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Writers view America, up close and personal

Two Canadian authors chronicle their road trip across the United States, on a journey of discovery and understanding



Breakfast at the Exit Café: Travels Through America

By Merilyn Simonds and Wayne Grady

Greystone Books

$32.95, 316 pps.


Many people would be slightly hesitant to set out on a lengthy road trip with their spouse; after all, living in the close quarters of a car and without the creature comforts of home for more than a few days is bound to spark a few tense moments.

But in December 2006, authors Wayne Grady and Merilyn Simonds - who are also husband and wife - decided to take the long way home from Vancouver, where Merilyn had been acting as the Writer In Residence at UBC's Green College. Rather than simply go cross-Canada, as they had done before, the couple opted to head home to Ontario via the southern rim of the United States, in hopes of avoiding harsh winter weather and exploring places they had never been before, like the Grand Canyon.

But shortly after setting out on their trip, they encountered snow:

"'Funny to think that we came this far south to avoid driving through snow,' Marilyn muses, her tone not as light as she'd clearly like it to be.

"'Yes,' I say, 'but we're in Utah. It's the best snow in the world.'"

Um, excuse me, but there may be a few people in this town who object to that claim.

Merilyn and Wayne are both accomplished, published authors, but the book chronicling their journey - Breakfast at the Exit Café: Travels Through America - was the first time the couple had worked collaboratively on a project. And they didn't set out to do so. In fact, one party was quite opposed to the idea, initially.

"I don't think we started talking book until after we hit the deer," Merilyn reflected.

Yes, that's right, they also managed to hit a deer in Escalante, Utah.

"So we're driving along - we've been driving for three or four weeks - and we hit this deer and we drive through the storm of the century and we're in the middle of all of these environmental refugees in Albuquerque, so we think, 'wow this is pretty amazing.'"

They began bouncing around the idea of chronicling their "holiday" in a co-written book.

"But I personally did not take that seriously, so I just kept doing what I always do, which is taking notes," she added.

"And saying, 'Yes, yes dear,'" Wayne chimed in, laughing.

"We'd never written a book together. It was terrifying!" Merilyn explained.