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Magic bus

  • Jon Kelly
  • 9 Sep 08, 02:13 AM GMT

So I'm in the US. Apparently there's some sort of election coming up soon. Do you reckon anyone might have any opinions about it?

Hello, my name's Jon Kelly and this is my blog. It's called Talking America, because I'm going to spend the next month or so doing exactly that - talking to and about ordinary Americans, trying to find out where this vast, extraordinary country wants to go at such a crucial time.

Jon Kelly with the BBC's busSee that big shiny BBC bus I'm posing beside? Well, we'll be spending a lot of time together over the next 38 days.

I'm hitching a ride from Los Angeles to New York, buttonholing all the people and personalities I encounter along the way in a somewhat kamikaze bid to extrapolate the state of the union.

This is all part of the BBC US 08 Talking America project, and I'll be joined by colleagues from radio and TV along this coast-to-coast odyssey, as we try to help the USA and the rest of the planet make sense of each other.

According to polls, the overwhelming majority of Americans believe their country is heading in the wrong direction. Well, being an inquisitive sort, I'd like to find out which way they'd like to turn instead.

I've always been fascinated by this place. When I was growing up in a small town in southern Scotland, everything about the USA sounded at once imposing and exciting.

We didn't have skyscrapers or Oreos or school shootings in Dumfries, for better or for worse. But like the rest of the Western world we were immersed in American music and American movies, American fast food and a way of life that took its lead from American consumer society.

I've never before visited any of the places on my itinerary. I'm sure that most people I encounter will take me for some know-nothing foreigner asking daft questions in a funny accent - an assessment with which I won't really be able to quarrel.

But the place I am very familiar with is the America in my head, the America of the imagination - and I'm curious to find out how closely my second-hand European prejudices actually conform to reality.

BBC BusWe hear a lot about how deeply this place is meant to be divided. The culture wars are back, apparently. What I'd like to put my finger on, though, is what common ground these supposedly intractable factions actually share - what it is that makes them American.

But I won't be alone on this truly multimedia journey. I'll point you to some of the reports produced by my radio colleagues, while BBC World News America's Jennifer Copestake has very kindly offered to share her video with me.

I'd like to invite you, too, to have a look at the Flickr stream we're running.

And thanks to this shiny new interactive age in which we all now apparently live, I hope we can get the rest of the world talking - about what they want from a superpower whose foreign policy, cultural dominance and economic well-being affect us all.

Above all, I'd like to hear what you have to say - about this blog (I can take it), about our coverage, and about your views on the issues we encounter.

I hope it's going to be a lot of fun. But if you'll excuse me, my jet lag is starting to make its presence felt. I'd better conserve my energy for the journey ahead...

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    I think this is a very clever idea and look forward to both reading and contributing to the blog.

  • Comment number 2.

    Jon,

    I think suggesting we don't have school shootings in Scotland is a little bit of a slip...

    Otherwise I welcome your blog. Here in DC we are attempting to do the same thing as you I can assure you.

  • Comment number 3.

    Is this being paid for by the licence fee or by advertising revenue and the BBC America budget?

    I think it should be the latter. I fear it is the former.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think he was saying that at that time they didn't have school shootings in Scotland - and when can I get a job that involves travelling around the US and getting paid for it!!

  • Comment number 6.

    Nice for the BBC and the UK licence payers to send you on an expenses paid jolly across the States...I hope you enjoy it!

  • Comment number 7.

    A "kamikaze" trip you are most certainly embarking on. The United States of America is arguably the most diverse country this world has seen to date; to which you are passing through, to my liberal count, only 18 states. A small sample to give a clear picture of what is America and with admission its sad political arena - that sees its populous participate in every four years - only to be observed by "second-hand European prejudices." Perhaps I am naive taking the BBC's reporting almost exclusively as fact; to this blog I can not. God speed your journey, which I hope is reported on with an open mind. Please keep near and dear to your heart that part of this American dream is "in order to form a more perfect Union."

  • Comment number 8.

    It sounds like a good idea to me! One thing I'd keep in mind (which you may or may not have considered, but I am going to point it out anyway) is that, stereotypically at least, American culture is divided geographically. Your route seems to me to be mostly stopping in areas which are traditionally thought of as more conservative, although large cities tend to not fit that stereotype as closely.

    In short, I am doubtful that you are going to get a representative sample of Americans and and American opinions; you would need to hit more regions and perhaps a few rural areas as well.

  • Comment number 9.

    Great idea. It will be healthy for us Americans to get another perspective on how our country is viewed by a non-native. Sometimes we forget how much our nation's choices affect the rest of the world - both the government's policies and the lifestyle choices of individual people.

  • Comment number 10.

    I'm very interested in your impressions of us Americans. I always think it's interesting to hear what foreigners have to say, whether I agree with them or not.

    I must say, though, that your route is biased toward the south (from what I can tell on the tiny bit of map available so far). The north and the south are very different places, even though there are some commonalities. In order to get a sense for the whole U.S. you'll have to travel more widely. Even Americans experience culture shock when we move to a different part of the country than what we're used to.

  • Comment number 11.

    Sounds like a great idea. It may help to explain to the UK why the polls are currently tied!

    You really should stop by and say hello in Denver though!

  • Comment number 12.

    Jon:
    i hope you are enjoying your time in my country of the united states of america....

    enjoy your time here.

  • Comment number 13.

    I can only hope this "Journey" does not turn into the offensive garbage that the "Top Gear"
    crew turned in on their trip to the states.

  • Comment number 14.

    your introduction did not get you off to a good start .being originally from scotland it seems that you are going to be negative and find out all the silly things to point out .you might be better stopping your bus at disneyworld and talking to some of the locals .i,ll be following your blog with interest .

    john mac,
    atlanta

  • Comment number 15.

    Don't think anyone in or connected to Dunblane will agree with your no school shootings comment.
    On reflection I'm sure you now agree that comment should have been left out.
    Otherwise people can only judge your journalistic standards based on the ability to overlook a terrible Scottish tragedy.

  • Comment number 16.

    Jon,

    The first Englishmen I met in the Southwest were called Cousin Jacks, or Greenhorns. I think most were miners from Cornwall.

    Why is it that Englilshmen always seem to travel in the U.S. Southwest in the heat of the summer? Try returning after the election and enjoy the better weather.

    Or better yet, after visiting Macain' ranch, pop up to the top of the rim country around Flagstaff and cool off at seven to eleven thousand feet. Then spend some quality time around Phoenix. The resorts have marked down their room rates until Nov.

  • Comment number 17.

    I am very amused to see so many people complaining about what Jon is going to be saying based on what they think a European who only has a second-hand view of the US will say.

    Being prejudiced about someone else's prejudices? I can't be the only one who finds that funny.

  • Comment number 18.

    I welcome you to the U.S. and I think that you will enjoy yourself. The long open stretches at the beginning of your journey through Arizona and New Mexico should be interesting to someone that lives in Europe and does not need to travel far to find another village or town.

  • Comment number 19.

    To be fair to the author, he says "no school shootings in Dumfries" - and Dunblane (to the best of my knowledge) isn't in Dumfries.

    Yes, its a poor choice of words from the author's part, but his facts aren't wrong.

  • Comment number 20.

    Good luck to you Jon. I am sure that a small town Scot will find the US a very interesting place; both meeting your expectations and possibly not even being close to what you thought.

    I hope you can take the time to visit with a family or to for a day or an evening to get a feel for "real Americans"

    Enjoy the trip

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi Jon,

    I am really looking forward to hearing what feedback you get from people you meet along your way.

    despite what our synical american comerade might think i'm sure you will get views from people of all ages, race and background.

    enjoy the experience !

  • Comment number 22.

    Yes, it is a mistake taking a straight route across our nation and assuming it is an even cross-section of opinion.
    However I will find the contents of Jon's trip interesting since we Americans start in grade school learning that England is our enemy. And then we finish up high school learning that not only did the country's name change to UK, but now they are our staunch ally whose biggest complaint is what we did to the English language.

  • Comment number 23.

    I hope your trip is wonder filled excursion. The election process I wish it was all it is made up to be.. I hope you find some people that are not brainwashed out zombies and give an account of the knowledge the world is without. It is a beautiful country and what you will see will will be a true learning experience.

    Get a chance turn your head to Fort Benning, Georgia's Chattahoochee Valley Area. Auburn, AL., Eufaula, AL., Columbus, GA. ..

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hitching a ride? In the U.S. this often means you drive along with strangers. And you'd rarely be picked up by a HUGE BUS/MOTORHOME unless you're wearing designer labels and riding expensive bicycles.

    In fact, the huge motor-homes are just a small part of the class cultures you will witness along the road to what?

    I'll listen and follow as I find it most interesting what the other side of the world makes of this election. Especially since our economy effects your economy. KEEP ON TRUCKIN! Oh you're to young to remember that saying....


  • Comment number 26.

    As the man is travelling from coast to coast, via the mountains, the farmbelt and the south, I think we'll see a decent enough cross-section of the US. I doubt there's enough time to hit much more of the north USA.

    And hopefully we'll get an insight or a glimpse of an understanding as to why anyone would consider voting for the Republicans again.

    As for my ever-present, whinging countrymen (and bless you for existing, I love you all....sigh), this is a BBC World Service project, so is not financed by the licence fee but from the FCO's budget.

  • Comment number 27.

    #17:

    You make a good point, and I am guilty. I apologize.

    I suppose my main objection to this "epic" journey is that it has been done before---many times, and often coincidentally(???) during US election seasons.

    I can understand the fascination of non US people trying to figure out the complexity of the US. We are a nation of many, many, diverse, diametically opposed (economically, socially, intellectually, religiously...the list goes on) people who live together in relative unity in one nation---and somehow it works! I doubt that Americans can explain HOW it works; it simply does.

    Again, that fascination is understandable. However, these cyclical journalistic "journeys" invariably include trying to pick apart the people of the US as if to show the world it really DOESN'T work, as if it's all some kind of evil ruse. Foreign journalists end up talking to "Myrtle" at Diner A then speak to "Ralph" at Barber shop B then move on to the backward, redneck, barbarian observations that are beyond tiresome.

    A better purpose for this journey would be to actually investigate WHY America works, not collectively lump us all together in one category, not insult the local people and customs, and admit (once and for all) that there truly is no explanation as to why this nation interacts in a unified and successful manner. (Then, perhaps, this particular journalist can explain it to Americans themselves).

    And to a point by #10, the observation is true and I'll take it one further. A person can visit a rural area, then visit an urban area in a single US STATE and experience culture shock.

    For apology's sake, welcome to the US and may your visit be an enjoyable one. I am sorry for my prejudice toward a journey that has only begun.

    One bit of advice to the blogger, if I may: You seek to understand what unites all US citizens even though we disagree on so many things. Don't lump us all together and insult us. Nothing (!) rallies US citizens together for a common united cause than that. Call it "nationalistic" if you want, but it's true.

  • Comment number 28.

    viewfromoutside - The author clearly stated Dumfries, to my knowledge there has been no school shooting in Dumfries. We`ll give you a hand down from your soapbox anytime.

  • Comment number 29.

    As an American, there are a few of us who look to the UK for what we'd like in life and how you described, albeit briefly, in Dumfries is exactly what I'd like. Things are perfect nowhere, but the US has taken a dive head first into oblivion. The world hates us....not because of WHO we are, but because of WHAT we've done. Safe to travel to Thailand? Japan? Italy? London? American tourists are targeted everywhere. Our president, the less-than-honorable GWBush is ridiculous and thinks that tough talk and military force makes the world go 'round. Keep the simplicity of Dumfries. Eat your haggis. Drink your ale. Enjoy the life in rural Scotland. America is poisoned and we have a long way to go to make politics, and the world, a much more friendly.

  • Comment number 30.

    I know this is just a pre-amble but your journalistic skills leave a lot to be desired. This monologue reads like sentences that have been copy pasted from another article, partagraphs beginning with "and" and "but" !!!
    Lets hope the content of the blog improves as you continue your journey.
    Are you really hitch-hiking? a strange term to use for travelling on a luxury coach.

  • Comment number 31.

    Hmmm, this blog could turn out to be interesting, but so often large journalistic ventures like this do throw up exactly the sort of stereotypes mentioned above. I'll happily keep my eye on the blog in case I'm wrong :)

    A similar venture was undertaken by two British guys during the ever-eventful primary season. Not being part of a corporation like the BBC definitely worked to their advantage - they travelled around with locals and had chance to speak to a real cross-section of people. If you're interested take a look at their website:
    www.myfellowamericans2008.com

    Fingers crossed that this venture will be just as successful! But then, maybe I won't hold my breath...

  • Comment number 32.

    Fantastic!!! Is this to be run on Newsnight, or on its own as a special? I for one am looking forward to another "Top Gear" take on Southern America. There certainly is no getting away from the fact that anything regarding the Southern States makes great TV, usually Comedy with a dash of "Oh I can so see deliverance happening there"

  • Comment number 33.

    #32:"Oh I can so see deliverance happening there"


    Should we warn Jon Kelly what to do if he hears "banjo music" while traveling through the south, or let him figure it out on his own? ;)

  • Comment number 34.

    I like the sound of this project and in many wish I could join you along the way, as I am intrigued as much as you are about America!

  • Comment number 35.

    Welcome to the US, Jon. As others have pointed out you will not get a full sampling of our country because of the southern route you are traveling, but it will be a reasonable start.

    A piece of advice: do not seek out individuals that fit your stereotype of Americans. You will only confirm your prejudices. Americans are a very diverse group of people. We are black, white, hispanic, asian, and everything in between. We are poor, rich, middle class, and working class. We are old and young. We are Christian (mostly), Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, agnostic and atheist. We are many many things. Please don't just look for the center. Take in all that is around you. If you do this then you may come away with a sense of who we are.

    Good luck on your journey. Welcome to America!

  • Comment number 36.

    It's not possible to fully understand the people of the US unless you spend a lot more time in a lot more places than you have planned. The whole section of the Northwest is completely missed and quite unique.

    The Bible Belt route you've chosen (with LA and Las Vegas?!) doesn't begin to speak for the whole of the US. (well, they might try... ;-)

  • Comment number 37.

    You will learn what ever you wish to learn on your trek. If you have preconceived ideas you will find them validated by some. Not all Americans are the same not, in thought, demeanor or political outlook. The county has at least 40 times more people than Scotland and you will find a variety of opinions. I am of Scottish descent, and I hope you get an accurate and realistic view of the US. Please try to talk to as many as you and keep an open mind. We are not all the same nor do we think alike on any issue. Good luck on your journey and try to remember the difference in size in population between Scotland and the US.

    I doubt Train Spotters is an accurate view of Scotland.

  • Comment number 38.

    It does rather read like a high school project.

  • Comment number 39.

    Good idea! Its always a good thing for the British public to be exposed to "average" Americans, rather than what Hollywood or network TV portrays.

    Will you be passing through Flagstaff, AZ? It would be a good stop - a university town in a rural area; very much a mixed electorate; one of our senators is running for President and has a home in the area.

    Let me know; I'd be happy to give you the tour! :)

  • Comment number 40.

    Extrapolate the state of the union?what the hell does that mean?,and who is exactly funding this pointless excursion?,if it is coming out of my licence fee i will be making vociferous complaints to your odious employers at the bbc who continually and unashamedly urinate our money up the wall on this type of folly on a daily basis.

  • Comment number 41.

    Sounds like a fun idea. I hope we are entertaining enough for you all in the UK! I'll be right up front actin a fool when it stops in St. Louis.

  • Comment number 42.

    I have driven across the United States more than 30 times using diferent routes each time and not traveling the interstate
    highways. I know exactly who you will encounter - unless you go into country clubs, gated communities, very expensive restaurants, mercedes and bmw dealerships or high end shopping districts. If not you will meet decent, hard working, religious, non-wordly folk without passports. In other words you'll meet Sarah Palin. Except that she got a passport last year.
    This is why Obama has work to do.

  • Comment number 43.

    Agree with post 17. It's really telling how it's apparently assumed by some US residents that a professional BBC journalist travelling across the entire length of the country will conclude that Americans are fat, waddly xenophobes.

  • Comment number 44.

    Oh joy, yet more coverage of the US election. Can we at least wait until the elections actually start?

    Is there nothing else going on in the rest of the world?

  • Comment number 45.

    message 7.

    typical comment of the sort which others in the world find arrogant. the usa is far from being the most diverse country the world has ever seen, or does ur memory only extend back...oh what 50 years or so??

  • Comment number 46.

    First of all good luck with your attempt to get to grips with something as complex as the U.S.

    Got to say that I'm slightly jealous that your being funded to do something that over the years I'm trying to do myself, though sadly only made 7 states so far. Its expensive.

    As already pointed out, I think that your won't get a complete picture, as your route is predominantly in the South, however you have to start somewhere, and to visit even half the states in the U.S before the elections you would be traveling so fast you wouldn't actually gain any insite into anything. Whilst I have been fortunate enough to visit states in the North and the South, I have had much less success getting across to the West Coast, so still plenty to do.

    One thing though, while your there hopefully trying to disprove some of your own stereotypes, do your bit to dispel some of those surrounding people from Europe as well, going on about your "second hand European prejudices" somewhat implies that your view point is that of Europe which it isn't. Its one of many from Europe. By the same token, the views of those you speak to in the U.S will not be the views of the U.S, just some of the people that live there. Try to keep that in mind.

    The only piece of advice I would offer as someone who has traveled to and in the U.S a number of times is try to ditch the bus when you can. If you want to get a good understanding of the people, you will have to get away from the bus and go and mingle. Wandering round with a boom mike, a camera crew and a huge bus won't exactly encourage people to be themselves.

    @27 (and 37 to an extent)

    First of all your totally right about your point that not all Americans are the same. There will be will however be identifiable groups who share similar opinions as well as a few individuals that don't really fit into any of the groups. It is these cross sections of society that can make studying a foreign culture interesting, as the groups found in one country are not necessarily the same as those found in another. Say what you like about not lumping you all together, but you miss a basic fact that you are all lumped together by the very nature of having one nationality, American in this case and sharing in one culture. That is not to say that you are all the same, nor does it mean that American culture is not made up from a vast mixture of different cultures, of varying levels of influence and subject to local change, but there is a lot there to learn. As you said yourself, there is a massive mix that somehow works, but it does work, and the mix is different to the mix found almost anywhere else. That is what in a lot of ways is so fascinating.

  • Comment number 47.

    Welcome to the US! hope your stay is informative. please visit us in upstate New York (Round Lake is only a couple of hours from NYC) to get some civilized opinions . i loved my visits to Edinburgh, Inverness and the Isle of Mull and hope you have a great visit while you are here.
    many of us are uninformed and easily distracted but some of us are trying to keep it all straight and to keep our country together. good luck.

  • Comment number 48.

    Good morning, Jon.

    Welcome to America.

    The one thing that will surprise you most is the distance between the places you intend to visit. This is, indeed, a vast and varied place.

    We Americans tend to be a bit spoiled by our huge expanses of undeveloped land and don't always realize what a precious commodity bare land can be.

    As many have stated before, your chosen route through mostly southern states is roughly akin to starting in Swansea, driving through Coventry and down to London; and hoping that will give you a representative cross-section of the United Kingdom. You'll notice that route takes you nowhere near Ireland or Scotland thereby making an accurate depiction of the English/Brits/Irish/Scots impossible. But it will provide you some interesting times.

    I expect you will be baffled at how these amazingly diverse American individuals, who can barely agree on the time of day, become a single, cohesive entity during times of crisis - or a presidential election!

    Nevertheless, I applaud your enthusiasm and look forward to reading and hearing your impressions. Have a safe journey.


  • Comment number 49.

    I know it would be unrealistic to expect this, as they are completely out of the way (not to mention separated by an ocean) but as Barak Obama was born in Hawaii and Sarah Palin is the Governor of Alaska, it would be nice if you could visit these two amazing states.

  • Comment number 50.

    old franks psychiatrist wrote:
    message 7.

    typical comment of the sort which others in the world find arrogant. the usa is far from being the most diverse country the world has ever seen, or does ur memory only extend back...oh what 50 years or so??


    Goodness! old franks's got his hind parts in a twist.
    Maybe throughout John's epic journey he will be able to dispel this myth that the people of the US are ALL one-lumped-collective-body of arrogant evil-doers :-)

  • Comment number 51.

    As a 'Brit' living in the US I really do welcome the bbc's ingenuity at bringing this tour of the country to their worldwide audiences.

    The views of many outside the US are so skewed by Hollywood and TV programmes which have no relationship with the real America.

    I do think that finishing in New York is a big mistake. You have started in the south west and should finish in the north east. I know you will find New Englanders very different from south westerners. Complete the view by adding 3/4 extra days and head up to Maine. Then you will really have seen the country.

    Good Luck and listen closely; you will learn much and be very surprised.

  • Comment number 52.

    Another, perhaps better, idea might be to talk to relatively new (say past 5 years) immigrants to the country who have had time to get to know their adopted country and the people of that country. They will be able to provide an interesting view contrasting their native land with their adopted one.

  • Comment number 53.

    Thanks to everyone who commented!

    Tiptoplisamitch - Sorry if I look like I'm sneering, I was just trying to hold in the double-chin. Thanks for your words of welcome - and you're right that I've been treated with nothing but courtesy since I arrived, something I hope to repay my hosts.

    I think you're on the button about foreign journalists falling back on easy stereotypes, unfortunately, and I hope you'll tell me if I ever start doing that.

    Allufc sees what I was getting at re: school shootings. We've imported a lot of things from the US, some of them positive, some of them very negative and tragic indeed.

    Wayoutwest77 - I think they were just sick of the sight of me in the office.

  • Comment number 54.

    Hi Jon-
    Sounds like a fun road trip, but why doesn't your bus have any windows? You should stop at a video store and get a dvd of Borat just to get in the right frame of mind. Your first shock will be the vastness of the American desert, the second will be Las Vegas. Just stay loose and enjoy yourself.

  • Comment number 55.

    Welcome Jon!

    You're going to be visiting some of my favorite places such as Las Vegas, Dallas, Memphis, St Louis and Nashville, wow. I wish that I could join you.

    Have a safe trip and enjoy your stay!

  • Comment number 56.

    Jon, I'll follow your trip with interest. I was born and bred in Edinburgh and now teach at an American high school is a small rural town in western Virginia (not too far from your planned stop in Madison, WV).

    From big Scots city to small American town is quite a culture difference. If you want to know a little of what I've learned of Americans (I married one!) in the 11 years I've taught here, give me a shout.

    cheers, Colin Baker

  • Comment number 57.

    I hope you'll accept my apology, Jon. I really am looking forward to your entries---AND I promise to keep an opened non-stereotypical mind about your journey.
    Enjoy and honk when you drive through St. Louis, Missouri :-)

  • Comment number 58.

    Another complete waste of TV licence money. Who cares about what the Yanks think? A country that allows guns to be owned by just about everybody says all you need to know about them.

  • Comment number 59.

    scribe3s asks me to say a bit about Dumfries. It's a small town of about 30,000 in a rural area which was hit very badly by foot and mouth in 2001. I suspect I had a lot more freedom growing up than friends who were raised in cities. And as far as this blog goes, I think I've maybe got more in common with so-called "redneck" America than people might suppose.

    To be fair, though, these days I live in Kilburn, north London, so I can't really pass myself off as the honest yeoman anymore.

    trishtea - please do let me know if you think I ever resort to cliches. I loved the project you mentioned, hopefully I can shamelessly rip it off.

  • Comment number 60.

    I am very much looking forward to reading this........it surely cannot be costing anything like the Bejjing olympics with all that that entailed!!

  • Comment number 61.

    dcstack and SorchaDeJour - I totally agree that America is the most diverse country in the world and I'll do my best to reflect that. I'm sure I can't do justice such an extraordinary breadth of experience in 38 days, but I'll try my hardest.

    On a similar point - Sharmyn, you're right that of necessity I'm missing out a lot of key locations. But in the limited timeframe available, we're going through a lot of places that will really matter when it comes to deciding the election.

    donprestoni - I hope I can do plenty of mingling! I take your point about the bus, but my shorthand notebook is quite discreet...

  • Comment number 62.

    worldbfree (#42),

    You may have driven across the US, but you clearly did not bother to get to know average US citizens. It seems you would rather perpetuate the sorts of stereotypes that are so prevalent in the European press.

    Sorry to shatter your illusions, but I and my neighbors do not live in a gated community, have country club memberships, or shop at high-end stores. We don't drive BMWs or Mercedes. We do work hard though to provide for our families and to try to give our children something better.

    While I and many of my neighbors are not particularly religious, those who are tend to keep their beliefs to themselves and by and large do not conflate religion and politics. We are very much political moderates who vote based on policy, not party. Many of us are very disgusted with both of our major parties and feel that neither one is in touch with us.

    We have no problem getting along and helping each other regardless of our differences in religion, politics, or cultural background. I wouldn't trade the diversity of people in my community whose roots are in countless places around the world for anything. It's wonderful to be exposed to so many different cultures without having to leave home.

    Before I forget, I can't tell you how many people I've talked to recently about travels abroad outside of North America. Sorry, but many people I know own passports and have made good use of them. Many more would use them were the US dollar stronger, myself included. Despite what Europeans may be led to believe, there is a vast amount of interest in, and knowledge about, the rest of the world in the US.

    I hope that Mr. Kelly has a good journey and that he sincerely tries to discover the US outside of trite stereotypes, both good and bad. I'm trying not to be skeptical, but I've also seen too many of these sorts of "talk to the average American road trip" pieces that I feel do not do justice to the diversity and massive regional differences of this country.

  • Comment number 63.

    At first I thought what a great idea, using public transport(buses) around America to interview normal citizens. I then realised that the BBC will be using a luxury coach paid for by the poor old license fee holders.

    I think its time to get rid of the wastefull Liberal leaning BBC and replace with something more objective and streamlined.

  • Comment number 64.

    I was born and raised in the US and now much of my business deals with people in the UK. I've always been interested in how I was taken, before, during and after my interactions with prospects and clients. I hope this blog lends itself more towards our cultural stereotypes and differences and less towards politics. I would think most educated and media savvy Americans would realize that both candidates have serious policy flaws. It's a shame this trip had to come about simply in response to the election.

  • Comment number 65.

    Enjoy your journey, I can almost sense the wonderment that you will feel. I have done what is shown on the map and much more - though not intending to canvass political opinion, simply getting from A to Z and staying in most places between. You'll enjoy and be surprised by the vastness and variation of the Southwestern deserts. When you cross the Texas border, don't miss out Kermit, it's a great little town in the middle of the oil fields with some fantastic people living there. A stranger but more hospitable place you will struggle to find. Try to learn some Spanish on the way, that way you'll be able to speak to most of the population.
    Enjoy y'all.

  • Comment number 66.

    oldwestcoaster - I can't wait for the desert, a friend who occasionally works round there also told me it's the place I'll enjoy the most.

    tiptoplisa - no need to apologise! I hope everyone who reads this blog will keep me on my toes.

  • Comment number 67.

    And, 47, he could come to Western New York State, where it is very rural and conservative, or to Ithaca in the middle, which has some great universities and is very liberal and cultured. That's just New York State, and leaves out New York City which is typical of nowhere else in America. I agree about the big bus and camera crew, and wonder exactly how objective this blog can be.....none of us are doing that well!! Anyway, as an expat american living in the UK I shall find it fascinating....where I grew up, my family was about the only Democratic one in town, and I was the only one wearing an Adlai Stevenson button.....!

  • Comment number 68.

    Hi Jon.
    I'm disappointed that you aren't making it up to the northwest. Los Angeles is hardly representative of the entire west coast. The cultural climate changes dramatically the farther north you go.
    I've lived in California, Texas, Massachusetts, Washington and Oregon. I've road-tripped from Sacramento to Boston (and back) by the southern route, and another crossing through the northern states by motorbike.
    You are making a disproportionate number of stops in the south (and southwest), which concerns me since you are taking the American pulse for the world to read.
    The 'Magic Bus' was an original notion of one of Oregon's most (in)famous sons. The Beatles (bless them!) borrowed the idea.
    The northwest is also the epicenter of the Green movement. Period. Oh, and the home of IT innovation (both Linus Torvald and Bill Gates live up here).
    So, in the South you'll get lots of opinions. Especially concerning God. Too bad you're not going to hear much of relevance about the future.
    But good luck anyway. And welcome to my crazy country!

  • Comment number 69.

    Welcome to America!

    I'm sure it will be as entertaining as reading the blog of a blind man feeling and describing an elephant!

    Have fun...

  • Comment number 70.

    hello jon,
    it seems as if you are off to a good start with the blogs .i wonder if the people that have not travelled to the united kingdom know how expensive things really are and how lucky they have it ?. truckers and car drivers alike pay nearly 2 and a half times more per gallon than here !. do the math on your bus ride and tell the folks back home they are getting ripped off .factor in everything in the uk and they are taxing the working man and woman completely over the top .beer,cigarettes, fuel , road tax.....the list is endless .you will see many diverse groups here ...............by the end of it you might wish you could stay .
    cheers !

  • Comment number 71.

    Great idea. I have 1 problem, New york to L.A. by road is roughly 2800 miles without stops or detours. As a bus driver I know that even the most economical of coaches does 12 - 15 mpg which means you are going to use over 40,000 gallons of fuel. That is without support vehicles or trailers. Is this going to be carbon offsetted? Finally who will pay the associated $160,000 fuel bill?

  • Comment number 72.

    I see that you're not going to be coming South. I think that's a mistake. Plenty to see, do and experience down here. Plus, there's a whole lot of opinions just waiting to be opined.

  • Comment number 73.

    I have the privilage of living and working here in America, albeit only on a temporary basis, and I can say that you will find the American people delightfully friendly and more than happy to talk about themselves. They will also want to know all about you and where you come from. However, be aware that Americans are fiercely patriotic irrespective of their politics.
    Enjoy the trip,you will see some of the most wonderful and diverse countryside anywhere in the world. I intend to make a similar journet across the States on my Harley Davidson before I eventually have to return home.

  • Comment number 74.

    re post 22

    England did not change it's name to the UK! England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are all countries in their own right. Great Britain is England, Scotland and Wales . The United Kingdom is Great Britain plus Northern Ireland. I hope that clears it up for you!

  • Comment number 75.

    Welcome to the US-your route takes you through some of the most wonderful country, and wonderful folks will greet you every step of the way.

    I hope especially you will enjoy Santa Fe! Food, art, culture.

    The US is a big, big place--diverse, and held together a broad general acceptance of our Constitution. On the long drives between stops, I hope you will take time to review the document, because in the end you will be learning about each American's take on it.

    Happy to see your journey take you through Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania. It will be an eye-opener!

    Happy travels, and please don't engage in moronic behaviour like those fools on 'Top Gear'.

  • Comment number 76.

    I hope that you enjoy your trek across America. Undoubtedly you will meet some interesting people. As you blog and speak of our/my country, please be fair an honest. I await your blogs. Pleasant travels, my friend!

  • Comment number 77.

    So your going to St. Louis? I'd be happy to give you a nice tour of the town. If you want to see some nice U.S. downtown renewal take yourself down to Washington Ave and 9th. I'm sure you have a GPS in that fancy bus of yours!

  • Comment number 78.

    Oh God do you have to?
    What an absolute bore!
    We have already had months of the nominations/run-ups/pre-elections and now this!
    Please just have a US election night special- that is more than enough!

  • Comment number 79.

    I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. When will you be here?

  • Comment number 80.

    Please come to Columbus, OH! You will be very close to it after your West Virginia stop. Columbus is a bellwether in how we have many aspects of all of America represented, from rich and poor, blue collar to white collar, immigrants from all over to those who've lived here for generations. We have a large Somali population, I think it is second only to Mogadishu, and many undocumented workers from South America and Mexico. Right now a lot of our manufacturing jobs have left, and the workers of Columbus are slowly transitioning to service work. Nationwide Insurance is headquartered here, and firms like Wendy's Fast Food and Scotts Miracle-Gro are in the nearby suburbs. I understand that Columbus was featured several international news stories during the 2004 election, but the current thinking is that Columbus and its environs would decide which candidate wins the state, and potentially the national election. Please consider a Columbus visit during your tour.

  • Comment number 81.

    If British TV tax-payer money is being used to fund this jaunt then this is an utter WASTE of money. I can find out what ordinary Americans think on the internet or when existing BBC reporters go out into the towns as they did during the primaries or even recently on the convention floor with delegates. Plus, the fuel bill using that huge thing to go around America in, when apparently only a guy called Jon is going to be the passenger is a horrendous abuse of funds.

    On the other hand, if money is coming from a private source then I won't feel so queasy about
    watching and being interested by it.

  • Comment number 82.

    Jon, in reference to my previous post (56) I see a lot of responses to your "school shooting" comment.

    Interestingly although others seemed to have picked up on this I skimmed over it, even though I live in Blacksburg, Virginia where Virginia Tech is. School shootings are very rare and while shocking hardly reflective of American culture (guns however are).

    Another interesting local small town story was the refusal of the local CBS station to show the Andy Murray final on TV last night. Interesting story behind that.

    cheers, Colin Baker

  • Comment number 83.

    Since you mentioned Oreos, perhaps you would like to explain to the American people that there hallowed brands high profile marketing campaign in the UK is both naive and demeaning to the British people.
    With the exception of Wagon Wheels the Bristish biscuit scene operates a tacit agreement amongst gentlemen; one of dignified and modest promotion of their brands. Lets not forget that digestives and custard creams bestride the British biscuit market without resorting to over hystericaly high profile campaigns involving the unwholesome bonding of children and dogs, that then finish with some tagline that seems to ask us to 'trust oreos' or some such twaddle.
    Lest not forget that the British invited biscuits in the first place.

  • Comment number 84.

    Interesting concept.
    But Flawed.
    There are no 'typical americans'.
    And I noticed you missed the state of the GOP's vice-prez.
    Alaska.

  • Comment number 85.

    If you are going to post some comments on your findings and observations about America, please do so in a style and tone which doesn't make you sound like a child. At the moment you write as if you are trying to garner support from the CBeebies crowd and as such it is very difficult to take you seriously. Is it any wonder that people are reacting in such a way if the type of person chosen to report on the American election is unable to write for an adult audience?

  • Comment number 86.

    I can't reiterate enough how much of a mistake it is to concentrate so much on the South at the expense of leaving out New England and the Pacific Northwest which are as distinct and important if you want a balenced cross-section. Part of the problem with BBC coverage in the past - and this creates the stereotypes you may wish to dispell - is that many view Southern culture as generic American culture.

  • Comment number 87.

    Jon,

    There seems to be a lot of people very concerned over how much this whole endeavor will cost.
    I for one, as a true American, could care less. Let it cost 40,000 gallons of fuel. Who cares! It's not like lots of busses, trucks, trains, planes and autos don't do it every day. Just a proverbial 'drop in the bucket.'

    Just one thought though. To get the tried and true opinions of the honest American. The blue collar worker, you'll have to venture off the beaten path from time to time. Visit towns and villages along side the cities and metro areas. Cities are the same worldwide, you won't get the culture until you venture out to 'the sticks.'

    Also, as a traveller and a self described culturist, and obviously American, I can't help but get a little annoyed at how you Brits contantly use school shootings to stereotype my country's second ammendment of our constitution. Think about it, in a country that allows the public to be armed, don't you think a sane person would want to, then, own a firearm? It's not like we can just go 'take' every gun away from the owners. Wow... now there's a hot button issue!

    Good luck!

  • Comment number 88.

    I'm very disappointed that you aren't even going near Chicago - the city that Obama lives in and represents as a Senator. How one-sided is this tour with steady coverage of the conservative South but hardly any in the moderate Northwest or Midwest and especially none in the Democratic candidate's home state? There is an agenda here and it does not look like it will be fair, balanced journalism.

    Jill
    Minnesota

  • Comment number 89.

    Welcome to the USA. I have been here 6 weeks and have been completely baffled by the media frenzy that the election has caused. In the UK there is very little media hype (compared to the scale here) surrounding the election campaign. Also it takes a good 2 years for the full campaign to be completed which seems excessivly long when most other contrys take only a month or two.
    I will be in St Louis when you arrive there and will almost definatly trying to obtain tickets for the debate. I fear I shall fail. But all I can do is try. Good Luck with your journey. I hope you bring som insightful comments and intersting coverage to the pages.

  • Comment number 90.

    I think some people are mistaking Top Gear as a serious documentary.

    No-one (or at lest very few people) really believe what happens on shows like that, but they are hilarious to watch.

  • Comment number 91.

    AGAIN-WHO IS PAYING FOR THIS LUDICROUS FOLLY?WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO LEARN FROM THIS FARCE?WHO CARES ANYWAY ABOUT A NATION OBSESSED WITH GUNS TORTURE GENOCIDE AND CREATIONISM.TOTAL MADNESS,I WANT MY LICENCE FEE BACK!

  • Comment number 92.

    for the benefit of all those not living in the UK we have to buy a licence to watch tv even if you have to have Sky because you live in an area without reception like myself so the British taxpayer is footing the bill. When you become a senior senior citizen, I think 75 viewing becomes free.......i have a long way to go ............

  • Comment number 93.

    In response to Jon's comment, I think if you reread it, it wasn't school shootings in Scotland, it was school shootings in Dumfries of which there have been none. As a Scot living in the US I am constantly surprised by the hypocrites and the sheer audacity of the politicians. What prevails are the ordinary citizens who have nothing but hope and who are decent people who need a government worthy of them. Needless to say, I've never seen politics become so interesting. It's just a pity the American networks let us down with biased coverage. How will voters know how to make up their own minds?

  • Comment number 94.

    "We didn't have skyscrapers or Oreos or school shootings in Dumfries, for better or for worse."



    No school shootings in Dumfries "for better or worse" eh? Bet you were dead jealous of the people in Dunblane.

    I'd have asked someone to proof read your copy before you submitted it!

  • Comment number 95.

    In response to Jon from Atlanta number 14. I cannot believe someone would say such a NEGATIVE thing about Scots. Scots may be sarcastic, they may say silly things, they may be drunks, but they may also be smart, intelligent, great inventors or hysterically funny. However, that's a stereotype and I'd hate for you to think that all Scots stereotype and poke fun at Americans. By the way, my first trip to the states was greeted with US high school students asking me if I spoke English or if we had electricity in Scotland. Now, despite this I still haven't stereotyped Americans. So far, you're doing your nation no favours.

  • Comment number 96.

    lizzy g,(95)
    you have missed the point completely .i never said anything NEGATIVE about scots .please read the article properly .i go back to scotland every year and am proud of where i came from and the people i go back and see . this issue is about someone crossing the states and getting an opinion on what makes america work .
    i,ve had all that all that electricity, xmas comments and i find it rather funny .i even tell them about watching captain pugwash as a kid !. travel to america lizzy and see for yourself . good luck !

  • Comment number 97.

    You wish to know where Americans want their country to go by spending thirty eight days with them. You will not even scratch the surface. Enjoy your trip.

  • Comment number 98.

    Have a good trip- I've actually just finished taking a trip down the West Coast, across the South and back up the East.

    It was an absolute eye-opener speaking to folks in New Orleans and comparing their responses to the people in the art galleries in Portland. Having come from rural southern England I was similarly wide-eyed at the whole thing- the emptiness of New Mexico, the mass farming (and smell) of Bovina, Texas... you've got an incredible journey to look forward to, and I'll be keeping up to date with you, as well as being deeply jealous, of course.

    I'm going to guess that you don't really need any advice for the trip, but all I'd say is make sure that you don't just jump from city to city- those small towns along roads like Route 66 will contain some of the most interesting interviews anyone could ever hope for!

  • Comment number 99.

    A great idea. Our press is terribly afraid of the Republican machine and doesn't even dare to ask Sarah Palin any hard questions re: her competency or ideas pertaining to her pick as the VP on McCains ticket. She would not survive the British press at all. Too bad our press is so weak. You will only get a real idea of our people and country by doing this trip as our papers do not reflect the real demands of this country. If the first ideal of a real democracy is a free press, I doubt if we are a true democracy anymore. I am in my 60's and know what I am talking about. I am a true admirer of the British people and lived there in the East Anglia region for 3 yrs. It was a wonderful experience. Bring some true reporting to our country again. DME

  • Comment number 100.

    As a response to Jill- I'd say criticisms such as yours are inevitable.

    In 38 days you simply can't cover the whole of the US. I spent 60 days in the country and still couldn't fit in a number of cities I would have loved to visit.

    If they did go to Chicago they'd inevitably have to cut out somewhere else- so somewhere from there would have the same compaint as you.

 

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