The Time Avo Went From New York to LA by Train

Back in 2016, Avo had the idea to travel from New York to Los Angeles by train. Back then, he decided to share the experience in a series of twenty posts in this blog, a collection he called “The Trans-American Railroad.” The recent US elections brought that blog post series back to mind. Back then, Avo was fresh off writing his book and he followed a similar narrative approach in his travel posts: he talked to everyone he met on the train and then shared their stories in a “travel diary” format. The result is a vivid image of the gigantic scale of the US, with its bewildering diversity, the scourge of racism, and the scars of the country’s constant forward motion.

Avo’s cast of fellow travelers includes immigrants, Amish families, a Black retiree, and a former Alaska female miner. You can tell when he hasn’t met anyone to talk because his tone becomes gloomy. As he says, “a trip alone on a train is half a trip.” On the other hand, when he finds others to talk he expands the map with references to history, art, books, business, making the trip even bigger than it already is. Two favorites are his stories about the Greenbrier hotel in West Virginia, and about the Jumping Devils of Glorieta Pass.

On his first day in the new role, President Biden mentioned the “Transcontinental Railroad” as one example of what the US can achieve even when besieged by internal division. Avo’s journey follows a different path across the country than that older railroad built on President Lincoln’s orders. We hope it will still help you see the US in a new light. This is a full list of all blog posts in the series, edited to include a link to the next post at the bottom of each one:

The Trans-American Railroad: New York to Los Angeles at the Speed of Iron
The Trans-American Railroad (Part II)
Penn Station: The Journey Begins
Suburbia and the Ruins Outside Philadelphia
The Flies, the Blue Whale, and the Boatman on the Potomac
Descent into West Virginia
The Grain Express: How Tomorrow Moves
The Amish Travelers of the Old Order
The Color-Blind Passenger
To the Sides of the Railways
Away from Cincinnati, and the Sun
Chicago: Four Blocks Around Union Station
The Southwest Chief
The Crossing of the Mississippi
“Next Official Smoke Break: The Paris of the Prairies”
“On the Road”
Where Trains and Cars Come To Die
The Jumping Devils of Glorieta Pass
Lunch with the Amish as we Cross New Mexico
Los Angeles: The End of the Line