Blue Highways: gathering the minds of men

Blue Highways: gathering the minds of men

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”