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Old 03-12-2013, 09:36 PM   #11
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Re: Blue Highways

Who knew this was such an erudite group of gear-heads (or wanna-be like me)?

Because I saw this posting a few weeks ago, and had an SMB road trip coming up, I thought "what better time to get it out of the library and read it on the road?". So, this is a big thank you for your perfect timing; this was/is a timeless read. I loved it. One of the best on-the-road reads, since, well, On The Road.

I was very much enjoying the book, up until the part where he describes "Ghost Dancing", and from that point I couldn't put it down. Maybe he's a member here? Have been to a number of the places he'd been, but haven't quite met the array of people he did. From what I can tell he's still in the Columbia, Missouri area, where I'll be visiting in a few weeks, and hope to get a peek at Ghost Dancing, as it is in the University's collection. Maybe I'll check out the brewery too.

Next up: Travels With Charley.

Thanks again guys! Feel free to suggest even more books!
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Old 03-13-2013, 12:50 PM   #12
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Re: Blue Highways

So, what did you learn from reading Blue Highways?

When I first read it I was already shunning Interstates. It seemed to me that every Interstate Highway was interchangeable with next. You get the same plastic diner, the same bored waitress, the same gas station. The secondary roads always seemed to be the real America with real people.

For me, Blue Highways reinforced that idea. And he made me look more closely at the places I visit. I do have to admit that I find it difficult to spend enough time along the way - I'm always looking down the road.

Mike
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Old 03-13-2013, 01:38 PM   #13
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Re: Blue Highways

It isn't so much as learning something, as a reminder that many (most?) interesting things happen on the literal and figurative road less traveled. Nothing against interstates - the main point is to get you from A to B as quickly as possible - but the interesting experiences, and the real journey, occur once you get off it.

To sum it up as concisely as possible and oversimplifying, what I got from it was that: there's no secret answer to life, the universe, and everything (there's always 42 though, of course), but that there's the inevitable forward movement, "progress", and change, with your choice to either fight it, roll with it, or change with it, and if you're lucky, maybe even grow from it.

On the trip we just took we used the interstates of course, but the real fun was getting off, and even impromptu visits to places only because it has a crazy name (like Zzyzx!), just like he did. Now that's fun.

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Old 03-13-2013, 03:38 PM   #14
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Re: Blue Highways

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Originally Posted by Ford_6L_E350
So, what did you learn from reading Blue Highways?

When I first read it I was already shunning Interstates. It seemed to me that every Interstate Highway was interchangeable with next. You get the same plastic diner, the same bored waitress, the same gas station. The secondary roads always seemed to be the real America with real people.

For me, Blue Highways reinforced that idea. And he made me look more closely at the places I visit. I do have to admit that I find it difficult to spend enough time along the way - I'm always looking down the road.

Mike
Well, I'm with you Mike. Also, I learned that I share a kindred spirit with the author. He thinks like me, and like a lot of us. He's frugal, but not overly so. He just likes to do things HIS way, travel his way, eat something better than the shite that America is feeding most of us off the interstate exits, get off the beaten path, etc. He likes to get away from the crowds, but at the same time he likes people and finds their stories very interesting, just not all at the same time. I really liked that he was brave enough to learn about fisherman and islanders by actually GETTING out there among them, instead of watching Deadliest Catch. He's a guy who was in the right place at the right time a lot of times.
I also liked pondering as I read that he is Native American. I'm not sure how Native American he looks, or did when he made this journey, but largely the human race is very racist. We all are, not just in the South where I live, and not even just in America. Everybody likes 'their' people for the most part, so I was impressed how he was able to transcend racial and social boundaries almost everywhere he went. I'm actually surprised it went as well as it did for him back when he made this journey. I suppose he might not have written about every encounter, good or bad, but he seems to have found the good in a lot of rural people.

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Old 03-13-2013, 06:13 PM   #15
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Re: Blue Highways

"Road Fever" by Tim Cahill is a good and quick read, more in the humorous travelog sort of vein, but still good. It's about a drive from Argentina to Alaska trying to set a record. In general I like Cahill's stuff (he used to write regularly for Outside magazine before it became a pseudo-GQ magazine), but if you read too much of his stuff at once he starts to get a little annoying IMO.

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Fever-Tim-Ca ... 0394758374

Another author I really like is John Mcphee. He writes in a narrative journalistic style, kind of hard to describe, but very readable. You learn stuff in his books while also being drawn into the stories. "Coming into the Country" is his classic about Alaska, but a lot of his lesser-known works are pretty cool, too. Check out "Survival of the Birchbark Canoe" for an interesting read, as well as "The Control of Nature."

http://www.amazon.com/John-McPhee/e/B000AQ4582

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Old 03-13-2013, 07:43 PM   #16
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Blue Highways

Nothing wrong with that Brian!
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Old 03-13-2013, 08:25 PM   #17
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Re: Blue Highways

BrianW, thanks for the suggestions. I'm not really familiar with either author but I've now put both on my reading list. Looks like John McPhee wrote a book called "The Pine Barrens". I grew up on the edge of the Pine Barrens, so I think I know which book of his I'll read first!

Another humorous travel/adventure writer: Bill Bryson, especially A Walk In The Woods - nearly pooped my pants a few times from laughter in those early chapters.

As 86Scotty said, nothing wrong with being a book geek (or maybe it was a lit major? ). I'm a recovering engineer trying to see the world outside of 1s and 0s.
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Old 03-13-2013, 09:09 PM   #18
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Blue Highways

Haven't read McPhee in a while but he fits in this mold from an environmental & scientific perspective. Annals of the Former World is a geologic journey across the continent along the 40th parallel. Here's his big quote: "If by some fiat, I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence; this is the one I would choose: the summit of Mount Everest is marine limestone.” Not bad, eh?
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Old 03-14-2013, 07:12 AM   #19
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Re: Blue Highways

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Originally Posted by fancypants
BrianW, thanks for the suggestions. I'm not really familiar with either author but I've now put both on my reading list. Looks like John McPhee wrote a book called "The Pine Barrens". I grew up on the edge of the Pine Barrens, so I think I know which book of his I'll read first!
Yes, "The Pine Barrens" is a good read. Pretty short, too, and a good intro to McPhee. I love the (actual) Pine Barrens, one of my favorite places to go canoeing. Nice that the area is only an hour from my house.

@rionapo, it's funny, but McPhee's geologically oriented books are the only ones that I'm not too fond of. Ones like "Basin and Range," etc. A bit too dense for me, but I'm sure others would be interested in the subject matter, especially if you live out west.

Bill Bryson is another good recommendation. "A Walk in the Woods" is his best known, but some other good titles from him (travel related) include "The lost continent: travels in small town America" and "I'm a stranger here myself: returning to America after 20 years away."

http://www.amazon.com/Bill-Bryson/e/B000APXTVM

Finally, check out Eric Newby. He was an English travel/adventure author that wrote some really cool books, kind of the forerunner to the Bill Bryson and Tim Cahill type of writers. but the difference is that he was both funny, a great writer, and a badass (in that understated English way), having been a commando for England in WWII and having done other "serious" stuff. (See his NYT obit for some interesting reading about how to live a full and interesting life: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/24/obitu ... newby.html) Not really US-related, but good topics. "A short walk in the Hindu Kush" is his best known book about wandering about in Afghanistan. "The last grain race" is pretty interesting, about his apprenticeship on one of the last commercial sailing ships (as an aside, the ship he writes about, the "Moshulu," can be seen docked permanently as you are driving I-95 through Philadelphia).

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=la_B000APEZ ... Eric+Newby
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Old 03-14-2013, 07:31 PM   #20
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Re: Blue Highways

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianW
@rionapo, it's funny, but McPhee's geologically oriented books are the only ones that I'm not too fond of. Ones like "Basin and Range," etc. A bit too dense for me, but I'm sure others would be interested in the subject matter, especially if you live out west.
True enough. I've just had a long-term obsession with understanding geology after almost failing an intro course in college. I live out west and try to understand what made this countryside; sometimes it sticks.

Way off topic but an interesting (to me, at least) geologic tidbit: I was on a walk recently with a geologist looking at formations in NM. Like all good tree huggers, I generally perceive erosion as a no-no. The geologist had a great time with the group as he explained that the landforms that make New Mexico so attractive are primarily the result of erosion caused by the disappearance of the Farallon plate, major subsidence and water channeling its way back down to the Rio Grande. I guess erosion on that scale is OK.
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