'A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow' by Tim Brookes
An American Hitchhiking Odyssey

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Synopsis

Tim Brookes was a 20-year-old Oxford student when he first succumbed to the lure of America's open road. Equipped with a change of clothes, a cheap guitar, and the youthful wanderlust of the "Easy Rider" era, he spent the summer of '73 hitchhiking from the East Coast to the West Coast and back again, an exhilarating experience that ultimately led him to leave old England to settle in New England. He's been here ever since.

Twenty-five years later, he hit the road again, traveling light and following his thumb in a free-form re-creation of his first cross-country trip. His friends told him that times had changed, that fear stalked America's highways now, and that the only drivers who'd pick him up were bound to be as crazy as he was to undertake such an odyssey. But his friends were wrong, as this vivid and eventful book makes colorfully clear. Highlighted by wonderful photographs, ""A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow"" revisits old stomping grounds and discovers new ones, tracks down old friends and makes new ones, remembers old impressions of America and deftly sketches new vignettes of a country at once very different and surprisingly the same.

In Manhattan, a rendezvous with an old girlfriend evokes all the changes wrought by a quarter-century of passing time, but it's not long before the seventies spring back to life in Sausalito when a hippie couple in a classic VW microbus pull over to offer Brookes a ride. He barrels across Nebraska with a gay trucker whose semi is linked by satellite to his home base a dozen states away, and blasts through the switchbacks of a mountain pass on a hair-raising ride in an ex-con's battered pickup. In Las Vegas he finds a neon-lit 24/7 timewarp, while only a few miles away a high-desert ghost town summons up another kind of timelessness. On a back road in Ohio, we meet a beautiful Amish girl driving a horse-drawn buggy to a birthday party; half a continent away, a leather-jacketed Harley chick, is one of 300,000 bikers who roar into a little South Dakota town every year for a week-long blast. And these are only a few of the American originals who populate a book that captures all the spontaneous serendipity of the hitchhiker's vagabond life.

Keenly observed, entertaining, and eloquent, ""A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow"" weaves past and present into a unique, ever-changing tapestry of intertwined roads and lives.

 

About Tim Brookes

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Brookes was born in England and worked as a singer, songwriter, guitarist, dealer in used instruments, and a tour guide before moving to Vermont. In Vermont he lived for two decades in the college town of Burlington, teaching and writing. Nothing prepared him or his wife and two daughters for life in Essex Center.
 
Published July 1, 2000 by National Geographic. 304 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference, Travel, Action & Adventure. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for 'A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow'

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This enjoyable book functions variously: as an enthusiastic pro-hitchhiking treatise, a reverent guide to an evanescent "ordinary" America, and a sometimes-pedantic address of contemporary division and isolation.

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Kirkus Reviews

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Subtle social undertones develop: he hitches many rides from long-haul truckers and veterans, from jittery libertarians and salt-of-the-earth blue-collar types, from kindly middle-aged liberals and hyper-capitalists in fancy cars.

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A Harley Davidson rally in Sturgis provides a grand diversion, while just a few miles away Brookes bemoans the fate of those Native Americans living in poverty on the Pine Ridge Reservation.Yet for Brookes, the joy of his adventure is in the conversations and encounters with the strangers who ope...

Jan 22 2011 | Read Full Review of 'A Hell of a Place to Lose a ...

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