According to Wikipedia, this book came out in 1982. I don’t think I read it that early at all – I would’ve been six – but someone recommended it to my father, and I read it. I was probably in my early teens.
The story, as I remember it, involves someone making their van into something like an ad-hoc RV and driving around the county – specifically on the back roads, the non-highways, the ones marked blue on old maps.
The idea really spoke to me, lodged in my mind. Sometimes I would fantasize – who am I kidding, would? – Sometimes I fantasize about loading up a van and doing travel writing, meeting people in small-town diners and taking pictures of little waterfalls you can only see if you take the back roads.
Autumn started out that, that and my wish to be able to draw and the small fantasy of living in a Ren Faire that I sometimes still indulge in. I mean, Autumn as a character in a story started with a three-word-Wednesday prompt (abrupt, kernel, wield; I have no idea how I got from there to
“I heard you did divinations.”
“You want the blue tents over in Psychic Alley.”
“Not that sort of divination, not those fake-Rom shams. You do the skin-painting.”
But Autumn, travelling around to small towns and solving problems –
– she came from William Least Heat-Moon’s stories, traveling around the blue highways of America, meeting people, being harassed by the police, building stone walls.
I can’t promise it’s a good book. I read it probably 2/3 of my life ago. But it definitely stuck with me, and in sticking with me, it gave us the core of Autumn and her travelling, mystery-solving ways.
But here’s a fun map of where he travels – I didn’t realize it was so large an area – http://littourati.squarespace.com/storage/moon-files/moon_map.htm
And here’s the Wikipedia page on it – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Highways
Stories that arose from Least Heat-Moon’s research as well as historical facts are included about each area visited, as well as conversations with characters such as a Seventh-day Adventist evangelist hitchhiker, a teenage runaway, a boat builder, a monk, an Appalachian log cabin restorer, a rural Nevada prostitute, fishermen, a HopiNative American medical student, owners of western saloons and remote country stores, a maple syrup farmer, and Chesapeake Bay island dwellers.
That almost sounds like a set of prompts for Autumn, doesn’t it?