This morning I met Tishaura Jones, treasurer of the City of St Louis, Missouri. She has been a vocal campaigner against racism and poverty in the city, and this year stood in the Democratic primaries to become mayor, losing out to one of only two white candidates.
Ms Jones spoke about the deep roots of St Louis' racial problems, which have led to an ongoing, simmering tension here. After the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, just west of the city, there were widespread protests that brought the Black Lives Matter movement to the attention of the world.
St Louis is, she said, effectively a segregated city, more than sixty years after segregation was made illegal in the United States. A sprawling network of municipalities and school districts keep affluent white communities apart – socially, geographically and economically – from poor black communities. The problems, it seems, are structural as much as they are social.
But despite the immense challenges faced by those trying to effect change, Ms Jones remains hopeful that changes can be made. By tackling the factors that exacerbate and entrench poverty, she hopes, the structures that maintain the city's segregated system can begin to be broken down.
The City of St Louis, Missouri.
Driving east from St Louis, through southern Illinois to Indiana, I made an unplanned stop. After spotting a sign for the town of New Harmony, a quick web search revealed an irresistible coincidence.
Having made enormous social improvements to the conditions of mill workers in the town of New Lanark, near Glasgow, the Welsh social reformer Robert Owen travelled to the United States in the early nineteenth century. In southern Indiana, he bought the town of Harmony, and attempted to build a utopian community.
New Harmony failed, economically, after only two years. But the town remains a fascinating place even today. It has grand old buildings alongside original log cabins, and open air church overlooking a lake, and a very beautiful main street. It is also exceedingly quiet, in part because many of its residents drive golf carts rather than cars.
New Harmony, Indiana.
Arriving at my cabin in the woods near Lake Pakota this evening, a crash of thunder was followed by a few spots of rain. Then more rain and more thunder. And more. After only a few minutes, the noise of both was almost overwhelming.
I drove to a local Amish restaurant through the storm, but had to pull over to wait for it to ease. The roadsides were full of idling cars, unable to see further than their front windscreens.
I slept well, woken only occasionally by thunder grumbling through the hills.
I was one of five Scottish writers chosen by Edinburgh International Book Festival to undertake extraordinary journeys across the Americas in spring and summer 2017.
I travelled through the United States for three weeks, from north to south, beginning in North Dakota, through Appalachia, and ending in Louisiana. For much of this time I was accompanied by the novelist Jennifer Haigh.
You can follow my progress on Twitter and Instagram, and keep up-to-date with all the travellers using the hashtag #Outriders.