On the old highway maps of America, the main routes were red and the back roads blue. Now even the colours are changing. But in those brevities just before dawn and a little after dusk – times neither day nor night the old roads return to the sky some of its colour. Then, in truth, they carry a mysterious cast of blue, and it’s that time when the pull of the blue highway is strongest – when the open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself.
Some thirty years ago I read one of the best pieces of travel writing I have encountered – Blue Highways: A Journey Into America, by William Least Heat-Moon, a university teacher of English, Irish and Osage Nation ancestry. After losing both his job and his wife one freezing Missouri February, Least Heat-Moon embarks on a mammoth roadtrip around the USA using only the ‘blue highways’ – the backroads that used to be marked blue on highway maps. Blue Highways tells of Least Heat-Moon’s attempt to find new direction in his life making the long circular journey around America (equivalent to half the circumference of the earth) in ‘Ghost Dancing’, a 1975 Ford Econoline that would be his home for close on a year. Continue reading “Blue Highways: gathering the minds of men”