Well, I`m back in Japan so now I finally have time to process all of the America that I saw. It was an intense three weeks, but it was a wonderful experience. I still can`t believe everything that I did.
Above is a map of the major places I went on the trip. We flew to Chicago via Houston, and it was a pretty close connection after going through immigration, customs and security. One thing that struck me when we were going through the airport was that the signs were all bilingual, in English and Spanish. We spent ten days in Illinois – six days in Naperville, a commuter town outside Chicago, two days in Freeport and three days in downtown Chicago. It was good having so much time there because it allowed us to recover from our journey, do little bits like go shopping and get our hair done, and we got to see some different aspects of a Northern state – cool yet business-minded Chicago, upper-middle-class suburbia and fading towns of the Mid-West.
We had planned on this being a full-on road trip, but we hadn`t planned very well after that. So instead of renting a car to Nashville and zooming through St Louis and Memphis, we decided last minute to fly from Chicago to Nashville (via New Orleans) and rent a car there to Memphis and back. We spent one night in Memphis and had enough time to do some sight-seeing the next morning, and we spent two nights in Nashville with Liz`s aunt, though we just had one day of sight-seeing there.
Leaving Nashville felt like we were truly going to Dixie because then we headed deeper south into Alabama to meet Sister No.1 and her brood of boys. The next day we went back up to Tennessee and Knoxville to stay with the parents. We were based there for about six days though we took day trips to the Smoky Mountains and to the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, North Carolina. It was in Knoxville that I felt like I really got to experience the religion, politics and food that the South represents. It was surely an experience.
We had two days down in Atlanta with Sister No. 2 and her little girls, and although at that stage I was running out of steam, we did get to see downtown Atlanta and meet up with a friend who had just returned home from Japan. Then we started our epic journey back, flying from Atlanta to Tokyo via Washington D.C., then waiting for the nightbus to take us home to Kanazawa.