An Open Letter to the Western Half of the United States

An Open Letter to the Western Half of the United States

This is specifically to the fine states of Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, California, Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma — thank you all so much for your hospitality over the past couple of weeks. We had a fine time on your roads, from interstates to dirt roads to a bit of Route 66. Your natural wonders are amazing, and your cities are as varied as your terrain. We’ll definitely be back, though we probably won’t visit all of you again.

We had some time to kill on the road and decided to brainstorm tourist slogans for the places we went to and passed through. You’re welcome!

Kansas, Yes.
Missouri, Quick, Fast, in a Hurry
Kansas City: Pretty Pretty
Wait for Us, St. Louis
Colorado’s Got Bravado
First Tango in Durango
Go, New Mexico
Taos: Not for Us
Albuquerque: Not So Quirky
Santa Fe: Yay, Hooray!
You Won’t Be Sorry: Tucumcari
Zion: It’s On
Grand Staircase-Escalante Ups the Ante
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Rocks
Smoky Mountain Road, We Thought We Might Explode
Save Us from Vegas
California, We Warned Ya
Mojave, Good for a Day
Kelso Is So-So
Joshua Tree for You and Me
No Bologna in Ramona
San Di-ehh-go
Del Mar Is on Par
Ocean Beach, Tourist Screech
Leave Arizona Alona
Nix Phoenix
No Laugh in Flagstaff
Amarillo, Smooth as Brillo
Oklahoma Coma
Oklahoma City, Quite Shitty
Tulsa: No Pulse, Ugh.
Illinois, Oy!
Wanna Indiana?
Kentucky’s Just Ducky
No Sleep Till Louisville
Ohio, Whoa!

I’ve got over 700 photos to organize and eventually post here, and a few initial thoughts. First, believe it or not, it’s good to be back in Cincinnati! Second, I was really looking forward to the urban stops on this trip but actually enjoyed places like Joshua Tree and Zion more than San Diego and Albuquerque. Except for Las Veags — I expected to hate it, and I guess I did but, boy, was that worth seeing in person. You’ll see some cool sights from all these places and more over the coming weeks!

California, I try, I swear I do. I like your place, but not your people. New Mexico, dude, what was up with that blizzard? Utah, I’m totally hanging out with you again. Arizona, I just don’t get you, you know? Kansas, you’re absolutely not as flat as everyone says. Texas, I think it’s definitely you, not me. Oklahoma, no hard feelings and better luck next time?


23 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Western Half of the United States

  1. Thanks, Jen! It was a really fun trip, and this city slicker was suitably humbled by the grandeur of nature. We were hoping for a really dramatic sunset every evening, and the above photo was really the best one we saw — while heading Eastward in New Mexico, on the way home. Oh, well!

  2. I think your take on Las Vegas is a lot like mine. When I visited, I stayed with a friend who lives there so I think I actually got a sort of “local” perspective as well as the tourist side which was interesting.
    I know a lot of people love the desert. I pretty much hate it. I’ve driven through a few times & flown over a few times. I’m always glad to see the green of the east when I return.
    and because I’m just plain mean by nature –

  3. From what we saw, the Colorado and Sonoran deserts seemed pretty barren and not that interesting, but the Mojave, especially Joshua Tree, had a ton of plant life with lots of different flowers and foliage, and the terrain just seemed more varied. Plus, it was unlike anything I’d ever seen!

    As for Vegas… It’s crazy that we almost didn’t stop there because the place is very much not “us.” It’s everything we had heard and read about, but it was definitely worth checking out in person. Everything is tackier, bigger, brighter, shinier, more plastic, more artificial, and more disposable than I could have imagined. I guess you could say that its constant reinvention and lack of authenticity is the essence of the place. I found it really fascinating, if headache-inducing. A local perspective would have been even better.

  4. I have never been to California but I imagine I would have a similar reaction. I’ve been as far as Colorado and I loved Denver. After spending some time east coast and now in the west, I lean more towards west but only as far as Denver. It is silly to assume since I have never been there but Denver seems similar to California but without the extremes maybe. You do get extremes like extremely athletics and outdoorsy but there were so many transplants from the Midwest it felt like the Midwest only happier and sunnier.

  5. Bethany, I can’t say that the West Coast is a horrible place, but I just don’t really click with it, I guess. I spent two years in the Bay Area but, based on my travels, my favorite West Coast city would be Seattle and San Diego is definitely my least favorite.

    I really like varied weather and seasons! That’s huge for me, and I never thought about it until I ended up in a place without them [or, not in the way or the extent that I’m used to]. I’m not outdoorsy [although this trip may be changing that], and I don’t understand the mellow/happy/hippie vibe that’s so common out there. It’s just not me.

    Actually, the thing I dislike the most is the self-righteousness I encounter out there. It’s pretty similar to what I experienced in Cambridge, MA when I lived there and, although I tend to agree with the values, the way they’re expressed just drives me up the wall. Does that make any sense?

  6. Yup, I totally understand. Although, I havent been to California I’ve encountered a couple hippies and I’m not taken by the “we are all the same”/mellow vibe. A lot of them come off like they think they have all the answers. I think the most annoying part is that many hippies just seem like elitists that pretend to be down to earth. But that’s my limited experience. My friend is moving to San Francisco soon and I hope to spend some time in California, so I’ll see how I feel after that.

  7. I hope you’ll head out West soon and experience the place for yourself!

    I’m just a biased East Coaster, I guess. People can be annoying anywhere, but the West Coast stereotypes [making a broad generalization here] really, really grate on me.

    Just to give you a silly, petty example of what you might encounter… We went to a super-cute restaurant on Saturday morning. We drove because, duh, you pretty much have to drive everywhere out there. The place was packed, and the only empty spot was “reserved for eco car.” Ugh, gag me… We drove around for a bit and then noticed a big-ass car [Escalade, maybe?] parked in that spot. Now, if that car happened to have been filled to the brim with passengers, I suppose that’s eco-friendly in a way.

    We sat down outside, and it was pretty chilly. As we perused the menus that proudly proclaimed having been “printed using pedal power,” the waiter asked if I wanted him to bring me a portable heater. Umm, please and thank you! Really, though, these little bits of hypocrisy were so annoying to me. It’s stupid stuff and, like I said, I often agree with the values, but it’s just really irritating.

    Truth be told, I guess Midwesterners must do their own annoying things, but maybe I care less nowadays, whereas in California I regress to myself in my early 20s and get all NYC-aggro on people, like I did when I lived there.

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  18. I tried your Route 66 vid, but it didn’t come through for some reason. Your insights into the western parts of the US greatly reflect mine, although as simply a visitor I do love the SF Bay area and the City in particular – just could never afford to live there! I saw no mention of LA LA Land, but it is one of the most disturbing places in the world! Although friends that lived there after moving there from Chicago seemed to adjust to it somehow!

    My other fav cities are Boston and Washington, but as simply a city guy I couldn’t afford to live in either of them either! The commute from what I could afford would kill me.

    This past summer my wife and I drove to Salt Lake for an annual car club event. The trip out was bad, the trip back was even worse, but being in Salt Lake for a week was – interesting. Some great food, nice adjoining territories/scenery for driving tours, but the
    striking dichotomy of state and culture was disturbing.

    Because of this latest adventure, we have sworn off extended driving trips except when we can just do it at our own pace with little pressure of deadlines. Coming back from SL we drove through Denver – NEVER EVER drive east on a Sunday into Denver! The traffic jam was unbelievable!

  19. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Dave! This particular trip didn’t include SF or LA. I spent a couple of years living in the Bay Area and, though it has its charms, it wasn’t really for me. LA, to me, is a crazy place and, as a native New Yorker, I don’t think I’d ever really be happy there.

    I lived in Boston for 4 years, and I agree with your comment about affordability. It’s a fine city but, for the expense, it’s just not that compelling to me — I’d rather spend a bit more and live in NYC again. It’s a great, easy city to visit, though.

    I’m very curious about Salt Lake City and would really love to return to Utah to explore more of its amazing nature. Most of what really impacted me on this trip was nature and not the cities we explored. This city girl was quite humbled by that fact!

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