The real America

Old Jun 13th, 2010, 02:55 PM
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I get what you're saying; residents of New York or LA are certainly as real an America as anywhere, but just as certainly, the rest of the country isn't like NYC or LA. But are you trying to find some off-the-beaten-track vacation spots, or trying to see what American life is really like? I ask that without a bit of snark or sarcasm, just trying to get at what you're looking for. As an example - for someone interested in a vacation spot in Tennessee (just because that's what I know best), I might send them to Chattanooga or Lynchburg or Townsend. But if you really want to see what life is like outside the big cities, I'd send you to my grandmother's town in Giles County (which has next to nothing in the way of tourist attractions, but is filled with family farms), or the parts of Nashville that most tourists never go to but the locals visit all the time, or even the coal mining towns in Tennessee and Kentucky that are some of the poorest areas in the country.

Based on my knowledge of England (which isn't expert), it's like sending someone to Nottingham vs. Loughborough. One a town with a few touristy things that many tourists don't make it to; the other a town that no tourist would ever have a reason to go to, really.
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Old Jun 13th, 2010, 03:05 PM
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It is always interesting that people want to see things off the beaten path when they haven't seen the beaten path. There are some things on the beaten that are so worthwhile, that is why it has become the beaten path. While there are other things on the beaten path that are cringe worthy. It should neither be ignored or embraced but investiagted.
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Old Jun 13th, 2010, 03:47 PM
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By what standard is the Berkshire Eagle a great newspaper?

The fact is that the "realness" of America, IMO lies in the fact that all postings above are true . Different regions, though more homogeneous than in the past, are still really different in outlook, politics, day to day experience. I think that the way to see the real America is to travel very widely, spending alot of time in the great cities, the small towns, even suburbia. But also in the few remaining wide open spaces, another important aspect of our national character.
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Old Jun 13th, 2010, 03:53 PM
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The Berkshire Eagle has a long had a reputation for excellent reporting and the breeding ground for reporters.
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Old Jun 13th, 2010, 04:06 PM
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I agree with everything that has been posted, but I am picking up on your idea of some sort of programmatic structure for a series of trips.

On a trip to Paris a couple of years ago, my wife and I only visited parks and gardens as destinations but found ourselves seeing a great deal of out-of-the-way Paris in the process, and seeing a lot of ordinary Parisians doing very ordinary things.

A friend from Scotland is interested in stamps from Nepal and Bhutan. When he visits a city or large town, he looks for them. He doesn't find many of them in the US, but he has a lot of interesting conversations.

I have a book called "Fifty State Summits" about the highest places in each state and how to get there. Some require mountaineering, some are only a few hundred feet high or are indistinguishable in the middle of a high plain. Travel to a few of these would take you to a lot of interesting places, as would the places in "Our Smallest Towns", a guide to the smallest town in each state. During the Depression, a project for unemployed writers produced guides to each state, mostly called WPA Guide to _____. Some of these have been reprinted, others are available cheaply in used book dealers. It is fascinating, here in Massachusetts, to follow the routes that were popular in the 1930's and have now been superseded, as have many of the industries and cultural landmarks that are described, and yet the basic history and architecture lives on.

Find a theme, follow it up over time, stop in local cafes and public libraries in small towns or coffee shops in big cities. Ask about the neighborhood. Ask who sells the best ice cream. Look for a book published in the 1970's called "Vagabonding in the USA" (first edition was "Vagabonding in America). Have a wonderful life.
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Old Jun 13th, 2010, 04:48 PM
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For one perspective, here are trip reports for just one state; the furthest trip here is four hours away:

And that's not taking in the Amish (for your craftwork, particularly), the mining towns, the gorgeous State capitol building in Harrisburg, farmers' markets, enormous amounts of Philadelphia...

Definitely going to be fun to try to narrow this down! Often the US is divided into six or so geographic regions; might be a good starting point. (i.e. New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, Pacific Coast)

Happy planning!
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