The United States of America: Home Again
Boredom lies only with the traveler's limited perception and his failure to explore deeply enough.
—William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways
Blue Highways, by William Least Heat-Moon, spent 34 weeks on the best-seller list from 1982 to 1983. He recounts a three-month road trip exploring small-town America.
When the kids were out of school for spring break, my wife and I took the family for our own mini–Blue Highways tour, poking around the Maryland portions of the Delmarva Peninsula. (I had my copy of Blue Highways tucked in my bag and I reread pieces of it along the way.) The peninsula gets its name from the three states that occupy it, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. We visited little towns including Berlin, Snow Hill, and Pocomoke City.
Each has deep roots in Maryland history and its own reasons for being. Berlin got its start in the 1790s. It gets its name from an old tavern called the Burleigh Inn. If you say it five times fast, you can see how over many generations “Burleigh Inn” became “Berlin.” Snow Hill is even older, having been settled in the 1680s by Londoners. They named it after a favorite neighborhood back home, which explains why there is no hill anywhere (nor is there ever much snow).
We stopped off at a museum in Pocomoke City, on the banks of the Pocomoke River. Local tradition has it that the river got its name from an Algonquin word for “dark water.” (I share with Heat-Moon an interest in knowing why a place ...