Stuever's well-crafted and touching reports take us to everyday places where the increasingly unusual realities of today's world run rampant. The author—twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize—calls this terrain the American Elsewhere. He finds it by bypassing Big News and taking off ramps to places where seemingly ordinary people lead lives just slightly off-kilter. Stuever's Elsewhere extends through trailer parks, roller rinks, malls no longer sparkling, and suburbs where robot dogs growl and bored children jump off rooftops using Hefty-bag parachutes.
From Star Wars conventions to credit disasters, from snipers to missing persons, there is always something happening in Elsewhere—and Stuever never misses it. In Off Ramp, his destinations include Plano, Texas, home of two friends both named Angie ('Plano princesses') who turn home décor disasters over to a TV decorating show and wind up at war against orange carpet. In Washington, D.C, we meet a pony-tailed 'sofa surgeon' who confronts the mysteries of the universe and couches that won't fit through doorways. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a spiral-permed secretary begins an odyssey toward marriage that takes her from anxiety dreams ('I'm walking down the aisle and nobody is looking at me or anything') to anxiety that has no end and no cure—and is no dream.
With Stuever as our guide, we visit discount funeral homes as well as RV campgrounds where international bonds are formed. We also meet comic book artists, professional bowlers, waterbed aficionados, and some Texans on a 'debris drive' in search of pieces of the fallen Columbia space shuttle. Finally, we travel to Stuever's hometown of Oklahoma City, where the bombing of the Murrah federal building has created a kind of Elsewhere the author has never seen before.