Separated at Birth? Greenville, Sioux Falls

Here is Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, last summer:

And here is Falls Park in Greenville, South Carolina, this afternoon:

A decade ago, the falls areas in both cities were dangerous and semi-derelict. Now, each is the scenic center of its city. Here, by the way, is how poor Sioux Falls looked a few days ago, via our partner John Tierney:

Now, here is the Sioux Falls 20+-mile bike trail, which we happily rode during the long summer days of last year:

And here is the Swamp Rabbit Trail (in purple) for Greenville, some of which we walked today. It is different in its overall shape yet similar in mile-by-mile look and feel. (Both maps via our partners at Esri.) 

Here is a summer river scene as viewed from the bike trail in Sioux Falls: a bow-fisherman, awaiting his prey.

And here, at the opposite end of the seasons, is a Great Blue Heron this afternoon, awaiting its prey in the Reedy River of Greenville. You can barely see a guy doing tai chi in the background

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These two cities are different -- in size, in economic base, in self-image, in ethnic mix, in 15 different aspects. And of course every city is unique, etc. But in these past few days in Greenville, we've been struck by more similarities to Sioux Falls than to other places we've seen.

We'll start laying these out in the next few days. For now, an impression that so strongly recalls our normal experience in China. In the years there, we would go from some place in Shaanxi to some place in Sichuan and think: My lord! How can so much be going on in so many places? That is the message of traveling around America as well.

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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