That's that phase completed. In a week I covered about 1650 miles. I brought back hours of recorded interviews, pages of notes, hundreds of photos, and a head full of memories. I found what I went looking for. It's surprisingly simple, yet fraught with implications. I was enraptured at scenery, inspired by what people were doing, intrigued at oddities, annoyed at foolishness, and saddened by looking ahead. I discovered the magical effect on a room of saying "I'm a writer doing research..."
I slept in a cottage in the woods, at two tourist hotels, on a couch on a hippie farm in the bush, in a nice suburban bedroom, and on a hide-a-bed in an apartment in St. Paul. I talked with people sitting around kitchen tables, standing around gas stations and tourist traps, on back porches, in a Chinese buffet, in college offices and classrooms, in lakeside parks, and in a semi-clandestine activist gathering. I rescued a disabled veteran hitchhiker, and jumped an oil worker's car.
I talked to store clerks, journalists, construction workers, civil servants, professors, teachers, and farmers. They were from several countries, and ranged from pregnant young women with strapping young husbands, to middle-aged hippies, to retired folks.
What I found, in barest bones, is that people are scared. They see things falling apart, that nothing is dependable any more. They see different Major Threats, but it all adds up to trouble. Most are just rolling with it. Some are getting pissed-off and protesting. Others are thinking long-term, patiently building.
The New World lies in Community, Trust, Compassion, Cleverness, and Foresight. Those words kept coming up, with spins according to situations and experiences.
As I review what happened I'm amazed at all that I did, and what people came my way. My greatest danger was in taking three hours to make a one-hour drive, with all the pictures and people along the way. I could have taken a month on this trip and filled it. I feel bolstered by the words of Steinbeck and Heat-Moon- I'm an apprentice in their Guild. I can write this book. Books?