For the next three weeks, between now and The Atlantic’s Aspen Ideas Festival at the end of this month, my wife Deb and I will be following the route shown above. Today Chico; then the Bend-Redmond-Prineville triangle of inland Oregon; a possible Lewis & Clark homage (not shown) to the mouth of the Columbia River, in Astoria; then the Walla Walla region of inland Washington; then Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; then Chester and Malta in Montana, the latter the gateway to the three-million-acre American Prairie Reserve; then down to Colorado and the festivities that are the Ideas Festival. Then back through the Midwest and the upper South to DC.
We have seen more of this country over the past nearly two years than I would have imagined feasible, or comprehensible. It is still a big, very exciting place, more full of adaptation and energy than even our other home of China. At the Aspen conference I may be able to interview, and will at least get a chance to hear, Robert Putnam, of Bowling Alone and Our Kids fame. What we’ve seen gives us quite a different perspective from what he has reported, although my wife is from a small town in Ohio very much like the one he describes. I look forward to talking it over with him.
Because we’ve been traveling and interviewing and observing, we are again behind on the chronicling. Soon to come in this space is another report about the emphasis on, and achievements of, a dramatic and modern vocational-education push in San Bernardino, California; the comparative civic successes of the sister city of Riverside, California; several important updates on the Chickenhawk sagas; some valuable updates in the “Books by Friends” series; what we learned yesterday in San Francisco about the possibilities of the “maker movement,” thanks to a demo day at Liam Casey’s “Highway 1” tech-development center; the prospects for a possible showdown with China and a possible deal with Iran; and even the effect of the California drought on California’s most successful brewing company.
For now, greetings from Butte County, and the home of the enormous Bidwell Park.