After two painful, personal jolts, Heat Moon climbed into his Econoline van and drove 12,000 miles down the back roads of America--and recorded it all in this big, richly detailed book. Starting out in Columbia, Missouri, Heat Moon drove east to North Carolina, southwest to Louisiana, northwest to Oregon, east to New England; south to Chesapeake Bay, and west back to Missouri--piloting his way into tiny, obscure places like Dimebox, Texas, Hachita, New Mexico, and Melvin Village, New Hampshire; talking to strangers, and taking their picture (23 eloquent black-and-white photos are included); looking for things hand-made, home-cooked, wrinkled, and original. Shades of Charles Kuralt and Calvin Trillin--plus. As a mixed-blood, part white and part Osage (or so it seems--he's very sparing with personal information), Heat Moon writes from the perspective of ""a contaminated man who will be trusted by neither red nor white."" His Indian mind feels an especially violent antipathy to the wasteland of ecocidal capitalism, but his white mind knows how tenuous his red roots are. So he goes off, searching for pieces of an authentic world. And he finds them--in Cajun restaurants and Western saloons; in a Hopi medical student in Utah and a splendidly crazy Christian missionary-hitchhiker in Montana. Heat Moon lets them speak for themselves--he's got a fine ear for earthy, natural talk. His travel journal might be faulted for lacking a well-defined structure and a strong authorial voice, but their absence is central to Heat Moon's tentative, self-effacing character. An immensely appealing performance.