Let’s Hit the Road via the Blue Highways

The Great American Road Trip

You know that shivery feeling you get, when it is time to go, and you are wanting to bolt out the door, but you have to check that the stove is turned off, and you’re kind of nervous but you can’t stop smiling? That’s how I feel as I write this.

We are hitting the road for The Great American Road Trip through the United States.

Map of U.S. Routes

Destination: United States on a Road Trip

Book: Blue Highways: A Journey into America
by William Least Heat-Moon

Each Wednesday we will conduct a state by state exploration of travel literature–or literature or movies that make us want to travel to that state. And A Traveler’s Library has teamed up with Music Road so that we’ll have the appropriate music to accompany the trip. At Music Road, Kerry will be posting the Great American Road Trip: Music. As my partner on the road trip, Kerry Dexter, says, “we will experience the landscape of the United States in new ways.”  In words AND music.

I have chosen some of the books and movies from those suggested by readers last year, some will be brand new books, some will be old books from the Traveler’s Library shelf.  If you have suggestions, I’m open.  And if you would like to guest post about a book or movie that represents a state, please drop me a line at vmb at atravelerslibrary dot com.

“…it was only memories of times in strange places where the scent of the unknown is sharp that drew me on to the highway again,”  William Least Heat-Moon writes in  Blue Highways. He is talking about the effect of a stop-off with friends.  He found at times he had trouble staying with his ambitious trip plan of circling of the United States on by-ways–those highways marked in blue on the map. But he was traveling to answer some undefined yearning and to create memories.

Along the way, he collected people’s stories to form those memories. The book is filled with direct quotation and since he mentions that he had a tape recorder along,one hopes that these are not fictionalized conversations.  Heat-Moon captures the regional dialects and the pride of place that every town and county show, no matter how shabby or dilapidated the place.

As a travel writer, I have come to the conclusion that there is no place that is not worth exploring. If at first glance it seems insignificant, you just need to adjust your vision, and listen to what the locals brag about. That makes road trips extremely interesting.  Drive by doesn’t work. It takes stopping along the road to hear those stories.

I believe that Blue Highways struck a chord with people when it came out, and remains on most lists of best travel books because it reflects back for the most part what we see when we look in the mirror.  And the book was an original.  Heat-Moon claims in the epilogue that he started with no knowledge of travel writing, unless you count “Tom Jones, The Odyssey, the Book of Exodus, Robinson Crusoe, the peregrinations of Lemuel Gulliver, Gargantua and Pantagruel and Moby Dick as travel writing.”

Well, yes, Mr. Least Heat-Moon. Here at A Traveler’s Library, we DO count them as travel writing.


Strange Maps Cover

NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS LONG OVER. Here’s the very appropriate Great Big Giveaway prize for the day we begin a virtual road-trip: Strange Maps by Frank Jacobs. The problem is, most of these maps won’t take you anywhere. But if you love maps, you’ve gotta have this book. Honest, I didn’t want to give it away.  See my review here. And for complete contest rules go here. Next week we will give away the grand prizes. Are you ready?

If you love road trips, don’t miss Mc Murtry and Steinbeck, Best American Road Trips, American Fugue, Guide Books for Road Trips.

Now let’s all roll over to Music Road and see what musical treat Kerry Dexter has for us today. Matter of fact, this would be a good time for everybody to subscribe to both Music Roads and A Traveler’s Library, so you don’t miss a stop on the Great American Road Trip.

About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She writes frequently for Reel Life With Jane and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

15 thoughts on “Let’s Hit the Road via the Blue Highways

  1. The blue highways are usually so much more interesting than the interstates. Wouldn’t mind meandering on some via “Strange Maps”, AAA maps or no maps!

  2. Blue Highways: A Journey Into America by William Least Heat-Moon is an ageless, classic travel book. I read it years ago, and I’m bound to read it again since I’m familiar with many of the locales; from living in or near many, and visiting many more.(His tour through Texas is colorful.)

    Heat-Moon’s van has been part of the Smithsonian’s collection for some years now, and he also penned River horse: The Logbook of a Boat Across America.

    Suggestion for film: FANDANGO with Kevin Costner. The script was doctored by a Texas friend (Big Boy Medlin).

    1. Yes, sir. Fandango has gone into my netflix cue and you will be hearing more about it soon. Have you read Heat-Moon’s river book? I read some so-so reviews, so thought I’d pass.

  3. Aaaaah road trips. If only gas weren’t so expensive and global warning weren’t an issue! What will the next generation be like if road trips are obsolete?

    Sorry, just thinking out loud here. You post made me think and wonder.
    .-= Stephanie –

    1. Steph: I think a lot of other ways of travel will be obsolete before road trips. People have been making road trips as long as recorded history–donkeys, horses, feet, bikes, motorcycles, cars. You’ve given me an idea for a post some time about the carbon credits needed for a car trip vs a plane trip for instance.

    1. Careful with those links–you got shunted to the spam folder. Wapsipinicon Almanac is very interesting, but I think we need an Iowa book that is more readily available throughout the country. Suggestions? The schoolhouse looks like a nice retreat.

  4. I read this book when it came out, I was in college. I remember reading in it that my state’s name Illinois came from the roads of the state, they make you ill and annoyed. I’ve driven a lot of those blue highways since then. BTW, I’d love that Strange Maps book. Maybe it points out those annoying roads.

    1. Diana: Thanks for the comment. Please come back and look around some more and stay and comment. If you check that little box on Comment Luv, your comment will feature your last post on pencildancer.com

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