Fifteen Years and 90,000 Miles on the Roads and Interstates of America with Lewis and Clark
By Robert Sullivan
(Bloomsbury USA, Hardcover, 9781582345277, 256pp.)
Publication Date: June 27, 2006
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From the bestselling author of Rats, a personal and national history of one of America's favorite pastimes: driving across the country.
The cross-country trip is the trip that often whizzes past us on our way to quaint back roads and scenic parks; it's an America of long, looping highways, strip malls, fast-food depots, and road rage, but also one that is wide-open, awe-inspiring, and heartwarmingly lonely. Here, Sullivan, who has driven cross-country more than two dozen times, recounts his family's annual summer migration from Oregon to New York. His story of moving his family back and forth from the East Coast to the West Coast (and various other migrations), is replete with all the minor disasters, humor, and wonderful coincidences that characterize life on the road, not to mention life.
As he drives, Sullivan ponders his nation-crossing predecessors, such as legendary duo Lewis and Clark, as well the more improbable heroes of America's unending urge to cross itself: Carl Fisher, an Indianapolis bicycle maker who founded the Indy 500, dropped cars off of buildings and imagined the first cross-country road; Emily Post, who, before her life as an etiquette writer, was one of the first cross-country chroniclers; and the race car drivers who, appalled by the invention of seatbelts and speed limits, ran an underground cross-country car race in the 1970s known as the Cannonball Run. Sullivan meets Beat poets who are devotees of Jack Kerouac, cross-country icon, and plays golf on an abandoned coal mine. And, in his trademark celebration of the mundane, Sullivan investigates everything from the history of the gas pump to the origins of fast food and rest stops. Cross Country tells the tales that come from fifteen years of driving across the country (and all around it) with two kids and everything that two kids and two parents take when driving in a car from one coast to another, over and over, driving to see the way the road made America and America made the road.
Robert Sullivan is the author of The Meadowlands, A Whale Hunt, How Not to Get Rich, and the national bestseller Rats. He is a contributing editor to Vogue and his writing has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and Dwell. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and their two children.