Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Reconnecting with Americana and My Roots on a Great Cross-country Road Trip

After the sale of our house (May 28 post) I decided like so many have done before to take a Great American Road Trip from coast-to-coast for pleasure and repose, but more so to reconnect with my American roots (see also a recent great road trip blog in pictures by JEFFRIES BLACKERBY of The New York Times).

On my proposed trip through the flyover country of America I will explore various topics and themes that both interest me personally and hopefully a broader audience.    As mentioned in my first blog (May 28 post) I will reflect on my future as an Early Boomer retiree and hopefully grow, learn, and contribute positively toward defining and promoting attainment of a more equitable and sustainable society globally as well as here in America.  As one born and bred abroad of American expatriates, I honestly feel there is much about my own cultural roots I still don't understand and which when viewed from abroad on the news, e.g. CNN has often puzzled and disconcerted me,  Maybe I'll get it this time and hopefully contribute to the analysis of the American experience and world view.  


What is it about the American experience that makes us so often appear to be insensitive to other people's misery caused by economic, racial, or social exploitation--particularly among the poor "downtrodden huddled masses" of Africa, Asia, and Latin America--that we Americans may have contributed to via our over-consumptive lifestyles and provincial views? 

This is an attitude or trait in Americana I find personally troubling when I reflect on my own roots--a descendant of dissidents who fled Europe to find religious, social, and economic freedom themselves (see My Family Album).  It is a question that many colleagues I've worked with in Africa and the Middle East have asked me many times to explain--and I must say I still don't have a good answer.


Has America changed or lost its way or have these negative--as well as the many positive traits in America--always been there, but are just more glaring and accentuated by the stresses of living in a globalized interconnected world?

So, after my return from three years of full time work focused on sustainable development and conservation in Africa and the Middle East (a topic of a future blog), and with over thirty years of professional part time work and travel abroad--I feel strongly the need to reconnect or rather to connect for the first time with real Americana and address the questions above.


Under normal circumstances taking a great road trip is quintessential American behavior--part of the social and physical mobility and inbred wanderlust that Alexis de Tocqueville wrote much about in his assessment of the American character during extensive travels across early 19th Century America--discussed in his great work, Democracy in America (see some Tocqueville quotes).

Understanding better early 19th century America interests me personally because one of my ancestors (Nineveh Ford) came west to the Oregon Territory in 1843. So, over the next few weeks I will explore my own roots but also also consider how my "international career" and overseas experience may have changed me and my view of the world in ways that differs from those elements rooted in the pioneer history of the American West--my g-g-grandfather's world.

I don't claim that my BLOG will yield any new earth shattering insights or a book--though that is possible), yet I have decided that as a just returned expatriate American from such diverse places as Abu Dhabi, Rwanda, Congo, and Honduras, and, knowing from past experience the culture shock that I would face, this time I've decided to BLOG about my feelings, observations, insights as a new retiree and see if what I see and feel adds anything to the long list of those writing about their travels and what it teaches us about ourselves and our co-citizens...


So, Karen and I left our old haunts in Redlands, California (on the left coast) on June 11, 2010 with our ultimate destination New Haven Connecticut (Yale) to visit our kids--Bryan and Anya and new grandchild Celeste.  There is no set itinerary or schedule, and I don't know how long this will take--all I know is I am excited and will take lots of pictures!  Come back as often as you like!

For those who want to see more pictures go to my FACEBOOK page and see my PHOTO ALBUMS about this trip and other experiences abroad as well, i.e. Kenya, Rwanda, Congo and Uganda. Our "conestoga"--a simple homemade tent trailer and our old trusty Mercury Sable--at our first MUST DO STOP at Peggy Sue's 50s Diner in Yermo California

 and just across the street from the Yermo Logistics Marine Base loading war equipment and machinery--a reminder that "America is at War"! Many of the guests at Peggy Sue's are veterans of past wars and it was nice to see many of them there enjoying what were probably happier memories.

Geobob, June 16, 2010 (writing in Cedar City Utah) blog is about one of the great destinations of all great road trips--our glorious national parks--such as Zion National Park where we spent several glorious days! (more here).

Unfortunately, how MOST tourists at Zion see it--all grouped together at the nearest "lodge" rather than exploring on bicycle or on foot the glory of the park...  One of the striking images of someone just returned from abroad is clear here--most of America is now fat and out-of-shape!  What does this portend for the future?


  1. Wow - is that Lucille Ball on the photos from Peggy-Sue's diner? Well, on another note: this development you write about is not unique in the Americans, it is certainly also noticeable here in Denmark, both in terms of attitudes and also in body size. It is as if the population is splitting into two groups: Those who do and those who don't when it comes to caring about what we eat and how (much) we exercise.
    Apart from that, Zion is a wonderful experience, and we are still grateful that you recommended Cedar Breaks to us two years ago - without your advice we would have missed a gem on our trip! All the best for the next leg of your journey!

  2. Thanks Lisbet! I'm glad you enjoyed Cedar Breaks..we're going to camp (and mountain bike) near there over the next few days! One of my favorite places....

  3. Dear Bob, reading about your adventure into your own country, which in a sense is yourself (or maybe it is vice versa?), I have a strong deja vu of another American that did just that, and reported with passion about the experience that America had on him. He travelled with a dog named Charlie, and so of course I'm talking about Steinbeck's "Travels with Charliel." Read it in my teens, and it has always stayed with me. So, who is playing the role of you Charlie in you version of this introspective journey, Bob? Otherwise, all the best with this exploration.
    Kind regards, Lars Soeftestad

  4. Hey! My name is Joey Stocking, I was part of the Great American Road Trip team from a couple summers ago. (I noticed you had linked to our website).

    I admire your trip. I am currently over in Africa on a Business internship for Utah State University, doing business training classes and giving micro-loans. I share a lot of your same thoughts. I just wanted to say good luck and I am happy to see you following your dreams.


    P.S. May I put a link on our website to yours?

  5. Lars of Supras Consult: Travel's with Charlie was also one of my great inspirations! I lived for six months near Salinas & Monterey California and I loved visiting the places of his own work and life and greatly respect what he stood for and wrote about!