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D.C. Wonks Get Out of 'Bubble' on Millennial Trains Project

Courtesy Cameron Hardesty
Hardesty’s “Visual Poetry Project” involved photographing quotes in locations including at “Cloud Gate,” aka “The Bean,” in Chicago.

He now aims to electrify the energy community by creating an ever-evolving map plotting where rising stars are located and what they are working on. “I don’t want this to be a flash in the pan,” he said of his prospective coalition-building tool.

His favorite part of the trip?

That MTP didn’t attempt to indoctrinate anyone as part of the program. “They’re providing a space for people to be entrepreneurial ... an open, unique space. There’s no ideology attached to it,” Stepp asserted.

His second favorite thing?

“There were significantly long periods where I wasn’t constantly checking email,” Stepp said.

Picture Her Rolling

Cameron Hardesty thought she had a pretty good idea of what she wanted to accomplish with her “Visual Poetry Project” before stepping on the train.

But as each glorious stop unfurled before her, the digital strategist for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said she wished she’d built more downtime into her tightly packed agenda.

“The train felt like a cruise ship on the high seas — you look out the window and see a vastness you can’t go out and touch. It’s very beautiful, but it also reminds you that you’re isolated from the rest of the world, and that gives you license to focus on what’s happening a few feet in front of you, right now,” she posited. “That was very liberating.”

The aspiring poetess (you can see more about her life’s passion on her personal Tumblr) became swept up in emotion each time she disembarked: swooning from sheer exhaustion and pure ecstasy after a pre-dawn photo shoot with her father on the visually striking salt flats outside Salt Lake City; bubbling up with pride after introducing skater punks (“I had them reading poetry out by the grain silos three days before school started!”) in Omaha, Neb., to the mesmerizing power of verse; and marveling at the power of networking after a new acquaintance salvaged her wavering plan to shoot in every sports stadium she could find by securing admittance for Hardesty to the Colorado Rockies’ facility.

While she still had to wrestle with the same inner demons (“self-doubt and inertia”) that constantly threaten to derail her lifelong dreams, Hardesty said getting away from it all helped replenish her intellectual toolbox.

“You can create your own reality, but you have to define what you want first,” she said, citing one invaluable lesson learned.

Hardesty plans to apply that knowledge moving forward, mapping out plans to continue doing photo shoots in D.C. and North Carolina in the near term, while pursuing plans to arrange a full-fledged show of her artistic endeavors somewhere around town — an open space on H Street Northeast remains a prime contender — later this fall.

Then again, she sounds like she’d gladly put all that on hold if given another ticket to ride.

“I wish I could do it full time,” Hardesty said of the transformative MTP trek. “It would be cool to explore different projects on each route.”

Straus said the next MTP voyage is scheduled for March 2014; that journey will usher travelers from Los Angeles to Miami via a southern route, slicing through swaths of Arizona, Texas and Louisiana.

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