In the summer of 2015, British friends Sarah Crowder and Sophie Ioannou took an Amtrak (and, occasionally, a rental car) from New York all the way to Los Angeles, and recorded their impressions and memories of the trip in a zine called Amtrak: Adventures Through the South. This 40-page (including covers), black and white zine is heavy on text, with a lot of photographs and photo backgrounds.
I am always surprised to read about British impressions of the United States, particularly our rural areas. I have a friend who lives in Leeds and is fascinated by southern gothic stories. She crossed the Atlantic to visit Memphis. Sarah and Sophie, the authors of this zine, write about country music and devoted a summer to traveling through the South and the desert southwest. I’ve lived in the south and been through the southwest a few times (including twice on the same Amtrak route Sarah and Sophie took), and while it’s visually beautiful, it’s nowhere I’d want to live. It’s surprising to find areas of the country some people in this country look down on as worthy of being singled-out by foreign travelers.
Amtrak highlights friendships made along the way, interesting individuals and social customs observed, the landscape along the tracks, and plenty more details of their travels. I was particularly amused when food was discussed. It’s surreal to hear our most ordinary breakfast foods described as exotic. It never occurred to me biscuits and sausage patties were both uniquely American contrivances.
I enjoyed this zine quite a bit, and found myself wishing I could tag along on a leg of their journey, or at least play host. The authors discuss how accommodating and hospitable Americans seem to be, which is nice to hear. I could have stood to hear more about the train travel itself, as Amtrak is a unique (and struggling) form of transport most Americans have never even utilized. I have vivid memories of my own trip on Amtrak, and hope to take an extended trip on the system again in the coming years.
Sarah and Sophie, if you ever find yourself in the Midwest, let me know. My wife and I would be happy to show you our little corner of the country here in Ohio!