Put on Your Travel Shoes: Down the West Coast and to Points East

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Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Bob Doughty with Gwen Outen.

Get ready for a ride. And hold on to your camera. Today we take you on a lightning-fast trip to seven states in fifteen minutes.


We start in Washington. Not the capital city, but the state of Washington on the other side of the country. It is in the Pacific Northwest, on the border with Canada. It is the only state named after a president. George Washington was the first president of the United States.

Washington State entered the union in eighteen-eighty-nine. It is a major shipping port for Asia. Fishing is another big industry. So is technology. Washington State is home to the biggest maker of computer programs, Microsoft. Boeing still makes airplanes here. But its headquarters are now in Chicago.

Mountains divide Washington State. The east is heavily agricultural, but the west gets most of the rain.

Washington is called the Evergreen State. It has lots of trees that keep their leaves all year. Those trees are important to the forest products industry.  They are also important to the many people who hike through forests and climb mountains. The highest one here is Mount Rainier, in western Washington. It stands almost four-thousand-four-hundred meters above sea level.

Not too far away is Seattle. It is the largest city in Washington. But the state capital is Olympia.

Washington is one of three states along the West Coast. As we leave Washington, we travel south into Oregon. It became a state in eighteen-fifty-nine. Forests cover a lot of the state.  In fact, Oregon leads the United States in wood production.

Visitors enjoy places like Crater Lake National Park. A volcano formed this deep lake in the mountains. The bright blue water has appealed to photographers from all over the world. Cities in Oregon include Portland, Eugene and the capital, Salem.

From Oregon, we continue south into California. People from Spain settled the land in the seventeen-hundreds. Mexico later controlled it, until some of the land became the American state. The capital is Sacramento.

Americans captured the California territory during the Mexican-American War in the eighteen-forties. The discovery of gold helped California join the United States in eighteen-fifty.

Many gold miners came through San Francisco. And that is where we stop. Visitors like to ride the old cable cars up and down the hills of the city. They also like to see the Golden Gate Bridge. And, when they get hungry, many go for seafood along Fisherman's Wharf.

To the south of San Francisco is the area with a large of number of computer technology companies -- better known as Silicon Valley.

And a lot farther south is Los Angeles. Many communities form the city and county of Los Angeles. One of them is Hollywood, the center of the film and television industry.

California has one of the largest economies in the world. It also has the largest population in the country, more than thirty-five million people. One-third of them are of Hispanic ancestry. But people come here from all over the world.

These include a growing number from Africa. Population researchers say the Los Angeles-Long Beach area has the third largest number of African-born people in the United States. About forty-three thousand live there. About twelve-thousand live farther south, in San Diego.


Now, from Southern California, we travel east into Arizona. Arizona is known the Grand Canyon State. Over time, the Colorado River cut through stone and rock to form the Grand Canyon. It is more than one and one-half kilometers deep. Millions of people come to see it.

Arizona is a desert state. People once thought the land was worthless. But today many people come to Arizona for its hot, dry climate and its natural beauty. Phoenix is the largest city, and a shipping center for agriculture. It is also the state capital.

Many people who come to Arizona visit Native American reservations. Indians who live on these tribal lands must obey United States laws, but they also make their own laws.

To the east of Arizona is New Mexico. Both states are on the border with the country of Mexico. New Mexico has a rich Spanish history. It also has a lot of land - almost three-hundred-fifteen thousand square kilometers. But fewer than two million people live here.

Lots more come to hunt, fish, or snow ski. They also come to enjoy arts and cultural activities. Santa Fe claims the largest collection of folk art in the world.  Santa Fe is the state capital. But the largest city is Albuquerque.

New Mexico has mines for coal, copper, potash and uranium. And it has around as many cows as it has people. Cattle growers help keep some traditions of the Old West alive. But New Mexico is also a center of scientific research. There are national laboratories. In fact, the first atomic bomb was exploded in the desert here.


To the east of New Mexico is a state with a tradition of thinking big: Texas. Texas has more land than any other state except Alaska.

There are still cowboys with big hats. That is true. But visitors can also find a rich cultural life in cities like San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. The city of Austin is the state capital.

Texas once belonged to Mexico. Mexican influence remains strong. More than thirty percent of Texans are Hispanic. But many other groups also live here. Among the more recent arrivals are people from Africa. About forty-seven thousand live in Houston and Dallas.

One of the places that many people like to visit in Texas is a stone building in San Antonio called the Alamo. The American hero Davy Crockett was among those who died in a long battle there. They were fighting for independence from Mexico. "Remember the Alamo!" became a battle cry after that.

The Americans lost the battle of the Alamo, but they won the Mexican-American war. Texas became a state in eighteen-forty-five.

From Texas we travel north into Oklahoma, deeper into the central part of the United States. Oklahoma is our last stop today. It too has lots of land but not a lot of people. It became a state in nineteen-oh-seven.

Oklahoma is a big producer of fuel and food for the country. Flat areas and low hills make good places to grow wheat and raise cows.

Years ago, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote a musical play called "Oklahoma!"


Oklahoma is part of what people call the American heartland. People think of the heartland as a peaceful place. So what happened in April of nineteen-ninety-five seemed especially shocking. A bomb wrecked the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City, the state capital.

A former soldier angry at the government was executed for the attack. One-hundred-sixty-eight people were killed. A national memorial now stands in place of the building to honor the victims.

So, we have told you a few things about seven of the fifty states. Visitors leave with memories of wide open spaces, and cities without enough space. Forest-covered mountains, and flat, dry land without any trees as far as the eye can see. Farmers working in their fields, and fields with workers drilling for oil and natural gas. White-topped waves on the Pacific Ocean, and a golden sun setting over the Grand Canyon.

If you do ever visit, don't forget to bring a camera.


Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Bob Doughty with Gwen Outen. Our programs are online with transcripts and audio archives at voaspecialenglish.com. Listen again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.