Blue Highways: A Journey into America

Blue Highways: A Journey into America

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Blue Highways: A Journey into America 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon is a wonderfully written recollection of a cross-country adventure taken by the author. Armed only with his van (ghost dancing), his 'desperate sense of isolation' and longing to leave his present situation, he sets out across the country traveling only on rural state and county roads, which are marked in blue on his old atlas (5). Heat-Moon describes an America, which travelers rarely see from the many interstates that now crisscross the country. His detailed account of the journey, and the many people he interacts with gives the reader insight into the character of the American people. He meets people of various backgrounds and culture, learning something from each, and describes the passing landscape painting a picture as clear as if the reader was sitting in the passengers seat. His journey begins and ends in his home state of Missouri, taking him in a circular path around the country. This circular journey 'represents the direction of natural forces', according to the Plains Indians (418). With each new route, and each new town Heat-Moon is able to capture the essence of the America not yet commercialized. He meets Bob Androit, who is restoring a nineteenth century log cabin. Heat-Moon envied the fact that Androit was 'rebuilding a past he could see and smell, one he could shape with his hands' (14). He also meets Bill Hammond and his wife Rosemary, who are building a boat the author spied from the road. 'You'll walk off before I get tired of talking boats' was Hammond's response once he realized Heat-Moon wanted to talk about the boat. Through the people he meets, the author gets a feel for the changes in character, attitude, and dialect, as he moves across the country and is able to present this well on paper. When asked where he is headed next by storeowner J.T. Watts, the author responds, 'I don't know' to which Watts adds, 'cain't get lost then' (35). This book is loaded with dialogue, which is the fabric of the journey, for without the stories of the characters he meets the book is simply a description of the changing landscape and the roads he travels. Heat-Moon's conversations with the many people he interacted with were not degrading and pompous, but were informative and witty. The author's ability to weave comedy and light hearted jabs into conversation with locals added a great deal to the readability of the book. He describes a gas station attendant as 'a surly fellow who could have raised mushrooms in the organic decay of his front teeth' (243). Humorous reoccurring themes carry throughout the novel such as his rating system for diners in which the number of calendars hanging about determines the quality of the diner, and the newspaper headlines he envisions when in certain situations such as 'Drifter Blown Away In Bar' during an evening spent in a Dime box, Texas bar (267). Heat-Moon is mostly a listener and an observer who lets the people tell their stories. Throughout the book are photographs of the people who Heat-Moon has had the most engaging conversations with. This adds reality to the journey, and is a reminder that these are real people, with true stories. Recounting his journey Heat-Moon says ' In my own country, I had gone out, had met, had shared. I had stood witness' (406). Heat-Moon is able to recount his journey in such a creative way and take the reader with him.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I stumbled across a used Hardcover edition while visiting a friend in Pennsylvania. This is one of my all time favorite books! I used to love traveling across the country alone exploring new places, so this book fit me perfectly! A must have for anyone who loves cross-country traveling!!!!
AnnieBM More than 1 year ago
This book is a bit dated but still a pleasure to read and perhaps more important because it is dated. It is a good piece for reflection in these tough and trying times. William Least Heat-Moon paints with his words the journey in his van across much of the USA when small towns and little known roads could still be found. These are places that hold on to their own local feeling, still connected to past history that is also personal. Great contribution to Americanbilia. I recommend reading it slowly over days, weeks even -- let it steep and sink in.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In William Least Heat-Moon¿s Blue Highways, he tells his personal experience of his travels across the country. He feels his life is turned upside down and he needs to escape it. Taking his van, Ghost Dancing, for the ride, he has the adventure of a lifetime. He comes to points in his journey where life is more exciting than others, and places where the wind never blows. Overall, he meets several people on his way across the country and stays in several towns. He learns the variety of ways god is believed in, the history of flying, and the way that¿s several of the towns he visits was started. If you like to read about other peoples travels, than I suggest this book to you. It will be hard to find at a local library, but it can be found. The author goes into detail on several different points and is very organized. He tells the story just as it seemed to happen and doesn¿t confuse the reader one bit. This story is very educational and leaves the reader with the want to travel the country, as did the author of this book.
HillaryPlatte More than 1 year ago
I think it was page 40 or so, where the narrator is just having some pedestrian conversation with some random stranger, where I realized "Hey, there's NOTHING going on in this book! ...But I like it anyway." That's the draw of Heat-Moon's descriptive style - he doesn't try too hard to share insights about everything, or focus too much on himself - he's just there to help you enjoy the ride. Not every part is exciting, but not every part of life - and the backroads of America - is exciting.
LongBoardBergman More than 1 year ago
William Least Heat-Moon is a man who lived in Columbia, Missouri and is an English professor. Over the course of a single month, he loses both his wife and his job. He decides to try and turn around his life by driving across America on all the blue highways or routes marked blue on a road map. He drives a small Ford van which he converted into a small camper, and sets off on his journey with six gas credit cards and the remainder of his savings account. On his journey he meets people and places that seem to be stuck in time. He discovers places that have deep roots in the history of America. He learns where go to and where to not go on his road trip. He recalls meeting many people he would never introduce himself to if he hadn't been on the trip. Throughout his trip he meets great people who invite him in for great pie, or just a good conversation. This is a great book to read for anyone who loves down to earth writing. I received this book for my birthday and I loved it. The imagery makes you think about the more simple times in life and makes you reminisce about times when you felt free. While a little slow in some spots, the book is a joy to read. Heat-Moon has a distinct style of writing that puts you in the story so close you can almost feel the wind in your hair. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a great American story, or just a great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Heat-Moon's Blue Highways is a view into America that few have seen. In this book he is completely focused and the writing is reflective of that. He has clearly had the first person experience that allows him to tell the stories of the people he meets in the way that is almost like fiction. The dialog is excellent and Heat-Moon uses excellent descriptive language when he is in the back woods of Louisiana, he makes the reader feel as though they are in the river valley eating fried chicken. The mood changes by state and his feelings. When Heat-Moon gets a cold the book drags and when its cold the writing is fast and accurate as if it had been sharpened. The shear task of driving around the country is an undertaking most mortals wouldn't think of attempting especially on the slow back roads, but Heat-Moon has given the country a gift with his entertaining account of the people and places that he encounters on his captivating journey. In the end Blue Highways is an excellent book and worth your time and could be considered one of the finest travel guides ever!
nprfan1 More than 1 year ago
A little over twenty-five years ago William Trogden, who took the name of his Native American ancestors and called himself William Least Heat Moon, set out on a journey across America in what was basically the ancestor of the modern SUV, a small truck which he named Ghost Dancing.

Initially he did this because he had lost his job and his wife in the space of a month, but his journey turned into much more than just an attempt to forget. It became a classic search for and journey into the heart of the country.

This is not a trip into the weirdness of America, although Least Heat Moon encounters plenty of strange sites and people on his journey. It is more of a trip into the heart and soul of the country - figuratively as well as literally. There have been many books written over the years about people leaving home to find America, but even after twenty-five years this is still one of the best such books ever written.

My only complaint is that he quotes Walt Whitman a little too much. I can understand his references to Black Elk, given his background and ancestry, but his overuse of Whitman is a bit jarring at times. But if you work around the Whitman quotes you will love your journey across America's blue highways with William Least Heat Moon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book! I've been to some of these areas and found the descriptions to be accurate. I enjoyed the descriptive writing and his sense of humor. I highly recommend both bok and activity (getting off the Interstates) to get to know our country.
whitreidtan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After losing his job and having his marriage crumble, Least Heat Moon sets off on a journey around the country, traveling slowly, along blue highways (state and local routes marked in blue on his maps), meeting the people and examining the small, forgotten places along these back roads. He drives around in a converted van he names Ghost Dancer but rather than have adventures, there's a sort of dreamy, wandering pace to his travels and his narrative. He never mocks the people he meets, listening to their thoughts and opinions respectfully, chronicalling a fast disappearing way of life.The narrative, as would seem appropriate, is loaded with descriptions of the areas in which he is driving so the reader sees the shift in the physical landscape as Least Heat Moon loops around the country. There is also very much a personal, introspective theme running through the pages. Least Heat Moon interweaves his own Native American heritage and beliefs throughout his chronicle as well as calling attention periodically to history, both recent (at least recent at the time of his journey--1970's) and centuries past. The writing is as meandering as the trip and if the reader is in the proper frame of mind, this works. But be forewarned that only the trip itself, both physical and of self-discovery unite the various chapters. This is a quiet, contemplative sort of book but it resonates deeply long after the last page has been turned.
AdonisGuilfoyle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For armchair tourists like myself, who prefer reading to travelling, William Least Heat-Moon is the perfect tour guide to late 1970s America. Part travelogue, part journey of self-discovery, Heat-Moon set off one day in his campervan - a 'self-propelled box' he calls 'Ghost Dancing' - to drive around the 'blue highways', or b-roads, of America, meeting a host of wacky characters along the way. Really, without photographic evidence of some of the people he strikes up conversations with, I would have my doubts about the authenticity of his anecdotes! My favourites are the droll Carolina deputy - 'Garrantee one thing, Wim. This boy wouldn't sleep up here mongst the whangdoodles withouten his peace of mind' - the two women running a cafe on a bombing range in Nevada, the disgruntled husband in Hat Creek, California, and the eighty year old keeper of local history on Smith Island, Maryland. Sometimes, fact is stranger than fiction!Heat-Moon, on his circular journey of 'emergence' around the States - taking in places with odd names from the east, south, west and north of the country - is a friendly and instructive combination of Bill Bryson and John Steinbeck. In between random dialogues with strangers, Heat-Moon is full of insightful and lyrical descriptions of his homeland. I also love his turn of phrase, from 'the expression of a man pulling on wet swimming trunks' (think about it) to the 'texturised substitute in polystyrene sarcophagus' he was forced to eat in a fast food outlet. People, places and poetic imagery, all in one entertaining guide (could have done with less Walt Whitman quotes, though).Not only has Blue Highways left me hungry for more travelogues - perhaps Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - but I am also tempted to start reading about the history of America, which hopefully survives in books where shopping malls and parking lots have destroyed the living evidence in real life.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this back in the early eighties and immediately added it to my favorite reads of all time list. Now, after completing my first reread, I would have to say that this remains a favorite. Pretty good book if it hangs in there almost thirty years later.Heat-Moon travels America after losing his job and his wife in rapid succession. He takes to the blue highways, the roads on the map where few travel. He finds, for the most part, that solace and quiet companionship and time for reflection that he sought.
bookblotter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love traveling/exploring the back roads by car (sorry about all the petroleum). For me, this is the quintessential back road book. Wonderful, wonderful.
Oreillynsf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
You never forget your first travelogue, and this was mine. It was the start of a passion that stays with me to this day, 20idon'twantottalkaboutit years later. Every couple of years I return to this marvelous book and see new things in the ideas and text. The author's personal honesty impresses me every time I read it, as does his profound respect for other people - from whatever walk of like. It was also the first book I read from an American Indian perspective, and his gentle (and not so gentle) illumination of cultural and historical issues also has had a lasting impact on me. Definitely absitively pick this up.
bookworm12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a sucker for travel memoirs. I just love hearing about the author's trip and the people they meet along the way. But a travel memoir is only as good as the author's writing and this one is wonderful. It reminded me a lot of Steinbeck's Travels With Charley. Heat-Moon loses his job as a professor and separates from his wife. These two events motivate him to take a van and drive around the entire country. He tries to stick to the back roads instead of the interstates. He is truly gifted at describing people. This is just one example,"Alice was one of those octogenarians who make old age look like something you don't want to miss." I love that! On his journey he visits towns where racism sits just below the surface, kindness spills out onto the sidewalks, mosquito swarm, fisherman swear and there's no shortage of delicious food. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the amazing Frank Muller, but had a hard copy I flipped through while listening because it included maps and photos of the people he met. I would recommend doing the same if you listen to it.
dele2451 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good look at the America and Americans we all believe are still out there, but we rarely get to see. Be warned though, this book is sure to get you thinking about chucking everything and hopping in your own vehicle to hit the open road.
phlegmmy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I read it when it was first published, then again last year. It's the kind of book you annoy the person you are with by saying, "Listen to this" and then reading them a passage. I did this over and over with my husband. To me that is the sign of a great book, when you can't contain yourself from sharing it. We have even added the term "blue higway" to our vocabulary, referring to a back roads kind of trip as the "blue highway route."
yapete on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Classic road trip literature. A pleasure to read. A journey through small-town America with authentic characters.
NellieMc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Engrossing account of a trip on the back roads of America in the 80's (highways marked in blue on road maps). Ran into an amazing number of philosophers, so somewhat suspect that he might have put some words in other people, but in the end didn't really matter--a lot to thing about and chew over.
r.j.nichols on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For me, this is one of two books that came with a very late sort of coming of age for me. Recommended by a mentor (along with Kerouac's "On the Road"), this was one of those books that came along at just the right time for me. But more importantly, it was good to find someone else who loves the backroad, someone for whom the American road (and the road novel) was both escape and the road home.
fbrusca on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I stumbled onto this book in 1983 when a mail order book club suggested it. The book sounded interesting and I was game, so I accepted the suggestion. When the book arrived, I was not prepared for the reading experience that awaited me. I read it cover to cover in one evening ¿ quite a feat given my then history of bad reading habits. Heat-Moon¿s American odyssey is a modern day Huckleberry Finn adventure, hypnotic and illuminating. Throughout the book I imagined myself riding along in his Ford Econoline van taking in the voyage, dining at mom and pop eateries, meeting odd and interesting folks along America¿s backwater roads and experiencing our nation¿s landscapes. I have read Blue Highways perhaps a dozen times and each reading provides me with more enjoyment and rewards. This is a must-read for anyone interested in landscape studies, automobile travel or American popular culture.
arelenriel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best travelogues written since Mark Twains, Roughing It. Least-Heat-Moon shows how one man can sucessfully work through his mid-life crisis without becoming a substance abuser, or spending a fortune on toys he does not need. His book is informative and witty and shows the uniqueness of rural life in the United States as long as one stays away from the main roads and their cookie cutter layouts. My father gave this book to me when I was 18 and I have loved it ever since.
KarenEvans More than 1 year ago
There are different books to read during different seasons; I read a lot of travel memoirs in the summer and this one was a masterpiece! Bill’s wife leaves him and he loses his job as an English professor around the same time so he decides to take off alone on a road trip around America following what he calls the “blue highways”, roads that are blue on an atlas or essentially country highways. He avoids all expressways. Along the way he meets a host of interesting characters and documents his conversations with them and discusses the various restaurants where he dines; he determined that the more calendars a diner has, the better the food. Whenever I read during quiet time at the daycare, my students always excitedly ask me what is happening in my book. Unfortunately, they got a bit sick of me telling them that Bill was eating again, although I loved his descriptions of diner grub. His visit to a monastery was my favorite section of the book as he documented his conversation with a monk asking him about why he chose that lifestyle. I have an interest in stepping into other people’s shoes and seeing how people live differently in various communities so I found it fascinating. I think this curiosity is one reason I moved to country; I had never lived in the country before.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The notion behind the book Blue Highways lies within self-discovery. The man behind the autobiography, William Heat-Moon, decided his everyday life didn’t have the appeal he was looking for. He left behind his day job, neighbors and acquaintances, and took to the rode in his 70’s Chevy van. With everything he didn’t want to leave behind, he hit all the back roads throughout the United States, staying off of main highways and taking state highways all over the country. His desire was simple; come full circle from where he would start.  William believed there was more to life than the early rise, 9-5 workday that had little meaning to life. He didn’t have many people to lean back on, so he could either let himself fall apart, or try and find new meaning in life. Although he doesn’t have any idea of what to look for on his journey, he takes a step in hopes that he can learn not only some things about other people, but also about what he is looking for in the last half of his life. He makes references to his favorite books that had quotes to help him wrestle negative emotion. On his country loop, William discovers that there are so many types of people and so many ways to live that he forgets his own sorrows in order to keep up with new people that he meets. From people dealing with racial tension in the South, to the far northwestern areas where people are looking for warmer clothes, William discovers it all in his journey that is equivalent to half of the circumference of the earth.  While reading, I noticed how easily the storyline ran. Heat-Moon tells the story in first person narrative style writing, which led to very detailed thoughts and stories. This also helped to show how other people that he met along his trip felt about certain topics, involving religion, race, and gender equality. No matter how they spoke, William would write word for word what his new acquaintances would say about a topic. Many times I was amazed that certain people talked the way they do, but I remembered the time period the book took place in and it wasn’t so out of the norm then.  There wasn’t much I didn’t like about this book. I chose to read it because I love adventure books, and this one was no different. William did go into a lot of detail in some places of the book that may not have needed so much detail, but other than that I fully enjoyed reading this book. I would recommend it to anyone who likes a narrative style adventure story with a touch of irony and humor. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago