In this issue of The Statesider US travel newsletter:
It’s Summer! You’re on vacation, we’re on vacation. This week, we present the very best US travel stories the first six months of The Statesider (according to readers clicking on things), plus our picks for hammock-ready summer reads. 🌴📚🌴
When we clicked “Send” on the first issue of The Statesider back in January, we weren’t sure what to expect.
Would people really want to read travel stories that aren’t all “36 Hours for the Wealthy in Fancy Neighborhood Anywhere”? Would readers be open to travel stories that drive straight into tough issues like climate change and whitewashing? Stories that embrace America’s weirdness, diversity, and its diverse weirdness? Pie? Alligators? Punk birding?
The answer has been a clear and enthusiastic yes.
Thank you all for reading, sharing, sending us ideas, tossing a few coins in the ukulele case, and coming along for the ride. We’ll be back with an issue on America’s parks and the great outdoors in about two weeks. (Read a great story about the American outdoors lately? Let us know!)
The Best of The Statesider (So Far)
On Whitewashing In Travel — The Statesider’s Pam Mandel tackles the role history plays in tourism and what we’re supposed to do when we see the truth being erased.
Arizona: The one where Tim Cahill drowns while rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, comes back to life, and goes back for more. Tim Cahill, Outside
New Mexico: We’re ready to go stargazing at “New Mexico’s Machu Picchu,” where people have been looking skyward for over 1100 years. Nneka M. Okona, National Geographic
Designing the Sky: How Airline Route Maps Changed the Way We Travel — The Statesider’s Andy Murdock looks into how airline route maps changed the way we view the world—and why we can’t stop looking at them.
Indiana: The state’s first National Park, Indiana Dunes, is notable for more than its natural landscape: nestled along the shoreline are several landmark mid-century modern homes, which will soon be restored and available for rental. Sign us up. Amy Lavalley, Chicago Tribune
Mississippi Delta: On the two-lane highways of the Mississippi Delta, gas stations are serving up some great Southern cooking. Kate Medley, The Bitter Southerner
Chasing Mardi Gras Indians — On St. Joseph’s Day, Jill Robinson races around New Orleans, hunting for the flamboyant Mardi Gras Indians.
Texas: A captivating photo surfaced on social media earlier this year of a woman in Brownsville, Texas in 1939 selling “Life Saving Tamales.” Here’s the story behind the image. Rene Torres, Bronsbil Estación
Oregon: An Oregon Coast road trip has always been a sure bet for dramatic views and nature, but now it’s got a new theme: Art. Sarah Hutchins, PDX Monthly
Illinois: Chicago’s old honky-tonks are all gone — all except Carol’s Pub. Mike Seely, No Depression
How to Write a Country Music Song — Country music skeptic Andrew Evans learns what it takes to write a great country song from a Nashville master.
Michigan: “I never returned, but I never let Buffalo Wild Wings go.” A gay vegetarian finds himself hanging out with the bros at his local BW3. Logan Sherer, Eater
What I Learned From Tony Horwitz — The Statesider’s Doug Mack remembers the great travel writer Tony Horwitz, and his knack for telling the big, messy story of America.
Georgia: Look ya, get off your boonkey and learn some Charleston “slang” from Geechee 101 a video from Geechee Experience.
Louisiana is the only state with an Official State Pie filled with meat. Yes, really.
New York: The new Statue of Liberty Museum teaches us that the iconic French gift was in fact a monument to the end of slavery. Gillan Brockell, The Washington Post
Birdpunk: It’s birding, but punk. What? Steve Neumann, Audubon
North Dakota: A mysterious patch of light shows up in the North Dakota dark, and it’s not a city — well, not exactly. Robert Krulwich, NPR
Summer Reading List
Eager: The Surprising Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, by Ben Goldfarb. “Trying to mitigate floods or improve water quality? There’s a beaver for that. Hoping to capture more water for agriculture in the face of climate change? Add a beaver.” Travel along with writer Ben Goldfarb in this hugely entertaining journey into the world of one of America’s most notorious, industrious, and misunderstood residents. Winner of the 2019 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, and one of my favorite environmental reads from the past year, this charming science meets travel meets lots and lots of beavers tale will make you reassess everything you think you know about our dam-building friends. Amazon | Your Local Indie Bookstore
Mississippi Solo, by Eddy Harris. I live a few blocks from the Mississippi River, and sometimes forget that it’s not just a banal local landmark. Eddy Harris has no such illusions. The river, he writes, “is laden with the burdens of a nation.” This poetic travelogue about his canoe trip down the waterway’s two-thousand-mile length captures the spirit of each paddle-stroke and stopover, with added poignancy coming from Harris’s status as a young black man traveling alone. People stare in Minnesota; there are racists with shotguns in Arkansas — and, throughout the book, there are plenty of unexpected welcomes. It’s all a hell of a personal journey but also, quietly, a striking portrait of a nation. Amazon | Your Local Indie Bookstore
Sourdough by Robin Sloan. A friend recently read this book and found it delightful but so odd that it’s not for everyone. “You might like it,” she told me. Here’s how right she was: I’d read it already and yeah, it’s odd. It’s part Silicon Valley, part immigrant story, part weird punk farmer’s market, and one of the main characters is a batch of sourdough starter. The other main character, Lois Clary, is a robotics engineer who teaches a robot she’s working on to knead bread. The book is about food and finding your tribe and oh, just read it, it’s a delight. Also, I now tend to my own starter, in no small part because of this book. I’m not nearly as good to mine as Lois is to hers — she plays music for it — but my bread isn’t bad. Amazon | Your Local Indie Bookstore
For more of the best US travel stories out there, just paddle your canoe over here.