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Shaun Ley's US odyssey.

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Eddie Mair | 10:38 UK time, Thursday, 30 October 2008


Shaun is, as I suspect you already know, rather fantastic. You hear him on The World This Weekend, and The World at One. He appeared on PM recently as a VERY knowledgeable Dr Who fan. There's more about Shaun here.

Anyhoo. Shaun is "Stateside" as they say. Something happening there soon. And he has kindly agreed to pen a few words, when he has time, JUST FOR YOU!

I hope you feel loved. Here is Shaun's first despatch:


"Travel, they say, broadens the mind. In my case, it very nearly shortened my life, as well.

It's been a strange day on the US election campaign trail. I've been through three States, three time zones, been made an offer I had to refuse by a waitress and nearly driven off the road (and no I don't think it was her partner at the wheel).

The day began at Atlanta airport, where I'd landed on Monday for two days of travels around Georgia. In itself, that was pretty strange : this is the only airport I know where as soon as you've collected your luggage, they take it away again, to perform their own security checks. Are those before you leave the UK really so lacksidasical that the Atlanta aviation authorities need to do their own on luggage which has only just got come off the 'plane ?

Today's being a domestic flight, things were more relaxed and it gave me time to think about possibly thr most boring job in existence; driving a rental car company'a shuttle bus from terminal to car park and back again. Had Dante being writing a little more recently, he'd have recognised this as the eigth circle of hell.

Dumping the hire car, we flew to Indianapolis, although the long taxi on departure and arrival made it feel lilke we'd driven much of the way.

Then it was into another hire car to complete the journey to the northern tip of the State, Gary, a steel town which languishes in the shadow of Chicago.

On the way, we stopped off in Battle Ground, a small town surrounded by corn and wheat fields. A great place to ask people about the passionate debates they're having about who to support.

The waitresses in the local bar told us all about it; and it was then thst one of the made a suggestion which puts a whole new slant on this being the Hoosier State.

Quite a relief, then, to escape up the Interstate to Gary. I thought we were running late, but in fact we'd crossed another time zone, and we were early.

Gary does feel trapped by its past, a steel city struggling to survive the industry's decline. It's had a high homicide rate. In the past, it was home to the Jackson Five. (I'm assured these two things are entirely unrelated). Local highlights include the John Dillinger Museum, dedicated to the life - and death - of the notorious bank robber.

Mayor Rudi Clay, a dapper man with sideburns which run seemlessly into his moustache, hands all his visitors a photo of himself shaking hands with Barack Obama.

It was on the way to Gary that we nearly met our Maker, when a juggernaut decided to change lanes without warning. A little closer and we'd have been swatted away.

Still, it's been an education and unlike those shuttle bus drivers at the airport, I haven't just been travelling in ever decreasing circles.



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