Inspirations 1 & 2
Blue Highways: A Journey Into America by William Least Heat-Moon. Hailed as a masterpiece of American travel writing, Blue Highways is an unforgettable journey along our nation's back roads. William Least-Heat-Moon set out with little more than the need to put home behind him and a sense of curiosity about "those little towns that get on the map--if they get on at all--only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Simplicity, Virginia; New Freedom,Pennsylvania; New Hope, Tennessee; Why, Arizona; Whynot Mississippi." His adventures, his discoveries, and his recollections of the extraordinary people he encountered along the way amount to a revelation of the true American experience.
Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck. In September 1960, at age fifty-eight, the author and his poodle, Charley, and riding in a three-quarter ton pickup truck named Rocinante, embarked on a journey across America. This chronicle of their trip through almost 40 states, meanders from small towns to growing cities to glorious wilderness oases. Providing an intimate look at one of America's most beloved writers in the later years of his life, this is a self-portrait of a man who never wrote an explicit autobiography. Written during a time of upheaval and racial tension in the South, which he witnessed firsthand, this is a stunning evocation of America on the eve of a tumultuous decade.
Inspirations 3 & 4
Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz. Propelled by his boyhood passion for the Civil War, Horwitz embarks on a search for places and people still held in thrall by America's greatest conflict. The result is an adventure into the soul of the unvanquished South, where the ghosts of the Lost Cause are resurrected through ritual and remembrance. He joins "hardcore" reenactors; witnesses Klan rallies and calls for race war; finds that Andersonville Prison's commander, executed as a war criminal, is now exalted as a martyr and hero; and takes a marathon trek from Antietam to Gettysburg to Appomattox in the company of an eccentric pilgrim. Written with Horwitz's signature blend of humor, history, and hard-nosed journalism, this book brings alive old battlefields and new ones--classrooms, courts, country bars--where the past and the present collide, often in explosive ways.
Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz. This book retraces the voyages of Captain James Cook, the Yorkshire farm boy who drew the map of the modern world. Captain James Cook's three epic journeys in the eighteenth century were the last great voyages of discovery. His ships sailed 150,000 miles, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from Tasmania to Oregon, from Easter Island to Siberia. When Cook set off for the Pacific in 1768, a third of the globe remained blank. By the time of his violent death in Hawaii in 1779, the map of the world was substantially complete. Tony Horwitz vividly recounts Cook's voyages and the exotic scenes the captain encountered: tropical orgies, taboo rituals, cannibal feasts, human sacrifice. He also relives Cook's adventures by traveling in the captain's wake to such places as Tahiti, Savage Island, and the Great Barrier Reef along the way, he discovers Cook's embattled legacy in the present day. Signing on as a working crewman aboard a replica of Cook's vessel, Horwitz experiences the thrill and terror of sailing a tall ship. He also explores Cook the man: an impoverished farm boy who broke through the barriers of his class and time to become the greatest navigator in British history.