Blue Highways: A Journey into America

Blue Highways: A Journey into AmericaHailed As A Masterpiece Of American Travel Writing, Blue Highways Is An Unforgettable Journey Along Our Nation S BackroadsWilliam Least Heat Moon Set Out With Little Than The Need To Put Home Behind Him And A Sense Of Curiosity About Those Little Towns That Get On The Map If They Get On At All Only Because Some Cartographer Has A Blank Space To Fill Remote, Oregon Simplicity, Virginia New Freedom, Pennsylvania New Hope, Tennessee Why, Arizona Whynot, Mississippi His Adventures, His Discoveries, And His Recollections Of The Extraordinary People He Encountered Along The Way Amount To A Revelation Of The True American Experience FRANKFORT is a tale of two cities Once the citizens called it Frank s Ford after Stephen Frank, a pioneer killed by Indians in 1780 near a shallow crossing in the Kentucky River A traveler coming from the west sees no hint of the town because the highway abruptly angles down a bluff into a deep, encircled river valley that conceals even the high dome of the capitol If you re ever looking for the most hidden statehouse in America, look no further than Frankfort.Blue Highways is a 1979 travelogue penned by William Least Heat Moon A Vietnam vet and Native American, Heat Moon details his four month driving trip through the backwaters of America He starts the book heading out east from his home in Missouri He drives and sleeps in his 1975 Ford Econo line van Once he makes it to Virginia he drives clockwise around the rough border of the lower 48.This is about as good as road trip travelogues get It is a series of daily vignettes remarkably absent of self indulgence, a hard thing to steer clear of in a memoir His stories feel a little dated not because of the writing but because the country has after all changed quite a bit in the past forty years When Heat Moon writes about the landscapes his writing is very captivating The humor in the book comes infrequently so the book feels serious but rarely pretentious The history of various towns when he chooses to write about them is also top notch Heat Moon does spend time than I would have liked writing about the random people he meets along the way The interactions some times are only a few minutes while others might be hours Some are memorable, some are just sad Here is one of the memorable interactions with the country bumpkins Govnor comes out and shoots you personally if you say against tobacco in this state I smoked thirty odd years Did my duty and got a right to talk Truth is you cain t buy a real, true cigarette anys That s why they name them that way tryin to convince you what ain t there Real True Nothin to it They cut them long, they cut them skinny, they paint them red and green and stuff them with menthol and camphor and eucalyptus What the hell, they s makin toys I ll lay you one of them bright leaf boys up in Winston Salem is drawin up a cigarette you gotta plug in the wall Nosir, your timber s comin down to make toys You don t smoke now Why smoke what s no taste to it Same as them light beers and whiskies no flavor Americans have just got afraid to taste anything 4 stars Very good read The whole idea of driving around the country via the blue highways in combination with Heat Moon s descriptive writing, when he chooses to do so, is pretty near a 5 star combination The book did drag on in a few spots where nothing terribly interesting was happening on his journey. I started this book about a month ago and tried to fit it into a hectic schedule This weekend I decided to give it a serious go and see where it would end up.The author decided to do a circle route of America when his life was destined to fall apart He lost his job and his marriage was in trouble Broke both in wallet and heart, he started putting together the trip he wanted to do for several years He always wondered whether he could cross the United States by auto without ever using a federal highway In his atlas he followed the back roads, those off the beaten tracks printed in blue.In the spring of 1978 he set out and traveledas long as money, gumption, and the capacity to fend of desolationwould hold up Fourteen thousand miles, it turned out to be He wished for the road to lead him to a new life, one that did not daily promise him fruit of his failures I had no idea whether people in rural America would open up to an intinerant, a fellow lost than otherwise Wouldn t their suspicions of a bearded stranger stifle any attemps to talk with them about their lives I had not then heard novelist John Irving s assertion that there are, at the of heart of things, only two plots, two stories a stranger rides into town, a stranger rides out of town Without knowing it, I had a chance for both He would remember the lines from a Navajo Wind Chant Then he was told Remember what you have seen,because everything forgottenreturns to the circling winds Several reasons drove me to buy this book My very first interest in the faraway America started when an American friend subscribed me to the Countrymagazine That was many years ago What a revelation For fiteen years I kept the subsription going, totally in love with a fascinating country and its people, which I would never experience in its entirety Then another American friend sent me her old copy of Peter Jenkins bookA Walk Across Americaand I followed the author s route in total awe It took some effort to find his other bookLooking for AlaskaThe day it was delivered, was one of the best ever It did not take long to discover the British comedian Billy Conolly s rendition of Route 66 as a television series It just got better and better.So when I found William Heat Moon s book,Blue Highways on GR, I was mentally and emotionally packing my bags for another imaginary trip through a country of dreams The distance of the circular trip would encompass the equivalent to half the circumference of the earth I will never see it, I know But with the help of Google and maps, I was able to virtually drive the few thousand miles with William Least Heat Moon in his delivery truck called Ghost Dancing My wife, a woman of striking mixed blood feautures, came from the Cherokee Our battles, my Cherokee and I, we called the Indian wars For these reasons I named my truck Ghost Dancing, a heavy handed symbol alluding to ceremonies of the 1890s in which the Plains Indians, wearing cloth shirts they believed rendered them indestructible, danced for the return of warriors, bison, and the fervor of the old life that would sweep away the new Ghost dancers, desperate resurrection rituals, were the dying rattles of a people whose last defense was delusion about all that remained to them in their futility His pseudonym has a charm of its own William Least Heat Moon, byname of William Trogdon is an American travel writer of English, Irish and Osage Nation ancestry He is the author of a bestselling trilogy of topographical U.S travel writing.His pen name came from his father saying,I call myself Heat Moon, your elder brother is Little Heat Moon You, coming last, therefore, are Least The author s love affair with English ensured that this book would become the voice of Americans in literary form With his Ph.D in English, and also serving as a professor, he had the knowledge, experience and curiosity to turn an ordinary travelogue into a travel masterpiece To the Siouan peoples, the Moon of heat was the seventh month, a time also known as the Blood Moon William Heat Moon had seen thirty eight Blood Moons during his lifetime His age carried its own madness and futility.He aimed to visit those towns thatget on the map if they get on at all only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill Remote, Oregon Simplicity, Virginia New Freedom, Pennsylvania New Hope, Tennessee Why, Arizona Whynot, Mississippi Many people would open up their lives and homes for him and with an ease in the art of interviewing people, his ability to portray their history, way of life and language onto paper, he brought a country alive that is not so visible to the naked, and unsuspecting eye With the addition of well research history notes, the book becomes much than a travelogue, or only a personal journey in which he hoped to find himself and his future It becomes a masterpiece of American society with the spotlight switched on brightly It is one of the best travel books I have read so far Another firm favorite of mine in the travel genre isThe Devil s Cup A History of the World According to Coffeeby Stewart Lee Allen I actually reread this book in between, after having a very lively discussion of it last week with a guest So it was a period of mental travelling for me these past few weeks Nothing beats a well written travel journal, at least for me I guess it is that instinct in all of us to visit distant shores It feeds our instinct, our curiosity, our dreams Blue Highways has become my second favorite This book illustrates so well that the journey beats the destination hands down.Since its first publication date in 1982, it has appeared on the New York Best Seller s list for several weeks, and have been reprinted several times This alone, should convince the readers of history and travel genres to try it.In 2012 a new book was publishedBLUE HIGHWAYS Revisitedby Edgar I Ailor, Edgar I Ailor IV Photographer , William Least Heat Moon Foreword , Edgar I Ailor, Edgar I Ailor Photographs The author and his son revisited all the places and compiled a photographic memory of all the people and the towns.A video of an interview with William Least Heat Moon, as well as some photographic footage of the above mentioned book is available on Youtube Blue Highways Audiobook free copy Even though written almost forty years ago now this is still an awe inspiring travelogue We are taken through the backroads of rural Americana as the author travels in his small van going through towns with odd names He chats up a wide range of folks a poor wandering Bible thumper, a barber, a retired teacher, farmers, activists He captures their integrity, humor, and eccentricities and sometimes just the fact that some are simply obnoxious.I confess that maybe because I am somewhat older now, I would never venture into some of the bars taverns that the author dropped into meeting some of the less savoury local denizens.I also wonder how many of these little towns and businesses still exist today and if they have been laid by the wayside by the various drug epidemics that have ravaged the rural U.S since the 1980 s.This is a wonderful read a life journey of a road trip with philosophical musings.A favourite quote page 397 from a retired school teacher Alice Venable Middleton in Maryland Having the gumption to live different and the sense to let everybody else live different That s the hardest thing hands down. I came across this on goodreads,and given my fondness for travel books,and the positive reviews,bought it.I was under the impression that I was in for a treat,as this is supposedly a travel classic.I was in for a disappointment.It is dull and dry.It is over 400 pages,and I have just made it to 150.It is quite a slog.Will update the review,if I ever manage to finish it.One thing is for sure,William Least Heat Moon the author ,is no Bill Bryson or Michael Palin. the classic hippie travel tale of a shrinking rural america, far from feeling dated blue highways seems to become and relevant with each passing generation heat moon a professor at my college, the university of missouri, in the 80s when i was a student traveled the country in the 1970s taking only the blue highways of his antique road map the non interstate back roads, that is what he found was a cultural america rapidly disappearing, being replaced with the ka chings of a million mcdonald s and wal marts even then an important book, one worth reading, that happens to be wickedly funny at points too. On the old highway maps of America, the main routes were red and the back roads blue Now even the colors are changing But in those brevities just before dawn and a little after dusk times neither day nor night the old roads return to the sky some of its color Then, in truth, they carry a mysterious cast of blue, and it s that time when the pull of the blue highway is strongest, when the open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself. p 1 I love open road books I can t help it But then, I also love the open road, so it makes sense that I d be drawn to books like these I ve spent the better part of an hour with my mom searching for O Henry s grave in Asheville, North Carolina, finding, accidentally, Thomas Wolfe s grave as well I ve been dog sledding in Alaska with my mom and her sister I once got stranded at the Heartbreak Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee and probably questionably got a ride back to my dad s office by a young shuttle driver named Sam I once woke up in the car with my family in Utah on my oldest brother s birthday, with the sun coming up behind us, making the cliffside wall in front of us turn pink I ve had a variety of different kinds of fish fries in Wisconsin with my grandparents over the years.I ve wanted to read this book for a long time The author is from the same town in Missouri that I am from, and this book has forever been recommended to me I couldn t get through the first couple pages the few times I tried reading it in the past, but looking back I think the reason was I wanted to get out of Columbia, Missouri so much at that time that reading a book that was so closely related with the town was too much for me I needed to put a few hundred miles between me and Columbia before I could really feel comfortable having anything to do with the town again, including reading authors from there It may be silly to most people, but I really hated it there.But I ve been away over a decade now, a safe enough distance While I have no desire to go back, the few mentions in this book to Columbia and its immediate surroundings actually gave me an Aww, I know what he s talking about feeling But than that, I could relate to Least Heat Moon s need for the open road.After some pretty life changing moments, Least Heat Moon hit the road to circuit the United States He wanted to stick to the blue highways , the back roads that used to be blue lines on old highway maps Along the way he met several people, many of whom are described in detail here, including their conversations I ve seen a few reviews that complain that there is not much difference in the way people talk in the different places Least Heat Moon stopped Maybe those reviewers haven t been to small towns throughout the country, but in reality there s not always a lot of change Small towns are pretty similar all over the country, whether you re in the south, the north, the west, or the east.There s some tedium here, which I think is unavoidable The open road, for all of its adventures and excitement, can become tedious Life can become stale I say this without having done a full circuit of America as Least Heat Moon did, so I cannot even imagine how stale life might have been for him This was before iPhones and iPads and portable DVD players He was on the road with his vehicle, Ghost Dancing, with 1 sleeping bag and blanket 1 Coleman cooler empty but for a can of chopped liver a friend had given me so there would always be something to eat 1 Rubbermaid basin and a plastic gallon jug the sink 1 Sears, Roebuck portable toilet 1 Optimus 8R white gas cook stove hardly bigger than a can of beans 1 knapsack of utensils, a pot, a skillet 1 U.S Navy seabag of clothes 1 tool kit 1 satchel of notebooks, pens, road atlas, and a microcassette recorder 2 Nikon F2 35 mm cameras and five lenses 2 vade mecums Whitman s Leaves of Grass and Neihardt s Black Elk Speaks p 9 I can say with certainty that two books would not be enough for me on a trip around the country Hell, two books are not enough for quick weekends to Balti.This makes me want to travel I loved the characters Least Heat Moon met along the way, and how he got a little something out of all of those interactions He wanted to hit as many strangely named out of the way towns as he could Nameless, Tennessee Dime Box, Texas, etc , and he tried to learn the different histories of the people and the towns he encountered Most people don t have the patience to do things like that Most people don t even like to leave the safety, the certainty of the interstate Most people like the comfort of corporate gas stations and fast food chains I admire Least Heat Moon for having standards enough to try to find the best possible diners in the country and never going through a drive thru.It s summer now In the past our family used to take trips, usually in August The five of us cramped in a small Nissan, three of us in the backseat, all legs and elbows, me always sitting in the middle It was claustrophobic to be sure There were fights and arguments and many tears, but I have to admit I miss those trips Falling asleep on my brothers shoulders, flashlight batteries dying and trying to read by the lights of the cars behind us, and just experiencing the country even on small trips to the best of our ability with a limited income Now that we re all growed up, we ll never have those moments again But reading books like these sort of brings it back to me. Author Bill Trogden Least Heat Moon travels across America in the 1980s, travelling via the highways marked in blue on the map These smaller roards take him into out of the way communities far away from the interstates This is a really fascinating read, giving you a look at bits and pieces of America from North to South and East to West I imagine much of it has since vanished The travelogue is skillfully interspersed with Trogden s own personal struggles he decides to take the trip because his marriage and job are in the pits, and as he travels America he comes to grips with his own inner world as well Best piece of travel writing I ve ever read, and one of the best things I read in college. I feel awfully guilty not taking the time to give back to this book what it gave to me its carefully shaped and caressed words of observation and wisdom It deserves much , but, like Heat Moon, I am on my own journey right now, writing my own inner book In it, he sets out in a spartan van named Ghost Dancing, roughly following the blue highways the most rural of rural roads along the entire border of the Lower 48 to discover himself, the country, or, whatever, after losing his job and his marriage Heat Moon encounters people and places in America clinging to fast disappearing ways and attitudes of life As a document of this transition taking place three decades ago, the book is invaluable The end result is the best travel memoir I ve ever read, rich in detail and soulfulness I took it slowly and in its own spirit, sipping and nibbling at it for a whole month and chewing lazily to taste it fully In the same way that some people read the Bible almost exclusively, I think, were I to have only one book to re read over and over on a desert island, this could easily be that book Maybe someday once the immediate concerns of my practical life are settled I ll dig into my notes and provide a review that captures the flavor and strengths of this special work. Blue HighwaysWilliam Least Heat Moon is a delight to read just crack open the door and slide into shotgun position and GO The road trip with the author, his philosophizing all the while, with spontaneity leading the way reminded me of my people When the air in our home crackled and a change was needed, my parents both loved a ride Us kids were tucked in the back no seat belts to constrain us in a station wagon that had its own pasture and every one could do the ride in their own kind of quiet Or not Maybe it was a conversation without seeing faces But most often it was the blessing of a change of focus, a change of mind So lovely Listening from place to place with WLHM, it was comfortable and freeing, regardless of the chore I was doing My mind s eye was right there with him due to his skillful wordsmithing and artistry of description.Having listened to the book, I m now on the hunt for a hard copy I heard many quotable bits than GR has in its quotes database I laughed out loud on numerous occasions and a few scraps of memory and talk moved me to misty, and I didn t find those available to like It s interesting to me how much a reader can learn about the author from what they focus on, and what they don t., what they offer to the reader for consideration, and when.you learn far about the writer than you do the story, narrative or characters I lived in the days and many of the places traveled through and it amazed me how familiar it felt genuine authenticity sitting there I m 5 starring here, just thinking about it.

wikipedia William Least Heat Moon, byname of William Trogdon is an American travel writer of English, Irish and Osage Nation ancestry He is the author of a bestselling trilogy of topographical U.S travel writing.His pen name came from his father saying, I call myself Heat Moon, your elder brother is Little Heat Moon You, coming last, therefore, are Least Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Heat Moon attended the University of Missouri where he earned bachelor s, master s, and Ph.D degrees in English, as well as a bachelor s degree in photojournalism He also served as a professor of English at the university.

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  • Blue Highways: A Journey into America
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  • 12 September 2019

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