State by State

Apparently there is an entire country between Boston and San Francisco.


by Damian

We have this road atlas on which most of US states take exactly two pages. Four pages if they are really big. That does not exactly let you appreciate that Rhode Island is the size of a large city and Pennsylvania is nearly as big as North Korea. Except that the size of North Korea is obviously a state secret and inversely correlated to the height of its leaders.

Our truck seems to think that we covered 3500 miles so far. I find it hard to believe since that should take us to the West Coast, not just to Florida. However I am not going to argue with a helpless machine. And all these driving around when we were lost, and turning back when we missed something Natalia wanted to take picture of certainly adds up. Now that I look at the map I realize it would also help if we travelled West and not South.

In any case before we seriously started to plan next legs of our trip I had a quick session with google maps to figure out if there is any chance of us arriving at some West Coast destination before the decade ends. And it seems that even at our glacial pace we should get to the other side at some point this year.

To give you some idea of the scale involved I’ve created some scrupulously unscientific graphs.

Tallin-Lisboa is probably not the longest road trip in EU (I could include Finland but it would mean having to take a ferry). I just use it as an rough approximation here, similar to Boston-San Francisco trip. What many of my American friends do not realize you can go from Tallin through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain and arrive in Lisboa in Portugal without ever showing your passport (without even having one if you happen to be EU citizen).

That got me thinking about how big US really is. It’s certainly bigger than EU. But EU might be still growing.

By European standards most of US is virtually empty. It’s less surprising once you realize that the biggest state - Alaska accounts for 17% of US territory but only for 2.25% of its inhabitants. If US was as densely populated as Netherlands it would have 4 billion population. Scary thought but it’s a pure science fiction. I’d rather believe in colonizing Mars, than for Americans to compromise their notion of private space.

So here you have it: lies, damn lies and google visualizations. Data courtesy of wikipedia of course.



We all want to be cool. And obviously I am not talking about surviving the scorching weather outside: finally a place where mere walking is a taxing exercise. What I mean here is this wonderful word that one uses to describe people, behaviors and things one envies, admires and ungracefully attempts to imitate. Rarely, beyond high-school, a division between the cool and the uncool crowd is so obvious as when diving. The cool are young, tanned and confident. The uncool are pasty white, old and vying for attention. The cool make their living scuba diving. The uncool are just dabbling. The cool look hot, the uncool - sweaty. The cool are surviving on water, healthy snacks and wind. The uncool are taking their meals in fancy restos that the cool wouldn’t be seen in even if they could afford it.


Night invites storytelling. On the way to the dive site everybody seems to have something scary to share: divers left on the reef for the night by a careless operator, giant shark skulking in the shadows, losing one’s bearings simply by swimming upside down (watch the bubbles! says the captain). The stories get taller as the sun sinks closer to the horizon. Night dive turns out to be absolutely magical. We enter water at dusk and it gets progressively darker until one dives in blackness punctuated by torch beams and glowing tank markers.