An End to the Blue Highways 

Beginning our new section, the narrator conveys a growing sense of uneasiness and anxiety. Just driving along is no longer satisfying. He’s looking to connect with nature and the landscapes he views from his driver’s window. It’s almost as if he is refusing to become a passerby, but rather, he hopes to become involved in nature’s process. This is immediately noticeable as he drives into New York, stating, “I wasn’t tired of traveling, and I had no reason to go home, but I wanted to put the wheel aside, to get off striped pavement for a few days” (Heat-Moon 304). He then decides to go visit his friend at his “log cabin in the woods” (Heat-Moon 304). But, I find this to be a decision not solely based on Heat-Moon’s need to step out of his car and stretch. He was coming closer and closer to New York, a city known for its downtown extravagance as opposed to its natural setting. New York, in my opinion, reminds Heat-Moon of home and the inevitable conclusion to his journey. Eventually, he’ll have to face reality. This may also be why he chooses to visit this particular friend. I’m sure out of the many states and cities he’s stopped in, there were acquaintances he could have seen. However, Scott Chisholm has successfully established a balance in his life between modern society and nature. He and his family live simply.

I focus on Chisholm, because he encompasses all Heat-Moon hopes to gain from his journey. This single character reinforces the themes of landscape and psychology, as well as place and self. Chisholm takes from nature as little as possible, knowing his place in the world is much smaller when compared to nature’s lasting existence. Heat-Moon defines Chisholm by his work ethic. We forget he’s actually not a born citizen of the U.S. Yet he’s more attune with the landscape than Heat-Moon, an American of Indian heritage.

There’s irony in the situation, which ultimately has me question if Heat-Moon ever truly finds himself. Was the trip worth it all? He states on the final page of his travelogue, “The circle almost complete, the truck ran the road like the old horse that knows the way. If the circle had come full turn, I hadn’t. I can’t say, over the miles, that I had learned what I had wanted to know because I hadn’t known what I wanted to know” (Heat-Moon 411). As a reader, the ambiguity can be frustrating. Yet I find the “unknown” aspect of ending quite fitting for the travelogue. Heat-Moon, I’m sure, expected to feel renewed once his travels had officially finished. But, he cannot rely on the journey for all the answers. It’s that which he accomplishes and takes with him after the journey that makes the difference. I don’t believe even Heat-Moon knows his next move, thus he leaves us wondering so we may share his feeling of “anything can happen.” His life, similar to the landscapes, is now an open space holding endless possibilities.

2 thoughts on “An End to the Blue Highways 

  1. I also read that ambiguous statement as meaning that he did not learn what he expected when he I had set out on the journey. Also, it’s interesting that Chisholm is also at least partly of Native American descent.

  2. Your analysis on the ending section is great. It does seem that Least Heat-Moon wants to stop off as a way almost to prolong the ending of his trip. He has been on this journey for so long that the hustle and bustle of a busy place like New York is both foreign and frightening.

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