"I get a little insane at times," said Mike Camarano, 25, who drives 60,000 miles a year reporting on road conditions for the American Automobile Association.

It's lonely work Camarano is a professional drifter in a nation where drifters become folk-heroes.

"All the towns I go through, the first time I go through them they look really great, but really they're all the same," he said quietly. "They might have an A & W Root Beer stand and an old town hall, old duffers sitting out in front of the barber shop. It's all like that, throughout all of American. . ."

Camarano mostly drives major roads that take Americans from city to city. He checks road conditions, traffic volume, speed limits and the configurations of interchanges, relaying this information to the AAA's modern headquarters in Falls Church where mapmakers and trip counselors pass it on to members.

Camarano drives, his own white Granada and writes his observations on a pad attached to a wooden frame jammed between front seat and dashboard.

He often stays with friends or in inexpensive motels of which the AAA publishes a list. He rises about 8 a.m. hits the road by 9:30 and quits in late afternoon after driving about 300 miles. He is paid a $10,000 salary plus $23 per diem and car expenses.

"I go 55 m.p.h. all the time and everyone's passing me," he said. "Traffic flows at about 60 to 62, right in there. It's just about the same all over the country, although it's a little wilder when you're near large cities."

When he began as a road reporter three years ago, the 55 m.p.h. limit had already been imposed nationally but Camarano said people on the big highways generally ignored it, driving about 70. "Since then I've noticed they've slowed down," he said. "It's a lot more comfortable down there, that's the reason. You don't have to worry about the police."

A typical three'day trip for Camarano: south to Richmond on I-95, across 360 and 460 to Roanoke, southwest on I-81 to Christiansburg northwest to Charlestown via the West Virginia Turnpike, up 79 to Clarksburg and then home on U.S. Rt. 50.

People do go fast on I-95 (to Richmond), about 65, and the trucks are bad," he said. "I don't like that bit of road, and then I don't like the toll from Richmond to Petersburg. I don't figure that road's worth a toll. It's kinda choppy."