Some writers who reach a certain level of acclaim would be pleased to relax comfortably into semi-retirement, occasionally collecting $8 a word for articles in magazines like Vanity Fair or GQ. William T. Vollmann is not that kind of writer. Vollmann, who has won critical acclaim for his analyses of violence (Rising Up and Rising Down) and world poverty (Poor People) expounds in Riding Toward Everywhere about his fondness for train-hopping—1950s hobo-style. The prize-winning author rides freight trains north and south, east and west, with no credit cards, no cell phone, and no destination. And, as fans of Vollmann know, this is not some gimmick to sell books: He will not be washing dishes in all 50 states or live according to the Bible for a year. This is an aimless meandering with no higher goal than to dig deeper into one highly romanticized, very American idea of freedom. Vollmann discusses and signs copies of his work at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919.