This blog follows the journey of Sarah and Greg as they made their film. To see a trailer, read more, learn about the progress of the film or share your story visit AMERICANBEARFILM.COM

60 days. 25 States. 5 Bears.

Sarah and Greg are setting out on an adventure exploring American trust and fear through hospitality. Armed with their charm, courage, and a camera, they will rely on the kindness of strangers for a home each night, and if they're lucky, a few meals along the way.

The story began in summer 2009 when Greg exclaimed in his sleep, "We have to go to Bear, Colorado!" Unfortunately, no Bear actually exists in Colorado. However, there are five Bears in America, fortuitously located in a perfect a 'U' around the continental U.S. - in Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Arkansas, and Delaware. Following the trail of the Bears, Sarah and Greg will travel through 25 states of all different cultures, demographics, populations, and Americans.

Through conversations with locals, we will explore our themes on a personal level and embrace the stories that turn strangers into neighbors. Our discussions with scholars and professionals will dig into the philosophy and nature of a core aspect of what makes us human. We will understand why (or if) we let people into our hearts and our homes.

Check us out at:


Day 4: Oberlin, Ohio

The drive from Ashtabula to Oberlin was a breeze. Less than two hours down the interstate, curving around Cleveland, catching glimpses of Lake Erie with the tall buildings looming above. I drove for the second day in a row and Sarah conducted a pre-interview phone call with one of the professors we're meeting next week. We're averaging about ten minutes of radio or iPod usage a day. The quiet and conversation just seem to fit the passing landscapes.

Oberlin is a pretty typical college town. I'm not trying to knock it, and I'm sure there are staunch advocates for its unique qualities, which are probably discovered over more time than one night. That's just my impression: the cute, small downtown with a few restaurants, a few stores, a lovely quad, decorous older buildings -- it's great, but I sort of felt like I had been here before.

We spent most of the afternoon working without the camera: a long creative conversation sitting on the grass, some phone calls, using the internet in a coffee shop. We did sneak in some ice cream from Gibson's, and my Frosted Cookie ice cream brownie hot fudge sundae was pretty phenomenal.

Sarah got the camera out of the roasting car and cooled it off in an air conditioned bead and art store while I called my mom. We finally set out to find our home for the night. We talked to a few people, and heard different opinions about the much-touted diversity in Oberlin: an African-American woman who moved here from Los Angeles was on a mission for truth, as she put it, and the truth is that diversity is a myth; but a Caucasian high school student immediately praised the diversity and open minds that make Oberlin a wonderful community for anyone.

We were directed to the Bike Co-op, where anyone in the community can pay a small fee for renting bikes and repairing bikes (they even have great programs in which you can build your own bike in exchange for helping out). We got a tour from Stella and Peter, college students who are some of the Co-op's hardest workers. Most fascinating was the bike graveyard, where dozens of unfinished bike projects are hanging on the wall or piled together in an unfinished space underground. When all was said and done, we had seen a wonderful example of community sharing, and we had found a place to stay: Stella and Peter live in a house with Becca, and they immediately offered their space.

Sarah and I wandered a bit more as the sun began to set -- we sat in the park again, where I continued cultivating bug bites and Sarah lay down in the grass, a relaxing moment as the day turned into night.

We headed over to the house, which slopes in the kitchen and bathroom and has cracks and holes in the walls that suggest a long history. If Patti from Avoca was here, I bet she would feel the ghosts.

Peter made a wonderful dinner of noodle and vegetable soup with a vegetable stock they had made a few days earlier. We brought in our remaining half of a loaf of bread that my neighbor Mr. Goode made and gave to us as a departing gift -- it had served us wonderfully as a daily snack, and now we could contribute it to a hospitable meal, literally breaking bread with our new friends.

Stella, Peter, and Becca were great to talk with -- when we did a more formal interview with them, Sarah was very impressed with how articulate they all are, discussing their belief in trusting people within our American culture of fear. Peter, a music composition major, described his creative process with us and gave me some music by his favorite composers -- modern, Italian, pushing the boundaries of instrumental music and perception of sound -- I can't wait to listen to it, but the car might not be the most hospitable place.

After a long night of conversation, we set up our computer work space (computer, two hard drives, camera, sound, all transferring, lasting almost three hours). Our hosts headed out to a friend's house, leaving us alone to wrap up our work and set up our sleeping bags. It was around 2:30am that we finally eased into sleep, the room softly illuminated by white Christmas lights hanging above the windows.

Now we're back in the coffee shop, about to find some snacks at the Farmer's Market across the street, then heading off to Fort Wayne, Indiana for -- well, we'll tell you in our next post.


  1. Oberlin is indeed a unique community, but you won't discover why when visiting in the summer. You need to come back when school is in session and students are in town, when it becomes an incredibly vibrant and stimulating place.

  2. I thought Oberlin was very interesting and I wish we could have explored it more. The coops and the community interaction were very present everywhere. And the shops ranged from what appeared to be a mom and pop sweet shop but was actually an everything store - a sort of catch all for the needs of the students- to a bead shop and art store that reminded me of my favorite shop in down town Alamosa.

    In some way all the towns we visit feel familiar - because we try to find familiarity in them. It's really the people we stay with that make them stand out.

  3. Suggestion!
    I'm very interested in your whereabouts and everything you're doing, but perhaps you could say it in a few less words? These entries are just so long, it's hard to get through the whole thing!

  4. Well I LOVE Oberlin. It was where I started out as a college student. I lived at Harkness and cooked there and I believe OSCA shaped my entire life, as an adult I had a Bed and Breakfast and still enjoy cooking from scatch. We protested a lot when I was a student there, drank beer with our profs and listen to folk music at the Cat in the Hat. What a great experience!

  5. haha. To Julie, the Cat in the Hat? That made me laugh, that sounds great. I know of the place you're talking about, I'm pretty sure today they call it the Cat and the Cream. It's pretty interesting.