Don't meet your heroes, they say. Well, today I did just that, and it turned out alright. On Sunday afternoon I drove through Henry County, Kentucky, to Port Royal, and found the farm of Wendell Berry.
Over the past ten years or so I've read all of Berry's fiction (eight novels and scores of short stories) as well as many of his essays and poems. I've also recommended his work to everyone who would listen. Berry's is truly a wise, generous and humane voice in American literature.
After chatting for a while inside the house, he took me out for a tour of the area in his pickup. At one point he stopped and got out to rescue a turtle that was trying to cross the road. "He was going in the wrong direction", Wendell explained. Later, despite his hatred of screens, he even consented to a photograph.
Organising this visit took several handwritten letters back and forth across the Atlantic, but it was worth every drop of ink (and petrol).
(An interesting fact: Wendell keeps a llama as a "guard animal" to protect his sheep from coyotes.)
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.