William Least Heat-Moon (2008)
|Author||William Least Heat-Moon|
Blue Highways is an autobiographical travel book, published in 1982, by William Least Heat-Moon, born William Trogdon.
In 1978, after separating from his wife and losing his job as a teacher, Heat-Moon, 38 at the time, took an extended road trip in a circular route around the United States, sticking to only the "Blue Highways". He had coined the term to refer to small, forgotten, out-of-the-way roads connecting rural America (which were drawn in blue on the old style Rand McNally road atlas).
He outfitted his van with a bunk, a camping stove, a portable toilet and a copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass and John Neihardt's Black Elk Speaks. Referring to the Native American resurrection ritual, he named the van "Ghost Dancing", and embarked on a three-month soul-searching tour of the United States, wandering from small town to small town, stopping often at towns with interesting names. The book chronicles the 13,000-mile journey and the people he meets along the way, as he steers clear of cities and interstates, avoiding fast food and exploring local American culture.
Stories that arose from Least Heat-Moon's research as well as historical facts are included about each area visited, as well as conversations with characters such as a born-again Christian hitchhiker, a teenage runaway, a boat builder, a monk, an Appalachian log cabin restorer, a rural Nevada prostitute, fishermen, a Hopi Native American medical student, owners of western saloons and remote country stores, a maple syrup farmer, and Chesapeake Bay island dwellers.
Blue Highways was on the New York Times bestseller list for 42 weeks in 1982–83.
Blue Highways inspired the name of the Cocteau Twins' 1993 album, Four-Calendar Café. In his book, Least Heat-Moon makes up a rule for judging the quality of the food being served in roadside cafés by counting the number of calendars affixed behind the counter. The number of calendars registered the number of traveling salesmen who frequented the establishment, and an establishment with at least four calendars meant good, but not great food.
- Guthrie, Robin. Chapter 16 - 1993/1994, Cocteau Twins History
- Interactive Map of Moon's Journey on Littourati
- [permanent dead link] "Writing Blue Highways: William Least Heat-Moon's Story of How a Book Happened."
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