Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Is this really what I was looking for?

When I started this project, my wife laughed and asked me if I was going to follow in the footsteps of Larry McMurtry's Roads or William Heast Least-Moon's Blue Highway.

I got defensive with a "no way!" But I'm afraid it might be happening.

I have to admit that Blue Highway, was actually a pretty good book. For those unfamiliar with the book, Moon is a professor out West and loads up one summer into his old van and just starts driving America's back roads. Moon does a wonderful job of capturing the monotony that is the American heart-land. Every town has a diner and it appears that every waitress is named Flo. What was Moon trying to get from the trip? I don't recall now and to be honest the book is buried in the back of that closet I've been promising to turn into a bookshelf for the past 10 months. Personally, I found comfort in Least-Moon's solidarity towards the mission.

Maybe it was because I had enjoyed Blue Highways as much as I had, maybe it was because McMurtry had won a Pulitzer Prize for Lonesome Dove. But for whatever reason, I found McMurtry's book to be one of the most boring reads I've had since High School.

The premis of Roads is completely different than Blue Highway. McMurtry spends hours driving across the country on the super highways (many only slightly more exciting than his description). What did this book do for me? Besides turning me off to travel style writing; it made me realize how passionate some people can be for books. McMurtry repeats numerous times about being a rare book dealer and such; but it is how he describes the books. A description that borders on sexual desire for the book; not the words in the book which is usually all I see or care about.

Okay. So now why have I waisted your night reading this??

Last night, the wife had to work late and after a very unfulfilling day at the office, I headed north on State Route 42 towards the village of Mt. Gilead (and county seat of Morrow County) and found myself writing eloquent descriptions of these roads I transvered in my mind as the stress of the day flowed from my body and the communities of Cardington, Mt. Gilead, Denmark, Edison, Waldo, and Marion bowed before the Blazer. It was then I realized that I was feeling the same desire for travel, for new experiences even ones only 20 miles from my home, that Least-Moon and McMurtry must have felt as they pinned their novels.

So I raise my ice cold mug to anyone that writes about travel - and I'll buy a round for those that can do it well.
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