A new van was purchased and fitted out with a bed, typing stand, CB and regular AM-FM radio, specially cut mosquito netting, and a fan. The Institute's charge dictated that I'd see the rural South, not too much of the Interstate/urbanized South. Places like Ville Platte, Louisiana; Ink, Arkansas; Ripley, Mississippi; Pickens, South Carolina; and Fincastle, Virginia. The blessings of this constraint came vividly to mind when my path intersected an Interstate cloverleaf in Georgia — typically crammed with service stations, motels and fast food franchises. Over the door of one eatery hung a banner proclaiming "Join the Fun — Eat and Run." All told, I logged nearly 28,000 miles between May and October, 7977.
I kept an eye out for the little things. Graffiti, for example. In the rest room of a Charlottesville, Virginia, vegetarian restaurant I found: "Mother made me a homosexual." Below, in another's writing, "Fantastic! If I bought her the yarn, would she make me one?" Or signs, like one on a New Orleans building: Straight Business College. And listened for larger themes, not at all certain I could hear them — but knowing that these, too, were a Southern tradition going back at least to the days of Fannie Kemble's Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation in 1838-1839, the powerful attack on slavery, and William Byrd 's History of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina, the travel log some assert first described "the good ol' boy."