We Biked 5,000 Miles and Saw an American South Few People Know Exists

By Tim and Noah Hussin

It often seems anxiety is at an all time high among Americans, and if the recent political climate is any indication, many are fed up with cultural frameworks that no longer seem to work. In 2011, we set out on bicycles through the American South to understand people’s grievances and discover innovative ways Americans are building new cultures in unexpected places. The result is an award-winning feature-length documentary called America Recycled that is now available to the watch free, and it feels more relevant now than it did when we made it.

As brothers, we grew up in the Florida suburbs and always felt deeply skeptical of the American Dream as it was presented to us. These sensibilities grew well into our adulthood and culminated in a spark that sent us on this two-year, 5,000-mile bicycle trip in order to reflect on the United States. We wanted to seek out people who could guide us to a better grasp of our homeland. Sometimes spending months at a time with communities, we sought to portray their lives and outlooks with an unflinching intimacy that we had rarely seen when trying to understand such matters.

Cory Oberlin, the owner of The Montana House, dons roadkill bear and wolf pelts. The majority of the food he eats he gets from either roadkill or dumpsters, and manages to feed a household of 17 friends through the sophisticated methods of scavenging he has developed throughout his life.

The journey led us through a queer farming commune in Tennessee, crumbling small towns in Mississippi, Squats in New Orleans, and nostalgic cowboy bars in Texas. We camped alongside rivers, under bridges, and stayed in homeless shelters. We spent time in unlikely cultural flashpoints, such as a resurrected ghost town inhabited with desert homesteaders, country musicians, and other libertarian misfits. We had a hunch that such hidden pockets existed, but never imagined we would experience them at such a close proximity. In the film, these stories are threaded by our own personal transformation as we go through the challenges of executing such a journey as brothers, together.

Tim and Noah Hussin soak their tired bodies in the Langford Hot Springs in Big Bend National Park after cycling for several weeks from Austin to West Texas. The brothers embarked on a 5,000 mile bike trip across the US seeking out and documenting Americans’ yearning to rebuild community and local culture.

It wasn’t angled as a political exploration, but the undertones are clear. It was rather an attempt to better understand some of the cultural dynamics that shape our lives today and to empower oursevles and our viewers to do something about it in our personal lives. One of the most profound things we took from the journey is that the lines that are drawn between left and right and conservative and liberal are often quite contrived, and many of these people have more in common than we could have imagined. We hope that this film can be part of a much needed bridge being built.

We view the subjects not only as couragous people living on the fringes who exposed themselves for the film, but also as our teachers. They have all profoundly shaped the way we live and see the world today. With this film, we can bring at least a glimpse of the wisdom we’ve gained to a larger audience that is asking many of the same questions that we are.

With love, respect, and endless curiosity,

The Hussin Brothers

Changing Planet

, , ,