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Road Angels: Searching For Home Down…

Road Angels: Searching For Home Down America's Coast of Dreams

by Kent Nerburn

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As a young man, Kent Nerburn made a spiritual pilgrimage from his snow-laden home in Minnesota to the West Coast. Nerburn wanted to cast off the conservative thinking, routine, and the lack of possibility that characterized Midwestern living.
Nerburn lived in cabins and cities all up and down the Coast. He reveled in the rhythmic lapping of the Pacific, misty redwoods, and the awe-inspiring expanse of the Sierras. He encountered people who thought freely, and were open to new paradigms and ways of being. Over time, however, this created a feeling of rootlessness and lack of purpose in his heart. Nerburn felt the pull of the Midwest, where people stood firm for something, and did not abandon responsibility to the siren call of novelty.
Fifteen years have passed, and the bloom of Nerburn's youth has faded. He has chosen to remain in the Midwest, but knows this decision has been made at a price. He decides to make one last trip West, while he still enjoys the vigor of good health. He wants to make a last tour of the West Coast, and decide where to spend the days left to him and his family.
This book chronicles Nerburn's return to the West, where he rediscovers what enchanted and repulsed him the first time around. Time has not stood still, however, and he laments the strip mall scourge and homogenization of culture that has stultified the entire country. Nerburn has a gift for bringing the ordinary into the realm of the extraordinary. He lives out of his car and cheap motor inns along the route, talking up a wide range of people.
Readers get to follow along as Nerburn gives a lift to a young student from the University of Washington in Seattle. She works at a “cap” (cappuccino) shop and dreams of opening a franchise in Alaska with her boyfriend. Nerburn gets an education in coffee varietals as well as a “double skinny cap” before continuing down the road. Nerburn stops at Evergreen State College outside Olympia and soaks up the ambience of youth and an easy mingling of the multi-cultural students. Lunch comes from an earnest young man who mindfully makes him a falafel sandwich. Nerburn counsels him to follow his youthful dreams and to avoid following his elders on the career treadmill. The exchange is not one way, however, as Nerburn is impressed with the deliberateness and attention to the moment evinced by the young man.
Moving south down the Coast, Nerburn makes stops in Portland and Eugene, Oregon. He recollects a hard-scrabble existence in Eugene, where he lived the student life and scraped by for money to pay the rent and utilities. Nerburn punctuates his narrative with frequent phone calls home to his wife and young son Nick. These calls keep him rooted in the minutiae of family life; the family he has headed and reared since his return to the Midwest fifteen years prior. Nick’s lack of pretense and involvement in the concerns of youth revive his sense of responsibility for nurturing and guiding this young life. Nerburn may be revisiting the haunts of his youth, but his life has taken on priceless dimensions and responsibilities since his first tour.
After a harrowing trip over a snow-covered pass, Nerburn reaches California. His experiences here run the gamut from a red neck trucker just over the border to a thirty-something expatriate from Ohio who has transcended his Midwestern work ethic to work on films. He tells Nerburn breathlessly that work isn’t about enduring what you hate, but the creation of ideas that can sustain themselves and generate new ideas. He tells Nerburn of the power of dreams, and investing energy in the positive, as opposed to negatives that wall you off from the rest of the world.
At the conclusion of his journey, Nerburn is fully aware of the power of the land to shape the people that live on it, and he has a new appreciation for the qualities of his fellow Midwesterners. Choice involves choosing one path and forsaking others, but Nerburn has renewed confidence that his choice of Minnesota as the setting for his life reinforces the values he most deeply believes in – honesty, faithfulness, and appreciation of Nature. He returns to his family with renewed commitment, and the desire to pass along what he has learned to his son Nick. ( )
  kentcj | Nov 12, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060698683, Hardcover)

Life is a road, and on every road as in every life, there are angels.

Sometimes big events have small origins. There was no divorce, no loss of job, no dramatic crisis of faith and self-confidence. It was, at heart, the accretion of little things, like a deepening blanket of snow, that finally caused the branch to snap and sent me careening back to the West Coast from my comfortable home in the woods of northern Minnesota.

Let me tell you how it happened.

Author Kent Nerburn was feeling stuck in the middle: middle age, midway in a career, and in the middle of the Midwest. Fearing that his passion and spirit for life were dimming and worried that his family needed to escape the harsher realities of Minnesota life, Nerburn set out from the stark, frozen landscape of a northern winter to drive alone down the coastal roads of Washington, Oregon, and California.

Yes, this road is layered with ghosts. The good padres, the less good padrones, the Indians who have been all but forgotten, the workers and the laborers and the migrants and the serfs; the wealthy and the desperate, the starlets and the Okies, the families coming soon to their cul-de-sac lives.

All have traveled this road in search of their own private El Dorado. And now I too am among them, just one more sojourner searching for waters to slake my unquenchable American thirst.

Ride shotgun with Kent Nerburn as he uncovers the myths and dreams of America's West Coast. Road Angels is a search for home that brings us face-to-face with unexpected places and extraordinary people -- a journey of profound insights about how the land we claim affects every aspect of our lives.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:43 -0400)

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