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Sunday Playlist: End of the Road
August 12th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

Sunday Playlist: End of the Road

By Lisa Desjardins, John Sepulvado, Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, Jonathan Binder and Gavin Godfrey, CNN

(CNN) - Usually on Sundays we present some of our favorite listening discoveries produced by other audio storytellers.

This week, we depart from the usual and highlight our own work. We want to focus on a series CNN Radio has been presenting for the past several weeks, "Embed America."

The series was an attempt to take a different approach to election coverage: to turn away from the scripts of the presidential campaigns and, instead, focus on the issues important to voters where they live.

We invite you to explore the variety of stories our reporting teams produced from all over the country. Our reporters and producers worked very hard to bring these stories about a nation in the midst of a pivotal election year.

-  Chip Grabow, Senior Editor, CNN Radio

From the Embed America team:

For the past month, our Embed America election project took us all over the United States. Two teams of CNN Radio reporters drove across the country, logging 8,000 miles, through 29 states and 2 American Indian Nations. We only received one speeding ticket (I-90 in South Dakota).

We discovered a nation full of stories missing from other election coverage. And we discovered voters shifting their focus from support of a certain candidate to support of issues.

[4:23] “People are looking at the issues they care about, because they really don’t seem to be looking at the politicians.”

We covered a wide range of issues on the ground. How wide? Click the links to hear these stories: the gun debate (Florida), the jobs problem (Maine), the war over energy (Ohio), the health care dilemma (Arkansas), the threat to small town America (Iowa), partisanship and tragedy (Colorado), the education debacle (Illinois), small business struggles (Minnesota), transportation policy (Colorado), loss of community services (California), and the rise of prison populations (South Dakota).

Voters across the country told us they don’t believe the politicians truly understand their issues, or that they have plans to solve them. That matches the record level of skepticism that shows up in polls about Congress and the political parties. But it is different and has more meaning when it comes one story at a time.

Despite the mistrust of government, Embed America found a nation of voters who are engaged and optimistic that their own lives will improve:

[4:42] “Based on the conversations I had, this seems very much still like a very hopeful country, even if it’s a country that seems very disengaged with politics this elections year.”

You can see all of our Embed America coverage here. And track the route our reporters took across the country on our Embed America map. 

Tell us what you think of our series and add your comment below.

Finally, here's our Embed America “best-of” list from the trip - highlights from each CNN Radio team's travel across the country. Enjoy!

TEAM NORTH (Maine to Montana)

  • Best Sign: Cody, Nebraska’s welcome sign, which reads, “A Town Too Tough To Die.”
  • Least Impressive Sign: Welcome to South Dakota sign on I-90, warped by winds and sinking into the earth.
  • Most Happily Surprising City: Dayton, Ohio.
  • Friendliest Town (and State): Lone Rock, Iowa.
  • Best Local Radio: KOYA, 88.1 FM on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, South Dakota.
  • Best View of the Ocean: the eastern end of Peak’s Island, a ferry ride from Portland, Maine.
  • Most Scenic Drive:US 20 in Wyoming from Shosone to Thermopolis, winding through a narrow canyon and under mountains.
  • Worst Traffic: Massachusetts.
  • State We’d Most Like to Move To: Montana.
  • Best Roadside Attraction: Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska.
  • Lemonade Award: Butte, Montana for turning one of the nation’s largest superfund cleanup sites into a tourist attraction, billed as one of the deepest lakes in the world.
  • Best Corn: Zin’s Restaurant, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Their Elote was amazing.
  • Best Beef: A classic steak at the Peppermill in Valentine, Nebraska.
  • Best Creative Menu: Carpraro’s Restaurant in Hopedale, Ohio. In a town of 900 people, they serve excellent Mexican, Italian and a salad with steak and french fries on top.
  • Best Diner: Bob’s Diner in Brewster, NY.
  • Best Drink: Again, Zin’s Restaurant, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. For their beer with a sausage garnish.

TEAM SOUTH (Florida to California)

  • Most Confusing City Name: Little Rock, Arkansas. It’s all Little, no Rock.
  • Worst River for Tubing: South Llano River, Junction Texas. It can be a painful walk back up.
  • Best Place to Lose $200.00 Playing Poker: Harrah’s in St. Louis, Missouri. The dealers make you feel great about being a loser.
  • Best Local Radio Station: 91X, San Diego.
  • Song We Tried to Hate, But Couldn’t: Call Me, Maybe.
  • Best Beach for a Midnight Swim: Doheny State Beach Dana Point, California. The cops are totally chill clearing you off the beach.
  • Most Depressing Streetlight Poles: East St. Louis, Illinois.
  • Friendliest Town: In Attapulgus, Georgia, strangers will invite you to dinner at their house with their family.
  • Scariest Drive: I-40 in Arizona, where the truckers see monsoons and decide to floor it.
  • Best Greek Food: The Mad Greek Baker, California.
  • Saddest Landmark Full of Broken Dreams: The Walk of Fame, Hollywood.
  • BEST LEMON LANDMARK IN THE WORLD: The Lemon Grove Lemon.
  • Most Annoying Hipsters/Motel Staff: Austin Motel, where you can judge the jerkiness by how thick the black framed glasses are.
  • Official Trip Song: The 50 States Song.
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