So I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately. First I drove from New York to the San Francisco suburb of Lafayette, California (where I grew up and where my dad still lives), via New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Then I drove back by way of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois (for about 10 minutes this time, nine of them spent walking around Fort Defiance State Park, where the Ohio River meets the Mississippi), Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Got back home to Manhattan on Saturday night. And yes, taking the subway to work Monday morning was a nice change of pace!

This meandering voyage was not an attempt to divine the American mood in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections. More than enough journalists and pollsters are doing that already; plus, it’s really not my thing. I was mainly just looking to get out of the office and encounter ideas for columns that wouldn’t occur to me from behind a desk in Manhattan. I’ve already written several — on ubiquitous hipster coffeehouses; traffic roundabouts; dairy farms leaving California; the Permian Basin oil boom; the unlikely growth of Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Ohio’s fitful economic comeback — and there are many more still to come.

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