The USA is Huge
This country is huge. Really, really huge. Can your brain even comprehend how magnificently enormous it is? Probably not. The United States is 98,589,451,022,605.6 square feet in size. That’s about 3.7 million square miles. There are 358 National Parks. The National Highway System boasts 160,000 miles of roads. So there you have it. We live in one of the largest nations in the world. It’s a size that is unimaginable unless you’ve tried to cross it on the ground, in a car, with a few of your buddies. The unending landscape can seem like it’s never going to change, cornfields after cornfields after low-lying crops of alfalfa; it can change so suddenly that it makes you feel that you’ve somehow warped to a different planet.
This Country Can Hypnotize You
The border lands in Arizona undulate from yawning desert plains to winding mountain passes. Arkansas in late spring and early summer is a brilliant spread of yellows and oranges that blend slowly into the Great Smoky Mountain ridges the closer you come to the Atlantic seaboard. South Dakota and Nebraska make the sky seem somehow larger than it is anywhere else. The desolation of Death Valley in California and Nevada, and the Great Salt Flats in Utah suck the moisture out of your skin and the breath from your lungs.
The cities give the backdrop of landscape a dynamic foreground. The urban centers of this country each have distinct personalities. There are the big ones, of course: New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Miami, Atlanta. There are others, though, that require a closer look. Go have a Lone Star beer and hear the best bands in the country in Austin, Texas. Go see a Trail Blazer’s game at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. Pensacola, Florida’s surf culture will chill you out. You can ride sleek, black gondolas in Providence, Rhode Island. Savannah, Georgia feels more like Europe.
Discover the Undiscovered
There are also cities that seem, in the national eye, as tired and boring cities that harbor undiscovered attractions. You can tour the Pabst brewery and see a gory independent film in Milwaukee. Minneapolis, though under obscene amounts of snow for many months, harbors some of the best underground music this country has to offer. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania . Bozeman, Montana. Eugene, Oregon. Kansas City, Missouri. Knoxville, Tennessee. Asheville, North Carolina. The list goes on, and the only way you can be sure that I’m not making it up is to go out and see for yourself.
Yes, gas is expensive. Yes, you end up in strange hotel rooms wondering if you’ll contract some strange disease by sleeping on the sheets. Yes, you’ll eat more fast food than you probably want to. You can see it all from overhead in a plane, but somehow being stuffed between two huge, sweaty businessmen takes the romance of out crossing the country. It’s our country, get out there.
By Mary Fall Wade