couchsurfing place in Roanoke, Virginia. We crossed Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia on Interstate 81 and drove the last bit on the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, on off the most popular roads in the USA, stretching all the way through the Appalachians from Virginia well into North Carolina. Despite its popularity, the road was almost empty.

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Luzerne county, PA

August 15, 2011 - Leave a Response

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