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After cutting a destructive path through the Caribbean, Hurricane Sandy caused extensive damage along the East Coast this week. Sandy made landfall in southern New Jersey and brought with it major flooding, travel disruption, structural damage, and power outages. New York City was especially hard hit. The storm system was so large ­-- nearly 1,000 miles wide at times -- it brought blizzard conditions to West Virginia and 20 foot waves to Lake Michigan. It is projected Sandy will have caused about $30 billion in damages in the United States. To date, the storm claimed more than 100 lives. -- Lloyd Young ( 57 photos total)
Flooded homes in Tuckerton, N.J., on Oct. 30 after Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the southern New Jersey coastline on Oct. 29. (US Coast Guard via AFP/Getty Images)

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Millions of people from Maine to the Carolinas awoke Tuesday without power, and an eerily quiet New York City was all but closed off by car, train and air as superstorm Hurricane Sandy steamed inland, still delivering punishing wind and rain. The full extent of the damage in New Jersey, where the storm roared ashore [...]

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“The campaign is in a lull. The wars overseas are winding down. Washington is paralyzed. I’ve loaded up my iPod with some new songs. There’s nothing to do but….hit the road!”

With that, veteran TIME political columnist Joe Klein began his three-week, eight-state road trip, which ended last Friday. Klein has made this sampling of the country’s political climate a yearly tradition. This time around, TIME sent three of the magazine’s contributors to accompany Klein for different legs of the journey. Here, LightBox presents a selection of their work as well as their thoughts from across America.


What was the single most memorable experience you had on the trip?

Andrew HinderakerIn Richmond, Virginia, at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in a Drug Rehabilitation Center, we met a woman who’d struggled with addiction since age nine. She was a convicted felon, and now, in her 40’s, was 21 months clean. She’d recently convinced a friend to allow her to farm a piece of land. For someone like her, whose addiction left her reliant on medical care most of her life, President Obama’s healthcare legislation meant for her a fresh start. With affordable healthcare, she could be a small business owner, a farmer, an active, contributing citizen; without it, she’s just a recovering addict. We learned her story because another man at the meeting expressed his disdain at the Healthcare Reform Act. We got to watch their argument, and this woman’s story change a man’s mind. It certainly proved Joe’s point about getting to know one another; perhaps the government should sponsor free coffee and organize meetings once a week with a group of local strangers.

What was the economic and political mood of the parts of the country you visited?

Katy Steinmetz: People seemed disappointed and exhausted by the political and economic state of things in America. Many were hopeful, but more were resigned—past anger and yearning for a little compromise.

What was the #1 problem facing the people you met?

Pete Pin: This was dependent on class. For a group of upper middle class voters in Charleston, West Virginia, they were most concerned with the visceral partisanship of the country and the future of the health care law. For rural voters in Jackson and Newcomerstown, Ohio, they were most concerned with jobs and social ills.

What was their #1 reason for hope?

Pete: Community at the local level. I learned that in spite of the partisanship and bickering in Washington, people genuinely believed that things can and will get better, not because of intervention by the federal government, but rather because of the community coming together at the local level.

Andrew Hinderaker for TIME

Leslie Marchut and Briggs Wesche eat breakfast with Joe Klein in Chapel Hill, N.C.

What is the national character? Are there uniquely American traits?

Pete: The singular thread I found was an overwhelming sense of self-reliance. Liberalism in the classical sense, John Stuart Mill.

AndrewEveryone likes barbeque.

Did you return from the trip more or less optimistic about the future of the country?

Andrew: Certainly more optimistic. One of the things that struck me most about the places that we visited was all the conversation. In all these pockets of America, folks more than willing, eager even, to talk and debate reach new conclusions. I don’t think it’s the impression you’d get of our citizens from watching the nightly news, but it’s something I observed in every niche.

Andrew Hinderaker is a former TIME photo intern and a photojournalist whose work has appeared in TIME, The Wall Street Journal and New York Magazine.

Pete Pin is currently the international photo intern at TIME and a photographer whose work has also appeared in The New York Times and Forbes.

Katy Steinmetz is a reporter in TIME’s Washington bureau.

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Last week, writer Ray Dolin, 39, made news when he claimed to have been shot in a random drive-by while gathering experiences as a hitchhhiker for his book "Kindness in America." Turns out though, Dolin actually shot himself. I guess PR is PR. From The Missoulian:

Dolin, of Julian, W.Va., acknowledged he concocted the tale about the random shooting after he was confronted by investigators at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Miles City where he is recovering, said Sheriff Glen Meier.

Authorities later arrested Lloyd Christopher Danielson III, 52, and charged him with felony assault. That charge was dropped Thursday, although Danielson remained in custody, accused of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol when he was arrested.

"Sheriff: Hitchhiker writing book on kindness shot himself"

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From the late 1930s to 1969, amateur photographer Charles W. Cushman traveled the country documenting American life and landscapes with color photographs. Upon his death in 1972, he bequeathed his collection of 14,500 Kodachrome color slides to his alma mater, Indiana University, where they remain today. Below are a selection of Cushman’s photos from 1938 [...]

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Today is the vernal equinox, the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It also marks the end of "the winter that wasn't," as the past several months in North America have been dubbed. It was the fourth-warmest winter in the United States since record-keeping began 117 years ago. In accord with the unusual weather, this turn of the season brings us snow in Arizona and Saudi Arabia, while conditions remain sunny and warm in America's Northeast and Western Europe. Collected here are scenes from around the world as a strange winter gives way to spring. [40 photos]

The sun sets behind cherry blossoms which have come into full bloom due to the early warm weather in Washington, D.C., on March 19, 2012. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

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