Cesar Becerra and Maud Dillingham are two Americans finding America. Since January, the Miami-based husband and wife have been traveling through the states of the union to get the rhythm of the country at the end of the millennium.
Part anthropologists, part journalists, and large part observers, the two are pulling back the covers on America and recording the stories underneath. And the stories they've found in the 41 states they've hit so far are pure Americana - a mix between Charles Kuralt and John Steinbeck.
They've gone 38,000 miles in Mr. Becerra's 1979 Chevrolet Malibu Classic, through hamlets and glens, rusted cities, and glistening metropolises.
"This is a celebration of the roadtrip," Becerra says. "In a way, we're using the automobile to rediscover America. The automobile was the great equalizer. The car allowed people to really go discover America."
They planned the trip for a year, organizing sponsors to help cover expenses. One of Cesar's relatives helped refurbish the car, and a photography company donated film. Becerra, a south Florida historian, will archive the pictures at Florida International University in Miami.
Ms. Dillingham is the editor of their newsletter, which costs $1 an issue, and Becerra serves as the publisher. One newsletter is published from each state and about 200 people subscribe, but many check out their Web site (www.intothemillennium.com).
They say America is still a frontier country that can amaze the average traveler. The undeveloped and easy-access beaches in Oregon thrilled them as did flying over the headwaters of the Mississippi.
"We got to climb on the top of Mt. Rushmore," says Dillingham.
"We got to stand on Washington's head, and nobody gets to do that," adds Becerra.
In Alaska, they met the 1999 Alaskan gold-panning champion and then tried their hands at it in Nevada City, Calif. They drove in an art-car parade in Houston. In fact, they've driven their "flag mobile" in six parades.
Another purpose of the trip is to inspire people to travel and "do something revolutionary," says Dillingham.
So what's next? A book, they say, and they also would like to travel to Central and South America and, eventually, all seven continents - in the same car.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society