GMC does America

The title of a really cheesy movie? It must be. Afterall, why would gmc want to visit the United States of America?? Guess again, hell has frozen over and gmc is going to the USA. And not just for a day or two, I will be gone for 6 weeks. Touring the country by car, visiting hackerspaces, pinball walhalla’s and other geekly attractions. While doing so, i’ll be of course blogging about it, but also making a weekly show for Signal, the hackerspace radio.

A rough overview of the route
Rough overview of the route

People who know me will be surprised, I normally don’t have anything good to say about the USA and their policy on foreign affairs. But neither do all of the Americans. I met a bunch of them over the past years, and discovered that they are mostly good folk. So it can’t be all that bad. Time to set aside all my preconceptions and go see for myself!

Still, the USA is not a very welcoming country at first. Not having ventured outside of Europe, I first needed a passport. My ID card won’t cut it for the transcontinental trip. Getting a new passport meant getting my fingerprints taken. So those are now safe and sound in some vulnerable government database! Next up, applying for the visa waiver program (paying the US$14 admission fee) and reading into entering the country. The first was a breeze, since I am not a nazi, terrorist, psychopath nor dope dealer. Yes, they ask you if you are any of those on the web form, and based on that put you up for further scrutiny if you fall into one of those categories. It is good that they take security seriously. The literature written by the border patrol is, well, not at all inviting. If you read between the lines, they threaten you with anal visitations and thorough investigations.

In contrast, the people from the various hackerspaces have been more than welcoming! It is hearth warming to see that the openness and enthusiasm I know from European hackerspaces is also very much present in the American hackerspace culture. The people in general are excited by my emails announcing my visits. I’m getting wonderful emails with suggestions of things to visit, and in general finding couches to crash on during the night has not proven to be difficult so far.

To give you a general idea of the places I will be visiting, let us go through the itinerary briefly. The trip starts in Seattle, in the North-West of the country. Here I will pick up my travel companion Flyko, the rental car and some general supplies. Of course, a visit to local hackerspaces is also planned, most notable something called ‘the black lodge‘. From Seattle it is down to San Francisco for a visit to the famous Noisebridge, HackerDojo and hopefully a chat with the crew from BioCurious. Then we go further south to LA, where we find 23B, Crash Space and more.

Then we start off the diagonal leg of the trip in Las Vegas, not without visiting the Pinball Hall of Fame of course. Then it’s off to Denver and Chicago, for a visit to PS:ONE and a search for the historic locations of pinball. Hopefully, if the US border patrol allows it, that will be followed by a short trip to Toronto, Canade where we find hacklab.to. Then a little bit sidewards again, to Boston. The last leg will take us from NYC to Washington, DC and finally to Miami.

I’m excited about the things that will be on our path. The focus of all the hackerspaces along the route varies wildly. There are those that specialize mostly in software and networking. But there are several spaces that are more into ‘manly’ knowledge and skills such as welding and casting metal. And then there are the one or two spaces/collectives doing bio-hacking. I can’t wait to meet all these people and hear about their passions.

I will be keeping you up to date of my adventures on this blog. I have already updated the design a bit (just a little bit) to adapt it to the current standards. To be in style with American policy, I have signed away my privacy and added a widget in the sidebar so you can track my whereabouts almost real-time. And of course, there will be the weekly radio show on Signal. I hope to bring interviews with the people behind the places we visit, as well as some general reflection on the whole experience.

So, not a cheesy movie afterall. GMC is going to do America. It’s scary somehow, but exciting as well. Stay tuned for updates!

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