Monday, February 9, 2009

Obama visits RV capital of the world today.

To sell the stimulus and the need to create 21st century green-oriented jobs while weaning our country off the dependence of foreign oil, the president is headed to the RV capital of the world, Elkhart Indiana. It's where a bunch of the big manufacturers are based, and where unemployment has risen from 4.7 percent to 15.3 percent in a year.

I point out Elkhart in Greasy Rider, and frequently mentioned it in my talks about the book. In many ways, the town tragically epitomized our unsustainable free-spending lifestyles during the housing boom--and passing through it was the beginning of my awakening about the importance of sustainability.

From the book:

All Hail the RV.
By that time, the rain subsided and we were in northern Indiana, where the board flat scenery shifted from Ohio's farm fields to golf courses and woods of oak and pine. In Elkhart we passed a muddy construction site behind a giant sign that read THE FUTURE HOME OF THE RV HALL OF FAME. When completed, the building would house about fifty-six thousand square feet of floor space, an area slightly larger than Notre Dame Stadium's football field in nearby South Bend. It would serve as a celebration of recreational vehicles, motor homes, and the visionaries behind the RV industry's growth and innovation. If I was searching for some sign of newfound energy awareness along America's highways, this future monument to unleaded-chugging behemoths wasn't one of them.

"I wonder if there will ever be a hall of fame for veggie-oil cars," Iggy said, staring at the site from the driver's seat.

"I've got to hold on to this wagon here, so that the future, massively endowed Greg Melville Foundation can donate it some day," I said, knocking on the dashboard.

Soon we crossed into Gary indiana, where billboards overhead tempted us with bargains (CIGARETTE DISCOUNT OUTLET), a fun night (SHOWGIRLS, DOLLS), even self-help (BED-WETTING?). As close to Shangri-La as these signs made the city seem, we forged into the sprawl of Chicago and turned onto I-80, headed southwest in the thick of the evening commute. A passing thundershower congealed traffic flow even further. We exited the highway in Joliet, by a spot paradoxically named Wilderness Mall. The deeper into the side streets we penetrated, the more bulldozers and dump trucks we spotted on former farmlands soon to be reseeded with housing developments and shopping centers...