A visit to the U.S. South and South West in wintertime. Links to all pages:
Below are sections on Unexpected Sights, A Search for the Sad Café, Motels and Hotels, The World's Most Superfluous Museum and Sources.
Susan Sontag writes in her essay on photography that ".. photography develops in tandem with one of the most characteristic of modern activities: tourism.
For the first time in history, large numbers of people regularly travel out of their habitual environments for short periods of time. It seems positively unnatural to travel for pleasure without taking a camera along.
Photographs will offer indisputable evidence that the trip was made, that the program was carried out, that fun was had."
As a tourist in the USA, you must be prepared for long distances. Road in Texas.
I have been a tourist in the U.S South and South West, and yes, I brought a camera.
During the trip it occurred to me that the most interesting areas were not in the South, but in the South West. New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and the western part of Texas have poor soil and little rainfall, but fantastic landscapes.
But how do you create Sontag's ".. indisputable evidence that the trip was made, that the program was carried out, that fun was had"? Back in the good old days when everyone used photographic film, Kodak pointed out what was interesting and therefore deserved to be photographed. Sontag:
"Kodak put signs at the entrances of many towns listing what to photograph. Signs marked the places in national parks where visitors should stand with their cameras."
A nice view from a picnic area in the Ozark Mountains, Arkansas. The picnic area is located precisely where you can admire the view and make a photograph.
Big Bend National Park, Texas. The trails in the mountains provide an opportunity to meet Americans in small groups. It's easy to fall into conversation. A little later they say "It was nice talking to you", and this is a signal that the conversation is over.
Paths and roads in the national parks were originally built as employment work in the 1930s. There are strict rules about not leaving litter, and Americans obey them.
Monument Valley, Utah.
Grand Canyon, Arizona.
Petrified Forest, Arizona.
Apparently a mountain landscape - but everything you see is within 10 meters. Petrified Forest, Arizona.
Cadillac Ranch, Albuquerque, Texas. "Create your own art" - a very encouraging place where people come with spray cans to improve on a work of art already deformed by many layers of paint. Free entrance and a cozy atmosphere. The guests are capable of disciplining themselves, and things are nicely cleaned up. You can see and download images here.
Blue Ridge Parkway. A very nice view, and then another very nice view, and then another - to the extent that it gets boring. No restaurants, gas stations or toilets along the road.
Built as employment work in the 1930s. The road is suitable for cyclists.
The best experience in the South West was traveling in beautiful landscapes, and there are plenty of them! Along road 64, New Mexico.
Farm near Fort Sumner, New Mexico. In the distance there are a mobile home, a shed and two cars.
Remains of a farm near Mountainair, New Mexico. Someone gave up farming here.
Texola, Oklahoma, a town on Route 66. Once it was a city of hope. Now there are 43 inhabitants left.
Blues music in Ground Zero Blues Club, Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Carson McCullers published "The Ballad of the Sad Café" in 1951. I read the book as a child and it scared me because it was so sad. Back then, I expected everything in the US to be fine, beautiful and rich. How could it be that there was a sad cafe where people were mean to each other?
I later reread the book, and I admire McCullers for the way she can create an atmosphere with just a few words.
In the book, Miss Amelia's cousin Lymon starts painting the house before the big fight, so all over the South I've been looking for a worn, half-painted house. I didn't find it, but below are four suggestions.
Pinetown, North Carolina
Plymouth, North Carolina.
On my journey through the United States, I have mostly stayed in motels. Motels are cheap and can be found everywhere, usually on the outskirts of a town. They are a regular part of traveling by car, because the distances are so great that you have to spend the night en route.
The disadvantage of motels is that you are not supposed to have anything to do with each other. Many motels are named something with "Inn", but this is far from the meaning of "Inn" in England. Here you look after yourself, and the next morning you get in your car and drive away.
If you want to meet people, find a hotel in the city center, preferably with a restaurant and bar.
Motel in Terlingua, Texas.
El Paisano Hotel, Marfa, Texas, built 1930.
Murray Hotel, Silver City, New Mexico, built 1938.
"Meteor Crater Barringer Space Museum" is a museum by the Barringer Crater six miles south of Interstate 40 near Winslow, Arizona. The huge museum buildings contains cinema, lecture hall and souvenir shop. Unfortunately, the exhibition doesn't seem relevant. Among other things, you can find out about the families who previously owned the crater.
Having paid 23 dollars in entrance fee, you are not allowed to walk in the crater or walk around it. You can look at it.
I suggest that instead you stop in two miles' distance and take a look. It gives a good impression of the crater, and you have just saved 23 dollars!
- Joan Didion: South and West, Vintage, 2017 (written 1970)
- John Kenneth Galbraith: The Affluent Society, Hamish Hamilton, 1958
- Carson McCullers: The Ballad of the Sad Café, Houghton Mifflin, 1951
- Susan Sontag: On Photography, Penguin Books, 1977
- John Steinbeck: Travels with Charley, Viking, 1962
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Skin in the Game, Random House, 2018
Photographs can be downloaded free for non-commercial use if you display "Copyright Ebbe Munk"
Links to all pages: