Friday, April 1, 2011

Answering the Burning Questions on US Route 6

Years ago, I wrote this about travel writing for magazines: 

The life of a magazine writer is a patchwork of mundane and thrilling, solitary and sociable. It requires Rube Goldberg ingenuity to schedule interviews and meticulous travel planning that one hopes, as a believer in spontaneity, will go awry. It involves demystifying the mysterious and transforming work-a-day into evocative. It also generates some big surprises. 

One of the surprises, pre-trip, is the number of emails I'm receiving and the enthusiasm with which small towns plan to welcome me.  Probably not so surprisingly, there seems to be an inverse relationship between a town's population and it's level of interest.  Representatives from Fleming, Colorado - with a population of 431 and not much more than a water tower - have asked me to stop by for a chat and "token." The Gretna, Nebraska (pop. 2,800) newspaper - The Breeze - would like to interview me.  I've had dozens of these invitations, and I'm happy to comply. 

I'm not crossing our country in any official capacity.  I'm not raising money for anything, I'm not campaigning for anything, I'm not on any type of crusade.  I'm taking no stance on issues (social, environmental, financial) that loom large these days.  I do not intend to open up a contentious debate. I am, in every sense of the word - if only for the purposes of this cross-country trip - nonpartisan. 

But I do plan to answer some burning questions. Why do several tiny communities in the midwest consider themselves "progressive?"  What kind of person would buy an old abandoned bank in the middle of nowhere and turn it into a destination restaurant?  Where is the oldest continuously operating soda fountain in the world? 

My objective is to write about what's out there on one single long but never lonely road. US Route 6.  The Grand Army of the Republic Highway.  This is my quest, this is my self-imposed assignment.  

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