“Coast to Coast”: An American Road Trip, 1980.

In 1980, a friend and I flew to New York, where we spent a few days, and then we hitch-hiked to San Francisco. I have transcribed some letters that date back to 1980, which describe this trip to the USA. I hadn’t read “On the Road” when I went to the States; I read it after I came back – whilst I wrote these letters.

They were written to my brother; he was working in Africa at the time – teaching English in Sudan, I think. (I am sure he will tell me if I have got this wrong.). I was a twenty year old student.

Going to the States was a big adventure. I travelled with G, to whom I gave a copy of the letters (and who knows I am going to post about them), together with some of the photographs.

So at least three people have read these letters; possibly more, since I may have shown them to variouspeople down the years. I can’t think who else may have seen them.

After G read them – twenty years ago – he said that it sounded like an interesting trip – but it was very different from the one he and I took together. They are very subjective. It is odd that what I remember now and what I put in the letters: there are episodes that I know happened that aren’t in there. (The pure joy and awe of walking up 3rd Avenue, my head craning to look at the skyscrapers; G and I arguing over whether he should give me the cab fare so he could stay chatting up a girl in a bar; and a guy we met on the Staten Island ferry: he said he was an ex-convict fresh out of Sing-Sing. I took his photograph as he held court on the deck of the ferry. Why didn’t I write about any of that?)

For a long while, I have intended to transcribe these letters. It was one of the things I wanted to do with my journal when I started on blogging. In doing so, I have hardly edited them at all.

Reading them makes me cringe slightly – they really do need editing, and I may yet do so – I may turn them into stories. Or I may do nothing. Any footnotes are modern, to explain things.

I am leaving them (more or less) unedited so I can use them as a source; but it means that you will be able to see things about me that I think have changed considerably. I have twenty six years on the kid that wrote this stuff; I guess I have learnt a lot.

I have wondered what to call this series of posts. I settled on Coast to Coast. Kind of self explanatory. I will break up the posts (and there may be quite a time between my posting different bits of the story; it will depend on how quickly I get around to doing the two remaining letters) into logical chunks.

The pictures that accompany the words were taken on the same trip. I have scanned them from Ektachrome slides. After twenty six years, the slides were in a bit of a mess: they are dusty, and I couldn’t get the dust off. I have tried to tart up the images to make them acceptable – passable – but I haven’t worked too hard. (In case anyone is interested, Ektachrome produced very blue shots – it was famous for it; so I have also tweaked the colour balance, to make the pictures a bit warmer.) There are some pictures I can’t find too: images that I know I took – because I have prints of them. The view from the New York apartment window, for instance. I have it somewhere. I can’t think where.

Anyhow, if you choose to read what I did one summer twenty years ago, I hope you find it interesting. I have changed, though.

By the way, New York quickly became one of my favourite cities; I have visited many times, and I have very good friends there. Every time I visit, I take the same photographs.

Read the “Coast to Coast” posts…

New York. Summer 1980.

New York to Chicago and Des Moines. Summer 1980.

Colorado and Arizona. Summer 1980.

Las Vegas to LA and Beyond. Summer 1980.

San Francisco. Summer 1980.


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