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On the Back Roads: Discovering Small Towns of America Paperback – 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 287 pages
  • Publisher: Addicus Books (1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1886039364
  • ISBN-13: 978-1886039360
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,527,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Graves, a retired navy captain, journeys the back roads and quirky small towns of the West that few have heard of, intentionally straying from the big cities and tourist meccas visited by "average Americans." Experiencing a newfound freedom after the end of his 24-year marriage and bored with retirement, Graves set out from Southern California in his motor home on an eight-month, eight-state sojourn. Crisscrossing the West's diverse landscape (from California's coastline to Utah's rugged wilderness), he descriptively captures the essence of towns that boast bizarre claims to fame (the largest producer of soda ash; the film site of more than 50 westerns; the town farthest from a railroad). In towns distinguished for their pea soup or for laws requiring all citizens to be armed, Graves discovers a pioneering spirit among townsfolk that's missing in big citiesAas well as a willingness to give up luxuries most of us take for granted. He attends fairs and rodeos, eats in small-town diners and walks through the ruts left by wagons on the Oregon Trail. While Graves's narrative might have flowed more nicely by focusing on fewer towns, readers should warm to his easygoing nature.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Graves, a retired naval officer and military consultant to the film industry, bought an RV and set out to explore the western United States. His first stop is the California desert, where he visits an 83-year-old retired schoolteacher. She tells him that the small towns of America are the country's last hope and that visiting them always recharges her optimism. Perhaps in need of some recharging himself, Graves heeds her words and sets out. His trip is unplanned, and he drives from city to city, stopping along the way to read historical markers, tour museums, and talk to anyone he can find. Graves has written several articles for Trailer Life magazine, and the book's chapters would be more interesting as individual articles, for they do provide a quick glimpse of each town and its residents. As a whole, though, the book is less successful. Graves seems to have no particular point of viewAhe apparently believes that small towns are interesting because of their mere existence, for he never explains what makes these places special. Not recommended.AJulia Stump, Voorheesville P.L., NY
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kim Moy (kimszoo@radiks.net) on May 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
Looking for a unique summer vacation? Take a stroll down the back roads with author Bill Graves in his new travel book, On The Back Roads: Discovering Small Towns of America. Graves invites readers on a fascinating journey through some of the best-kept secrets in the U.S. Each chapter reads like a short story exploring quaint small towns and meeting humorous, touching, unforgettable characters. Your summer vacation starts in your own backyard with this wonderful get-away book. Get your book club to check this one out!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dixie Dee Reed on September 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
I got this book so I could write a small synopsis for an RV publication and read it with some skepticism. Could Graves possibly engage my interest about towns I'm sure I'll never visit? As I scanned the chapters, as I so often do with this sort of book, I had to stop and read deeper. He wasn't writing strickly in support of tourism, but about getting to know oneself, to be in the moment, to not let life pass you by. While sharing some of his past, we're able to watch Graves' internal struggle to find peace, and traveling back roads with Rusty gave him the opportunity to do just that. Although the author often talks about his mode of travel, the motorhome was merely a conduit -- although a comfortable one -- to make this journey. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves travel, introspection, humor and good fun.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
This particular book does not cover "America," but only California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. When I have the opportunity to travel to these states, I think it will be somewhat helpful. I was dissapointed more of the U.S. was not covered.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on July 22, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Looking on the back cover of this book when I got it, I was lt down. In small print on the upper-left corner it says "Travel". But in big print, upper-middle, it refers to the auther and the "R.V. Author" (something like that). I come from the philosophy that one cannot truly experience the magic and wonders of the backroads in an RV. I bought the book hoping to "meet" some wonderful people from Small Town, USA. I was hoping to hear about interesting sights hidden from most Interstate travellers. I was hoping to read about the new wisdom and insight which comes from travelling alone in unfamiliar places. Bill Graves does none of this. He usually spends about 2 largely-printed pages on one town and all of the people in it. Sometimes, he only writes a half of a page. He takes the interstate when he can, and he complains about the heat. This book is also edited poorly. There are several cases where he will introduce someone with one name and have it spelled differently two or three lines down. Jessy, Jessie, and Jesse describes the same small boy who rides in his dad's truck. I do get a small smile every now and again from reading this book, which is why I didn't give it 1 star. But if you want a real travel book, read William Least Heat-Moon. Not this.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
For those of you who have read Bill Graves' articles here's the book that fills in the philosophical picture. For retirees wondering whether it's better to stay put in familiar surroundings or leave the useless baggage behind and hit the road, here's food for thought. For those interested in the quirky nature of life and especially the characters found off the beaten path here's a book that rivals Travels With Charlie. I plan to give copies to friends trying to understand the lure of extended RVing. Have a safe trip. /s/ Vic Karlson
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
The book brings you into the towns Bill visits and piques your curiosity to learn more about them. He shows you value in the lives of the people there, even when they don't see it themselves. He paints a picture in words that allows you to see the rich landscape and timeless buildings he sees surrounding him. There is a theme of curiousity and thoughtfulness that flows from chapter to chapter. Nostalgic, you bet, as well as humorous and charming. I hope Bill is working on a next book, readers are sure to clamor for more.
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