In the spirit of election season, I spent my recent vacation taking a personal whistlestop tour of the United States to reacquaint myself with people who will, come Nov. 6, be reduced to binary: R or D, yes or no, boxers or briefs. Departing from New York Penn Station on Aug. 29, I stopped in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tucson, San Antonio, New Orleans, Atlanta and D.C., returning to New York on Sept. 24. Ultimately, I'm not sure that trapping myself in a steel box for hours on end with people, their cell-phone conversations and crying children was the most pleasant way to bond with my countrymen, but it was certainly efficient; two or three times a day I sat in the dining car with complete strangers and heard about their lives. Add the incidental chitchat of the coach cars, cafe cars and lounge cars, and it felt like I'd like speed-dated my way around the country.
Before I went on the trip I envisioned a photo essay that could tie in the people, the landscape and the political moment, with the railway as connective tissue. In retrospect, it was too diffuse and overly ambitious given my timetable. But I came away with a few seeds of future projects and a few pictures I like. Here's a random sampling. You can see a larger set on my Flickr account.
On the train to Pittsburgh:
On the train to Chicago:
On the train to Denver:
On the train to Salt Lake City:
Salt Lake City (or nearby):
On the train to San Francisco:
[My time in California was consumed by family and friend gatherings and I took approximately zero photos.]
On the train to Tucson:
On the train to San Antonio:
On the train to New Orleans: