What Is “Haney on the Train”?
You mean, besides the greatest blog you never knew you needed in your life?
This summer, with a 45-day Amtrak rail pass in hand, I’m embarking on a travel writing project with the question in mind, “What does it mean to be an American?” and recording my findings on this here blog. In this election year, and at a time when so many Americans are losing hope, I don’t think I can ask anything more important.
I’ll upload blog posts, essays, musings, photos, videos, and various ephemera from my travels and categorize them under the various headings you see above. I’ll also keep some interactive maps so you can follow my journey and hear reportage from the various locales. Right now I’m working my way through a reading list of books and film, compiled with the help of my friend and teacher Dr. Ned Stuckey-French (did I mention I’m getting academic credit for this project?) to prepare me for my journey. You’ll find blurbs about these materials under “Readings“. I also plan to read up on each city before I get there using the Kindle app on my iPad.
As well, I’m compiling a digital archive of the postcards that I’ll send from the rails to the generous supporters who contributed to my Indiegogo campaign. Contributors will receive the physical postcard while a digital copy will appear on this blog for the world to see.
Where Will You Go and When Will You Leave?
This stuff gets confusing, so listen closely. The 45-day rail pass allows me to make 18 stops along the way–that is, I get to book 18 tickets–so I’ve spent many hours exploring various possible routes. The Amtrak doesn’t go just anywhere, and each connection counts as another leg. Here’s what I’ve settled on: On July 1, I fly from Tallahassee to Burlington, VT, spend the Fourth of July with my mom’s family in Bath, NH, then on the 5th I’ll take a bus into Boston, MA. My first use of the rail pass will happen on July 8 when I travel from Boston to New York City. Then on the 10th I’ll head down to Washington D.C. On the 12th, I make my way toward Detroit and up into Michigan for my friend Ana’s wedding outside of Traverse City on the 14th. That lands me in Chicago on the 15th, where I’ll probably want to hole up for a few days, catch my breath and make sure the blog is up to speed, then head west.
From Chicago, I plan to take a 30-hour train ride to West Glacier, MT, stay in a hostel, and take in the sights of Glacier National Park . Then Seattle, possibly Vancouver (depending on restraints of time, funds, and legs remaining on my pass), Portland where my great friends Pat and Marika said they’d put me up (or put up with me, I forget), down to San Fransisco to hang with my good buddies Chris and Paul, over to Salt Lake City, and then Denver. At that point, I want to make it to Austin, TX, where my friend Kim said I could sleep in the hayloft with the sheep, but to get on that Texas Eagle line I either have to make a couple transfers–Maybe St. Louis, maybe Kansas City–or head back through Chicago. And if managed correctly, I’ll use my last leg to arrive in New Orleans on August 23.
What Will You Be Packing?
A hiking backpack with some clothes, an iPad 2 with an attachable keyboard for my uploading which I’ll tether to my smartphone, an iPod full of great American tunes, a good pair of shoes, a camera, a notebook, and an observant and inquisitive frame of mind.
How’d You Come Up With This Idea?
Since I was a young teen reading Kerouac, Wolfe and Kesey who wrote about life on the road, listening to Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead who sang about riding the rails, and watching documentaries about the youth who traveled the country to make it to Woodstock, the Monterey Pop Festival, and the Rolling Stones’ Altamonte Speedway Free Festival, I’ve had this penchant to travel America and find out what she has or means to say. I’ve been to New England but not to Boston, lived in Chicago but only for 6 months, traipsed around California but not the Pacific Northwest, driven I-10 and I-40 both ways but haven’t seen the great routes across the American Middle and Top. I need to see these things and, if you haven’t had the chance either, you can log on here and let me bring them to you.
What Makes You Think You’re Qualified?
You mean, besides the fact that I’m a natural-born American? I earned my B.A. in English with a minor in Writing from Rollins College in 2007, and by the end of this project I’ll have my M.A. in Literature from Florida State University where I also earned a certificate in Publishing and Editing. I published a piece of creative nonfiction in the current issue of the literary journal Redivider, I have a book review forthcoming in Fourth Genre, I’ve written feature articles , smaller pieces, and venue blurbs for the Capital City Villager, I’ve read my work on NPR’s affiliate station in Tallahassee, WFSU, and I have a real passion for creative nonfiction in all its forms. When I get back to Tallahassee in late August, I’ll turn this project into a book proposal and see what happens.
A question for you: Have you seen this video?