James Reeves acts like he's just another guy who took an American road trip. When he says he's driven 55,000 miles back and forth across the U.S. in beat up rental cars, he says it as though that is just something people do even though it is exactly the sort of thing that nobody does. People don't drive twice the length of the equator while listening to talk radio and taking photos of the various things that pique their interest.
Maybe they should.
Though Reeves' new book "The Road to Somewhere" is not really a book so much as a photo album remixed with a road trip travelogue and fused with a chapbook, it is a funny and thoughtful look at America's irony-paved open road. The next page is always unexpected but never ill-considered and the writing hitches the hubris of the perpetual interloper to seemingly genuine empathy. (*SEE PHOTOS BELOW*)
Reeves talked to HuffPost Travel about his journey and offered a preview of the book (in slideshow form).
HuffPost Travel: When and why did you begin taking road trips?
James Reeves: I started in 2004. It was initially a kind of political gesture. When Bush was re-elected, I was hearing a lot about the real America and I wanted to see it, to see if it really existed. After I got going it became more personal for me...I'd thought about doing a book the first time I went out, but it took a while for the material to add up.
When my mother passed away, I was living in Helsinki and I came back and didn't have anywhere to go. I wandered around and interviewed people. I thought it was polarized then, but I guess it is worse now.
HPT: You talk, somewhat obliquely, about addiction in your book. Do you think you ever became addicted to being on the road? 55,000 miles is a long way.
JR: I don't know. It did get a little compulsive, but I never thought of it in those terms. What happened was I'd plan to drive to California and end up going to Tijuana because I'd sort of get out there and realize nothing was holding me back.
HPT: You went to a lot of small towns and slept in a lot of motels. What surprised you about the "Real America" that you found?
JR: I want to say this in a way that doesn't sound corny... There is a little town in Texas that is almost all German and they make the most astounding wienerschnitzel. I think what I'd say is that people aren't what you'd expect.
I also had a lot of conversations in places like Wyoming and Mississippi that we're really nice. Then the people I was talking to would get in their trucks and I'd see their bumper stickers and remember, 'Oh yeah, you hate me.' The truth is everyone wakes up in the morning try to do good.
HPT: In your book you mention listening to talk radio a lot. Talk radio has sort of become a soundtrack for road trips. It is everywhere. Did you have any favorite shows?
JR: I like George Noory's show "Coast to Coast," which is about aliens and such. People call in and point out that Atlantis is on the same latitude as Vegas. You hear people with all these theories.
I remember being near Area 51 at a restaurant shaped liked a flying saucer and asking the owner if he believed in that stuff. 'Of course we see weird shit,' he said. 'We live next to a super secret military facility.'
HPT: What was one of the more memorable things that happened to you on the road?
JR: I was driving on the top of a snowy mountain in Arizona, a little past a sign that said "Maintained by Government," when I start sliding over the edge of the road near the edge of a cliff. I was driving the back roads of the Continental Divide in a small rental car, like a moron. I still feel that sliding feeling sometimes when I go to sleep...
I was really surprised, to be honest, by the frequency of drug searches. I was this single guy driving alone in a rental car, so I got pulled over a lot. I remember getting pulled over once around midnight in this industrial part of a town out west and the cop asked me my name and where I was going. I told him I was going to California. He asked why. I told him I was going to see my friend Caroline Oh. He said 'Oh?' and I told him she was Korean, but it became a whole 'Who's on First" type thing.
Eventually he told me that no one drives alone around there at night.
Check out photos and excerpts from the book below. The Road to Somewhere is available in bookstores and here.