In May 2005, on a sudden impulse, Don Watson took a train called The Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles: like a woodworm, he thought, drilling a tiny groove into the bark of the republic. Long before it reached LA, Watson had decided to catch more trains to more places in America. The Southwest Chief had cast an irresistible spell: long days with the American landscape and American towns and American history unfolding on the outside, while on the inside a tiny particle of the American people talked among themselves. Here was a unique and seductive means of peering into the United States. Five months later, Watson had returned with a plan to travel everywhere that a train could take him. The result is this charming, witty and above all fascinating book – an extraordinary portrait of the most powerful democracy on earth, home to the best and worst of everything. This is no rant about America – there have been many such books in recent years – more an authentic snapshot of what America is and what it means. Here is Watson’s reaction to the experience of American life laid bare, from frustration to fury, affection to amusement, anger to anxiety. Only in America are the most extreme contradictions possible. Only with Don Watson as our guide can we see the true character of Uncle Sam.