United States

2022 US Trip – 32 Day Summary…..

Finally, I’ve finished writing this trip up. For my blog’s loyal two readers, they will no doubt be delighted not to have to endure any more posts. I’ve spent longer writing this trip up than the 32 days I was on it, which isn’t an entirely sensible way of dealing the whole arrangement, but I’ve now recorded my memories at least. For anyone who wants to read the posts, they’re at https://www.julianwhite.uk/tag/us-trip/ and there’s a photo album at https://flickr.com/photos/julianwhite-uk/albums/72177720302170930/.

Before starting on a few paragraphs of what will be likely be random piffle, I’ve decided which one of my over 5,000 photos I thought reflected my trip the best, so let’s start there. I decided on a bar, which won’t surprise anyone who knows me, with this being the Push It Real Good Cherry Limeade from Newgrass Brewing Co, perhaps the best sour that I’ve ever had. That’s only part of the story though, it was in Charlotte Beer Garden which has more beers on tap than any other venue in the world. This felt like the very best of the United States, a fine beer in a world-class venue with friendly staff and a comfortable environment. Everything was peaceful here and this is I’ve decided is the iconic photo for this trip.

Before setting off, this trip was looking chaotic, with flights being moved and some of my rail trips being cancelled. The Queen’s funeral was on the day I was flying out from Heathrow, threatening more delays and chaos, along with some tight connections during the entirety of my trip. I’m pleased to say that once I set off just about everything always fitted into place. I had to scrap the Chicago to New Orleans rail trip before departing, ultimately replacing it with a week in Las Vegas, but I was surprised and delighted just how smoothly how the whole journey went.

One element where things went slightly wrong is that this trip coincided with the disastrous premiership of Liz Truss which caused a collapse of the pound so that I was dealing with an exchange rate of 1:1 rather than the 1:1.2 that I was expecting. That wasn’t ideal and this trip cost a little more than I would have liked, not just because of that but inflationary pressures are high in the US and accommodation required me to be creative, especially in New York.

Staying on politics, many Americans define their country as the greatest on earth. This is a challenging thing to ever measure and of course beyond the realms of this little blog, but I have great sympathy with the argument. Their size and involvement in supporting Ukraine is perhaps enabling a peace in Europe that we might not otherwise have, their power is reassuring for those of us who are strong supporters of the European Union and harmony on the continent and beyond. I am though getting verging into politics, so better limp away from that quickly.

On the negative, there are many areas where the United States is simply burning, with crime now out of control in New Orleans, Louisiana and getting that way in Birmingham, Alabama. Economic disparity is horrendous and the numbers of homeless seem to have risen exponentially since my last few visits to the country. However, some parts are looking in very good shape, not least in the states of Virginia and North Carolina which I visited for the first time.

It would be hard not to mention the exciting craft beer scene in the United States which seems to few signs of slowing down. Some of the brewery set-ups in New York were outstanding and I am unlikely to forget the ridiculous choice of beers available at Charlotte Beer Garden and Raleigh Beer Garden. Not only did they have a large choice, but half of it was from local brewers, a reminder of just how much great beer is being brewed across the whole country. And I have to mention the impeccable Goose Island in Chicago and some of the finest beers I’ve ever had. Beautiful on every level.

Amtrak was once again a delight and I had plenty of train trips on this month away, not least the one lasting for over 24 hours. In coach…. Flights are quicker and more convenient, but I like trains and watching the world go by at a much more leisurely pace. The space available on Amtrak trains is substantial, so I felt productive with my laptop and I was pleased to see wifi has been installed on what seemed like every service.

I don’t drive which makes the United States more of a challenge, especially given how limited the rail services are in scope. But, I’m also glad that I don’t drive in that I think 90% of the long conversations I had were on public transport and it would have been a shame to lose out on those. The fascinating Democrat in Raleigh and the inquisitive Republican in Las Vegas, it was always a delight to feel like I was near the ‘real America’ and hearing what people thought about both their area and also national politics.

I hadn’t intended to visit Las Vegas again, it was a switch in for a cancelled set of rail trips, but it felt safe, although there was a tragedy that took place when I was there. I’ve been to the city several times before and always liked it, and although it has a tacky edge (quite a big edge) it’s also got that sense of the American dream and what can be achieved. I know some people might sneer at it, but I’ve always found it has much more depth than it might appear. The more I’ve visited the more that has become apparent.

Anyway, I’d better wrap this whole thing up before I drone on for several more hours. I have very fond memories of this trip, not just the United States, but also the brief visits to Ireland before and after. As with all these trips, the human kindness was everywhere, whether that was in small or large measure. The more I travel, the more I see that and how although there are always dangerous areas, the vast majority of people are good and want the best for others. I have missed the United States whilst writing this up and although I’m not travelling so much this year, perhaps I’ll find time next year for another little visit and to experience some of the states that I’ve yet to see.

To quote a certain out-going Prime Minister, “and that is that, the end”.