Another Fine Mess by Tim Moore

Tim Moore seems to love setting himself unlikely challenges, often related to cycling. In French Revolutions he rode the route of the Tour de France a few weeks ahead of the race. In Gironomo! he did something similar, with the 1914 Giro d’Italia route, but used a bike from the era to do so.

Most recently in The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold, he followed a lesser known cycling route called The Iron Curtain Trail, down the frosty arctic north to the Black Sea. And he chose an East German shopping bike to attempt this task.

In Another Fine Mess he has left his bikes behind, and is instead embarking on a cross-country driving tour of the United States, in a vintage Model T Ford. The somewhat wandering route he is planning to take is planned to take in as many “red states” as he can exploring the people and places that voted for Donald Trump.

In reading this book, it’s not altogether clear that choosing a Model T to drive in has made life any easier than a bike would have done. On the plus side, it’s a conversation opener wherever he goes – especially when they hear a British accent as well. On the other hand, reliability in a near 100 year old car is not what you might get from a Toyota or VW in the early twenty-first century.

But this does mean that he gets to meet an awful lot of tinkerers and home mechanics, which lets us get a little under the skin of why someone like Trump might have ever been elected.

There are common themes: a hatred of government; a love of guns; a slower way of life that harks back to the foundation of modern America.

Alongside this, there’s an exploration of how America became the car country that it did. The mechanisation that Ford introduced starting with the Model T was extraordinary. The changes cars brought to the lives of a hitherto predominantly farming nation are also explored – not least the thousands of miles of road that were laid, including the life-changing introductions of inter-state highways that changed lives again.

The only thing missing really, is an exploration of where cars are going now. Detroit, as we know, is a shell of what it once was, and there is a large turning point in the auto industry ahead of us: self-driving and electric cars. Indeed, quite possibly the very model of private vehicular ownership is going to be challenged.

A really entertaining and insightful exploration of Trump’s heartland.