When you ask your best friend, "What do you want to do for your 40th birthday?," and he says, "I think I would like to go see the Big Ball of Twine near Branson. And also any other road side attraction for 1,500 miles in any direction," the only correct response is "Hot dang! Road food!"

My friend Rick Garman and I are about to head out on an epic (to us, anyway) road trip that will begin and end in New Orleans, cover 2,300 miles and take in quintessential American sights along the way. From the Britney Spears Museum in Kentwood, Louisiana to Dino Land in Arkansas; from the Bill Clinton Library to Graceland; from the Rosa Parks Museum to the Gulf Coast one year after Katrina; from miniatures to giant statues; from a zydeco festival to a small town Labor Day Parade -- we will be making stops that cover the sublime to the ridiculous.

But as the trip took shape, in between our glee over possibilities, we realized a theme was forming. As I draw towards the end of my third treatment for breast cancer, and Rick deals with his own health problems while reaching a milestone birthday, we started thinking about legacies. For better or for worse, each site we see represents someone's efforts and some part of themselves that they've left behind. And before there can be legacies, there will be people. And where there are people, there are stories. In between our search for the best juke joint cheeseburger, we hope to hear as many of those as we can.

And since the unexamined life is not worth living, you have to write about it regularly. It helps if you are both travel writers to begin with so you can share those stories and talk about the perfect barbeque you stumbled on by chance one day. If also helps if you don't take even serious matters all that seriously and call the whole thing Plucky Survivors See America.

Join us, won't you?

Plucky Survivors See America starts September 1 and ends Sept 9. Our daily (or more) blog is at

(Rick Garman writes for Moon Handbooks and has a popular Las Vegas web site, Mary Herczog is the author of Frommer's New Orleans, Frommer's Las Vegas, Las Vegas for Dummies, half of California for Dummies and more.)

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