I’ve gone to look for America

Stealing titles as I often do, this one is of course Simon & Garfunkel aptly describing this post. Like a lot of people, I grew up with American movies and TV shows and I was excited to finally land on American soil back in March. In many ways it was exactly what I expected, in many ways it was nothing like I expected. I drove some 8,000 miles or 12,500 kilometers through California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. These are just a few of my observations, boils down to: Mindblowing landscapes, stay clear of most cities, and stop putting cheese on everything!

The landscapes.

It is impossible not to have been subjected to a lot of the American Southwest landscape through TV, movies and countless photographers having already shot what is probably the world’s most photographed landscapes. No matter. The Southwest landscapes still floored me speechless every day for two months and I just scratched the surface of what is available. Here’s a quick developed preview of a panorama from Canyonlands National Park in Utah, such a dramatic place. Driving through the wide open spaces of the Southwest with the ipod in the car stereo grooving and the feeling of freedom my drug of choice, then stopping anywhere I like to shoot images are my fondest memories of this trip. I am so in love with the American landscapes, I must return many times. Look at these clouds by the way, I seemed to attract amazing light on a lot of days in America.

canyonlands - blog

The cities.

las vegas - blogBeing no fan of cities, the only larger cities I visited very briefly were LA, San Francisco and Las Vegas. San Francisco was quite different and felt European, with a great atmosphere, many small streets with shops, cafes and restaurants. Apart from SF I find the American cities I visited were quite depressing, usually just an ugly main street with too many fast food places, motels and malls killing all local charm. To the right is my home for 1 night in Vegas and I regret wasting a night in Vegas. It is as horrible as you think, worse actually and I lost all faith in humanity for a few days. I regained it in Beatty and Death Valley, Nevada…

The towns.

What I loved were the small towns. My rule quickly became: town should be so small there isn’t even a traffic light nor a McDonald’s. I might not wish to live there, but loved staying in places like Magdalena in New Mexico, Mexican Hat in Utah or Beatty in Nevada. Here is the great and dusty main street in Beatty, right next to Death Valley, actually if this town had an ocean and a beach I could live here:

Beatty - blog

The small towns have atmosphere and character. People are friendly, down to earth and talkative and wear cowboy hats, smile and say "howdy" to you with a thick accent. They wave as you walk around the town. The local diner is an actual locally owned true diner, no chain fast food hell. The diner serves great food complete with coffee and cake, portions even larger than the enourmous belt buckles the cowboys proudly display. Tumbleweeds tumble across the roads, rusty doors and gates play in the wind. John Wayne strides down the street. Local newspaper tells of upcoming events complete with arm-wrestling competitions and the chance to win a riffle! And in Beatty there was a large sale of used army ammonition boxes (still trying to figure that one out, what do you use them for?). My kinda place.

"Be careful his bowtie is really a camera" or How to fix America and Other Nonsense. 

To my American friends, I am having a sarcastic and ironic go at you, no harm meant. My suggestions are winners though, try them out :)

  • Ban all fast food chains. Kills the great local diners. And public health.
  • Ban all big chain motels. Kills local colourful motels with atmosphere, replacing them with awful "fast food" motels that resemble prison blocks.
  • Better education available for all, for free. Not knowing the name of your neighbour state is just not good enough. Danish is not the same as Dutch, look it up. To the surfer dude in Monterey, Jean Claude van Damme is not Danish!
  • Explain to me again how free health care is the devil’s work? I still don’t understand it.
  • Ban guns. Now I like to win a riffle at the local fair as much as anyone but seriously, get those guns off the streets.
  • Buy smaller cars and RVs. What do you need a pickup truck the size of a tank for unless you actually own a farm? Also it’s really intimidating to see these pick-ups in the rear view mirror, one inch from my car and threatening to simply run me over unless I move just because I obey the speed limit (most of the time hehe, my Nissan spaceship was quite fast).
  • Drastically improve your health, stop putting cheese on everything! "You want cheese on that?". "No it’s a fecking tuna sandwich, I don’t want cheese on anything! And no bloody whipped cream on my milkshake!"
  • Legs? They can be used for walking! Ban drive-ins, boost public health!
  • And why oh why are shower heads installed at roughly half the height of the average human?
  • Lastly, service everywhere is absolutely excellent, much appreciated! Yesterday I bought coffee in a café. It was dearer than gold and service was rude. I knew I was back in Copenhagen.

86 comments on “I’ve gone to look for America

  1. American landscapes are jaw dropping. I've still got this "going to America" dream going in my head, one I've had since I was 12 or something. It's where I live just outside of San Francisco and see the rest of the continent at my leisure. It'll never happen I'm sure!

    Your post made me laugh, especially the "legs" bullet point.

    Happy to see that the blog posts are picking up, and that shot of the Grand Canyon is still bloody awesome.

    • Might happen one day Charlene, ya never know! Tug Boat Dreaming! I'm sure there are many tug boats in the bay area.

      The image is not Grand Canyon, it's Canyonlands in Utah – fantastic place, just as impressive as Grand Canyon.

    • Och, it's but a couple of hundred miles north… *red face* Sorry mate! Would help if I actually looked at the photo and registered the contours. Not to mention the title…

      I've been reading these couple of blogs by tug masters in NY. If SF doesn't work out, I can just head to the other side of the country I reckon! :D

  2. Interesting observations Flemming. Things have changed a little it seems, it's cheese now , it used to be mayo " you want mayo on your fries sir ".

    You've gotta see it , you have to experience the USA, but it has it's problems.

    Have to agree with you on macca's ( wouldn't give them the courtesy of a capital letter ). I refuse to buy them. I'm not saying I've never had them but I have come to the conclusion that they are just bad news. They are a blot on the landscape everywhere you go and they have brainwashed a new generation, they are the experts at it …. very sad.

  3. Great story Bo and that Canyon shot is so Bo!

    I concur with all of your observations about America and especially Vegas and cheese!!

  4. I'll echo comments by raisingable and Slamdunk by saying your post makes me want to jump in my car and start driving. I've only seen a couple of landscapes in the American Southwest, and they were spectacular. Thanks for sharing your love of the landscapes and small towns — also thanks for the great list of suggestions!

  5. I love your posts and I really like your sarcastic recommendations. I agree, if all of that would be done this would be a much better place to live. Realistically it will never ever happen, but I too believe that is what is wrong with this country. People are ruining it!

    • woah there, to say that you would have needed to visit all of the west coast and I don't believe you have, I can vouch for several amazing California towns (like my hometown, Santa Cruz and Carmel) So, maybe a little open minded ness there.
      Really amazing photos though!

  6. I love reading your posts with your outsider's perspective on America.

    By the way, the county I live in (Ouray county in Colorado) long ago banned chain companies, and is surely better for it.

  7. Come back and see us again…this time come to the south and we will show you southern hospitality. Expect to be served grits and biscuits with sweet tea.

  8. Every time we plan a trip the southwest quickly gets pushed down the list in favor of tropical islands and foreign lands, but then every time I see pictures of it I end up jealous. I really need to make an effort to get out there.

  9. Flemming, it is always interesting to hear how visitors view us and what things they pick up on as being strange. I agree with you on the motels and fast food… I call it "generic-sizing" America. It makes everything look and taste alike. Next time try some B&B's. The breakfasts they serve are usually top notch!
    On your next visit try middle America, maybe not as blatantly awesome as the western landscape, but a more humble beauty. Watching a storm move across the farmlands can be breath taking. Quaint covered bridges, local farmer's markets with stands filled with colorful fruits and flowers, probably wouldn't compare with some of your city markets though.
    Your trip makes me want to make the famous Route 66 trip. The original cross country highway traveling through the heartland of America. Some parts don't exist anymore, but it would still be fabulous.

  10. heh. Agreed on banning chain restaurants. But people here love the familiar… I was travelling with a friend years ago, all the way on the other side of the planet, and she had a near meltdown needing Burger King. So many great little cafes and places to get interesting and delicious food, and we drove around for four hours trying to find a Burger King. Which we did, because BK is the devil and exists everywhere, apparently.

  11. hey your right america is a beautiful country I travelled around in 2000 and really enjoyed it. I hope the fast food joints stop spreading so people can start enjoying proper food and interacting with other people rather than machines that take your order.

  12. I really like your post!!! Sans one point: Banning guns. If you ban guns the only people who will have them are those who have obtained them illegally for ill purposes. Then the rest of us are left unarmed and vulnerable.
    Overall a very enjoyable post =)

  13. Nice read mate. If i didnt hate u before hand , I do now ( your making me jealous ). I am jsut kidding mate, so wish I coud have joined you on that little adventure…… imagine the soire'the cake crew could have whipped in in Beatty…..

    Oh, AUS 1 – Denamrk 0 at the soccer world cup… LOL
    Talk to you soon

  14. Gorgeous photos! I agree. Cheese is not needed on everything. Glad you had the experience. Thanks for sharing!

  15. These are amazing photos — the American landscape is so beautiful and varied where we haven't dumped oil in it. I definitely agree with your advice to Americans :)

  16. this was the first post I read coming into WordPress….great post!! I love you observations on the USA and could only wish people here could get that in their heads.

    great pictures too.

  17. As an American, I kind of get a kick out of the observations of outsiders. I'd say yours are spot on! I'm glad you like the US, but the grass is always greener. I'm eager to return to Europe as soon as I save up the cash.

  18. well well well… flemming dude,,, I am not quite a regular visitor to your page per se but the recent article made me reconsider my options… :P

    Nevertheless you sorta pretty much blasted off the lid of the american culture in a very acceptable (read as sarcastic) manner… And I couldn't agree more to the points you touched upon… barring a coupla points that I can't relate to. sitting here in India… almost half way across the world.
    But that don't take away the fact that I am so much enthralled by the american landscapes and a lotta other things that might not click @ the moment…

    Cheers to the new 'one -world order'… ;)
    btw.. I take keen interest in traveling, music and photography too… (so virtually we form a community… lol)

  19. Some really cool images Flem … But I'd would have to disagree with virtually all your suggestions ….

    I am pro choice and would rather the individual made the choice rather than being told what and how do do something …

    If you do not know why Americans have guns, I suggest you go and read the "bill of rights"

    cheese i gotta love the stuff, but I make an individual choice on how much and when to enjoy it.

    Free health care .. what a crock of shit … Nothing is free, someone pays always … As soon as handouts are given and taken, ones responsibility to themselves diminishes.

    Banning something is nuts someone's individual choice is just that their freedom to choose … Something the rest of us have no real idea about as we live in democratic socialistic states.

    The US is Constitutional Republic … A vastly different animal to Europe and Australia … and thank heavens the US is NOT Europe ….

    • Hi Neal, thanks for your comments. I am being very sarcastic in my bullet points so take them all with a large grain of salt. I don't want actual bans, but there is some truth in there for sure. I am very pro choice myself, I love and adore freedom and do not in actual life want too many laws regulating my freedom. But it's good to have an open mind, think the opposite because there's something valid in every opinion.

      I agree with most of what you say as well, but nothing is black and white, there's no right or wrong here, no two party politics. Compromises is what it's about. Freedom, but not vigilante law. And fecking hell, ban all those fast food chains, who the hell will miss them. And bomb Las Vegas, clean out the gene pool :D :D :D

  20. What a lovely write-up of your travels! What I love about America amongs many things, (and I lived there the better part of 10 years) is the friendliness of the people, their positivity, and the vast beautiful country with all it's changing landscapes, cultures and influences.

  21. I live so far away, and not sure if the USA is among the countries I will like to visit. I have had a few American friends, and I have learned about them too.This is a great post. When I saw your photos, all of a sudden the image of Jean Claudia V appeared. And it made me smile, I found this on your blog.
    All in all, traveling is mostly fun. And there are places I call them as "Homes" as they make me want to go back again, and learn for more.
    I like the suggestions you made:-) too
    Greetings

  22. I concur with most of your observations about the States. I grew up in Texas but have spent the last 2+ years living in Germany, which has given me a completely new perspective. I feel torn now between the two places. When we leave Germany, I will miss the abundance of local shops and restaurants, the nice roads and drivers who only pass on the left (for the most part), and fresher food — thank goodness fast food is limited here (although McDonald's has now made their proportions larger here. Blech).

    I will be sad to trade all this for cookie cutter chain restaurants and stores and a lifestyle of go-go-go, but I will relish stores being open past 1800. :)

  23. To Flemming Bo Jensen
    My best compliments for your pictures on american Landscapes. They very nice and the first and second (desert and canyon) are superb.
    Thank hyou for sowing us the beauties of
    America. I am italian from Fiesole (Florence) and ouur landscapes are beautifully, too.
    See Culturamugellana on this skite

  24. Get on down to Louisiana, if you want to find America. Corporate America that is.

    Does BP. really want to stop the oil?
    If so why not use this? hppt://www.futurequest.wordpress.com

  25. I love the American landscape. I have only been to that country once my entire life, and it's such a sad circumstance that I didn't know I love photography then. Have you tried shooting Asian destinations? I bet you'd love to shoot our beaches here. :)

  26. Isn't it funny that I'm dying to get the hell out of this country. I find England to much more fascinating. You don't find architecture or landscape like in the UK here in the US. I have no desire to see the Grand Canyon. Or Yosemite. Philadelphia is a shit hole, and Niagara Falls, well you've seen one water fall you've seen them all.
    Though I don't agree with everything you said that needs improvement here, I have yet to get my arse over to Great Britain and give an Americans point of view. I'm sure it'll be about the same.

  27. Just happened to stumble across your blog from WordPress' home page, but I think your right is wonderful and many of your observations are spot on. If you like the small, rural towns of the West I think you should check out some of the small towns in Vermont. Equally great atmosphere, friendly residents and breathtaking views, though of a different, greener variety. The towns here contain mostly locally owned stores/restaurants and are situated around town squares. I only disagree with you about the cheese, I couldn't possibly give up a good blue or goat cheese! :) Hope you make it back our way soon!

  28. I haven't been to America YET! Its scheduled but keeps getting postponed! Its rescheduled for next year so I will keep your mantras in mind!

  29. I think you will find a lot of Americans agree with most of your suggestions. Including me.

    "Explain to me again how free health care is the devil’s work? I still don’t understand it. " – Because most of the people advocating against it are afraid of change. And there are points that need to be clarified. It'll all work out and people will get used to it.
    Next time come to the Midwest! It's just as beautiful here.

  30. I looked at your post just before I wrote my first and it certainly helped get me started! I love the way you have combined your travels and your photos- it creates a lovely sense of the trip!

  31. First time I've ever clicked on "notify me of other comments" on your blog Flemming . Picked a good one to do that , my mailbox and iphone is jammed !!!!! :)

  32. "Ban everything and you'll be all happy!" — very European. We all are living on a continent where everything is banned and only few is allowed.

  33. You can't ban Vegas.! :-) …have to take the good with the bad in this life. Vegas is as much a part of this planet as the pristine beauty of PNG. The places you choose to visit are just that, your choice, observe, shoot and move on.
    Good on you for stirring up such a debate :-)

  34. I cant beleive I am about to add my voice to this forum.

    I would like to point out that Bo was trying to make a point, the natural world is always in decline, and the coopertate giants are always seeking to take more and more control of your lives!

    The only way to help the planet is to stop shopping at the supermarkets! *sorry english term!! Start to respect your local comunity and get on with each other!!! The girl a way up who asked how they would protect themselves! It is simple! If everyone does not want to kill each other then job done!

    The UK has been made a massivly worse place because of the "special relationship!!"

  35. Pingback: My Own Private America | Journal of photographer Flemming Bo Jensen

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