The Heart of the South: A Guide to the Southern United States

Op-Ed: Here’s what I wish I’d known before road-tripping across America

It’s not the destination or the road, but the trip — and all along the trip, your knowledge of and appreciation of the country and its people.

“Our travels have been mostly in the U.S.,” says Michael Seidlinger, executive director of the San Francisco-based Association of American Railroads, whose members include Amtrak, Union Pacific, and the Santa Fe Railroads. But he’s ready to put that to the test. “The next four trips I will take will all take me through the South. And I don’t mean the South of the United States, I mean the South,” he says. “The way people live out there — there’s just an awful lot of wonderful people, an awful lot of beauty and some great stories to be found along the way.”

“I really like traveling and I love experiencing new things and meeting different people,” he says. “But it was the best thing that happened to me in my life before I started traveling — it taught me a little about my fellow human beings and what drives them.”

Seidlinger, author of “The Heart of the South: A Guide to the Southern United States,” says he was born and raised in New Hampshire, where his father was a professional photographer. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Brown University, and he has been working in the railroad industry for 25 years.

But a change in his life occurred about five years ago when he and his wife, Kate, set out on a cross-country road trip that would take them across America to visit their four sons, ages 4-13, over the course of about seven months.

I don’t care where they’re going, he says of his sons; I only care where they’re coming from.

“I care where they’re going to,” he says. “It’s the journey that counts.”

And he had an interesting journey; he said he fell so in love with the South that he had to visit the South. And it was a “crazy trip,” but “it worked.”

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