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Fresh Eyes On America: Announcing "Patch: The Road Trip"

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I'm delighted to announce the kickoff of an exciting new feature jointly produced by Patch and the Huffington Post. We're calling it "Patch: The Road Trip."

In search of fresh perspectives on America, our culture reporter Paul Needham -- who joined HuffPost this year after being editor of the Yale Daily News and graduating with a degree in History -- will travel by car, visiting Patch locations all across America.

We hope the resulting dispatches will offer a ground-level look at our nation that's utterly local but, taken together, will create a national snapshot. We are planning to do this every year, adding to our "Dispatches: The Changing American Dream" series.

Paul starts his trek today in San Diego, and will eventually wind up back here in New York (Paul: shouldn't you have done it the other way around and ended up in sunny San Diego when the weather turns cold?). Along the way, he'll go as far north on the west coast as Everett, Washington, as far south as Sarasota, Florida, up the northeast coast to Kittery Point Maine, and to dozens of Patches in between.

His first dispatch, which you can read here, comes from Border Field State Park in Imperial Beach, California -- the exact point at which the Pacific Ocean, Mexico and America meet. As Paul shows, our border sometimes looks quite different than it is commonly portrayed.

Tomorrow, Paul will ride along with police officers in Mission Viejo, California, and give us an idea of what it's like to be on patrol in a town that is said to be among the safest in the country.

Other stops along the way will include Lake Zurich, Illinois, where the founder of Volle's Bridal & Boutique says she's proof the American Dream still is within reach and Castro Valley, California, where 60,000 people live in a city that refuses to call itself a city and has no local government.

Paul will also cover the Boeing labor dispute from, literally, both sides -- Washington and South Carolina. And while in Washington, he'll get to see -- meaning, we'll get to see -- the first delivery of the new Boeing 787. In all, the trip will allow Paul -- and us -- to see stories of national interest up close and personal.

The trip will have a strong visual component, too -- because what's a road trip without pictures? Along the way, Paul will be uploading videos and adding to a constantly updating slideshow, showcasing the good, the bad, and the ugly of what he sees along the way. He'll be taking a look at the great and under-appreciated architecture of America, from Progressive Field, the Cleveland Indians' ballpark, to the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota.

Paul's work will dovetail nicely with our "Dispatches: The Changing American Dream" series -- a visual and reportorial mosaic, assembled from narrative snapshots Patch reporters take each day in their communities as Americans contend with the ups and downs of life in the midst of The Great Recession. It's a multifaceted project that looks at the challenges and stories of creativity and resilience of individual Americans and the changing relationships to their jobs, schools, and towns.

To follow Paul along his journey, check out this special MapQuest map that he will be updating throughout the trip, with flags noting his stops and linking to the stories/photos/videos he's posted. You can also follow his updates on Twitter.

As Paul said before heading out, he's excited to take on the project while he's still "young enough to live out of a backpack." Looking after him along the way (don't worry, Paul's family!) will be HuffPost cultural editor John Montorio, as well as our entire Patch family.

As another road-tripper, Jack Kerouac, once wrote, "Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road." Good luck, Paul -- can't wait to follow your journey!