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. Here’s a full list of all blog posts in the series in chronological order.