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Two summertime cross-country adventures

July 9, 2011 | 10:00 am

This summer, two adventurers will traverse the country on similar paths, for very different reasons.

First out of the gate is Constantino Diaz-Duran, a fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University who came to the U.S. from Guatemala a decade ago. To celebrate becoming a U.S. citizen, Diaz-Duran is walking across the country. Walking! He left New York right after the Fourth of July and will make his way all the way to the West Coast, hoping to reach a walk rate of about 20 miles per day. Diaz-Duran is writing about his experiences for Zocalo Public Square under the moniker Walk Like an American. As he travels, he's talking to the people he encounters about their perceptions of immigrants and immigration. He's on a shoestring (pun intended) budget and is accepting donations, via PayPal, offers of places to crash, and lunch, should you be so inclined. It certainly sounds like the kind of project that could use a book deal, too.

Departing on the inverse trip Aug. 9 -- traveling from Los Angeles to New York -- is Christopher Boucher, the author of "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive." Published by Melville House, the book looks in part like a manual for a vintage VW Beetle but is actually a novel, in which the protagonist is a reporter living in Massachusetts raising his son, a '71 Beetle. (Yes, a car: This would be the place to note that Boucher has a creative writing MFA from Syracuse University, where he was a student of brilliant surreal humorist George Saunders). "Born of grief and fueled by stories, the Volkswagen is hopeful, smug and fraught with mechanical problems," explains the book's website. The novel was picked as the July Rumpus book club selection, so interested readers can discuss before Boucher launches his (quixotic?) attempt to drive a 1972 Beetle from Los Angeles to New York for his book tour, which he promises to blog. But as anyone who's relied on an old-style Beetle knows, he might want to think like Diaz-Duran and be prepared to take in the country walking.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Beetles on the road in Sri Lanka in June, commemorating the original production order in 1934. Credit: Ishara S. Kodikara / AFP/Getty Images