Breakfast at the Exit Café: Travels Through America

Paperback | July 11, 2011

byWayne Grady, Merilyn Simonds

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Part travelogue, part exploration-a road trip into the reality behind the cultural myth that is America.

Breakfast at the Exit Cafe begins as a personal story-told in alternating voices by two travellers and writers-of a journey by car from British Columbia around the rim of the United States. It soon becomes a journey of exploration. For Grady, whose forebears were slaves who came to Canada in the 1880s, this is a journey through fear, racism, and violence into his own family roots. For Simonds, who grew up a lonely Canadian in the American School of Campinas, Brazil, it is a journey into the heart of the ex-pat promised land, the nation of the American Dream.

As Grady and Simonds travel back through American history, they encounter the splendours of the Mojave Desert, the Grand Canyon, the Mississippi River, and the bayous of Louisiana and the Outer Banks, and they experience the impact of geography on culture and of culture on the landscape. Although they are observing America from the outside, they also strangely feel at home. The Americans they meet illuminate a country dissolving in the grip of the Bush administration's final years and inspire them to reassess their-and our-assumptions about that powerful and complex country. Also available in hardcover.

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From the Publisher

Part travelogue, part exploration-a road trip into the reality behind the cultural myth that is America.Breakfast at the Exit Cafe begins as a personal story-told in alternating voices by two travellers and writers-of a journey by car from British Columbia around the rim of the United States. It soon becomes a journey of exploration. F...

Wayne Grady is one of Canada's finest science writers and a Governor General's Award-winning translator. He has authored eleven books of nonfiction, translated fourteen novels, and edited more than a dozen anthologies of short stories and creative nonfiction.Merilyn Simonds is the author of fourteen books, including the novel The Holdi...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.5 inPublished:July 11, 2011Publisher:Greystone Books Ltd.Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1553658264

ISBN - 13:9781553658269

Customer Reviews of Breakfast at the Exit Café: Travels Through America

Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Nonfiction Travel book through the highways and byways of North America A travel story taken by Canadian husband and wife writers, each with their own running commentary of their travels and experiences where they start in Vancouver BC, head south along the West Coast and then east into mountains, and then the desert and further south into Texas. Trapsing into the South and slowly winding back North to Canada over a two month period with their little Echo. Curiosity is interesting idea dealt with the end of how we differ in the what we (Canadians) deem the meaning to be and how Americans would believe it to mean. Loved the dualing dialogues.
Date published: 2013-01-14

Extra Content

Read from the Book

from Chapter 1: Megalopolis, USAWashington looms across the border from British Columbia at the end of a long line of cars and buses. As we await our turn at customs, we watch a man playing with his young son on the wide stretch of grass between two parallel roads, the one we are on leading into the United States and the other disappearing behind us into Canada. The man is tossing his son into the air and catching him on the way down, and the child is laughing hysterically, obviously frightened out of his wits. The man keeps throwing him higher into the air and catching him at the last minute, the boy's head swinging closer and closer to the ground each time. We watch with resigned fascination until we arrive at a stop sign a few metres from the border, beside a placard that reads Canada This Way, with an arrow pointing behind us.We are driving into America. Border crossings always unnerve me, which, as Merilyn says, is an odd and tiresome thing, because I have crossed this and many other borders in my life and ought to know what to expect. I have no particularreason to expect to be unnerved. But to me, crossing a border is a harrowing experience, perhaps because I grew up in a border city-Windsor, Ontario, just across the river from Detroit, Michigan. The saying in Windsor was that the light at the end of the tunnel was downtown Detroit, and it was meant as a positive thing.Every year before school started, my parents would whisk my younger brother and me through the tunnel to the United States because everything was so much cheaper on the other side. They'd drag us up and down Woodward Avenue, into all the really cheap department stores, with their dark, uneven hardwood floors and sticky, glass-fronted cases, buying us cheap shirts and sweaters and pants and socks and windbreakers. At a designated spot betweenWoodward Avenue and the Detroit Tunnel, my father would pull the car over and my mother would frantically cut the price tags off all the pants with a pair of nail scissors, pull all the cardboard stiffeners out of the shirts, stuff all the bags and tags and cardboard and tissue paper and shoeboxes into one of the shopping bags, and toss the whole thing into a garbage pail practically within hearing distance of the customs shed. Then she would make us put on all the clothes we'd just bought, to hide them from the customs official, who, if he spied an overlooked price tag or caught the whiff of new denim, would yank us from the car and make us take off all our clothes and then arrest my parents. In my family, "duty" was something one paid if one were caught wearing two pairs of pants.Now I watch nervously as the guard comes out of his tiny kiosk, pistol jutting from a little holster that looks like a miniature leather jockstrap, and leans over to ask what the hell I think I'm doing, trying to get into the United States. What business do I have going into his country? Because things are cheaper there, is that it? Well, buddy, things aren't cheap in America so that foreigners like me can come in and buy everything up. Do I imagine that Americans work as hard as they do at keeping prices down for the benefit of non-Americans? I can think of no answer to such a question. In fact, it seems like sound economic theory to me. All of us in this line-they should turn us back, close the border. We'll ruin America. Besides, the mouthy literalist in me wants to add, I don't like your country. I think your country is too big and plays too rough, like a sulking adolescent with divorcing parents, and I am certain my thoughts are written all over my face, like price tags sticking out from the collar of a brand-new flannelette shirt."Where are you coming from?" the guard asks politely, taking our passports."Ontario," I say."Vancouver," Merilyn says, simultaneously."Oh," I say, "you mean today? Yes, Vancouver.""And where are you going?""Ontario," I say, stupidly."Seattle," says Merilyn.The guard looks at me. "I mean we're taking the long way home. Down the coast, and"-I feel Merilyn's elbow jabbing me in the ribs; she has warned me about saying too much at borders, it's the first thing they look for-"through Seattle," I add lamely.The guard smiles and hands me our passports. "Welcome to America," he says.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Vancouver to AstoriaChapter 2: Astoria to EurekaChapter 3: Eureka to Needles, ArizonaChapter 4: Needles to Grand CanyonChapter 5: Grand Canyon to EscalanteChapter 6: Escalante to AlbuquerqueChapter 7: Albuquerque to El Paso and Back to Santa FeChapter 8: Albuquerque to JeffersonChapter 9: Jefferson to Selma, AlabamaChapter 10: Selma to Athens, GeorgiaChapter 11: Athens to anteo, North CarolinaChapter 12: Manteo to Princeton, New JerseyChapter 13: Home

Editorial Reviews

"The authors have done their historical homework about the U.S., and provide an interesting guide for the ambivalent first-time traveler.""Publishers Weekly""Grady and Simonds, one of Canada's most popular and successful literary couples, travel by car from British Columbia around the southern rim of the United States, with no special agenda or itinerary in mind, but find themselves on a journey of discovery, historical and personal.""Globe & Mail""[Grady & Simonds] take turns, each penning half of the short sections in each of the book's 14 chapters. It's an attractive choice. As they barrel along interstates and winding highways, Grady's smouldering distrust and apparent dislike of the U.S. is literally shoulder-to-shoulder with Simonds's quizzicality and eye for offbeat detail.""Ottawa Citizen""Grady and Simonds…hand the pen back and forth throughout their journey, each taking a few pages to comment on the passing scene before turning it over again to the other…This unusual structure works surprisingly well. There's no doubt we are travelling with writers…And what a complex, fascinating read America continues to be.""Literary Review of Canada""Whether it's the sign of a symbiotic marriage or of seasoned writers crafting a seamless travel collage, the narrative in this road trip through America flows as easily as a new car on an empty highway.""Globe & Mail Top 100 for 2010“Alternating throughout the book, Simonds and Grady's voices are complementary. Simonds writes with an eye for lyrical details, using them as jumping-off points for imaginative ruminations, while Grady's sections are peppered with facts and trivia. Despite the distinctiveness of the two voices, the transitions are natural and effortless…By the end of the book, the story of two travellers has become a journey of another sort: the story of a marriage. And this second journey itself is analogous to relations between the U.S. and Canada. The question in both cases is: How can two very different nations share resources, come to understand one another, and ultimately learn to get along on the road they both share?”Quill & Quire“Whether it’s a sign of a symbiotic marriage or of seasoned writers crafting a seamless travel collage, the narrative in Breakfast at the Exit Cafe flows as easily as a new car on an empty highway. The transitions between travel-partner-authors never feel clunky or truncated, but rather like one long conversation between mates…We benefit from their shared company; we never have to slog through long lapses of existential crises that often arise on long solitary journeys…In Breakfast at the Exit Cafe, Grady and Simonds manage to redeem Americans…In so doing, they also manage to define Canadian identity as something more than just anti-Americanism. Which, in the end, redeems us too.”Globe and Mail""Wayne Grady and Merilyn Simonds's Breakfast at the Exit Cafe is the result of a spontaneous, improvised drive through 22 states in a Toyota Echo...As they barrel along interstates and winding highways, Grady's smouldering distrust and apparent dislike of the U.S. is literally shoulder-to-shoulder with Simonds's quizzicality and eye for offbeat detail.”Vancouver Sun“Grady and Simonds...seamlessly transition from one writer's voice to the other's. There's nary a duplication of events nor a chronological disconnect in the hand-offs from husband to wife, and vice versa. Even their meditations on people and landscape are complementary without being repetitive...Between the lines of travel narrative they provide potted but interesting histories of places, musings on stuff they buy and the restaurants they eat in, and analysis of the politics and culture of regions...At core, the book presents a series of slices of Americana, as considered and portrayed through Canuck eyes....This is a travel book that travels well.”Winnipeg Free Press