Those preconceptions came mostly from conversations with urbane US East Coasters. "It's really just one big farm" and "why do they have a vote?" - that sort of thing.
Both on my own behalf and on the behalf of those who misled us who are not quite brave enough to purge their own consciences you know who you are.
First of all people were incredibly lovely and polite - you have no idea how many times we rolled up - black girl, asian guy- to motels in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night expecting to be kept occupied while someone sent for the men in the white hoods.
In our defence even their fellow Americans have this perception of the rural midwest. To be honest though it didn't settle our nerves any each time we had to do the nightime trek to a locked motel door - and probably never will.
Once we had the misfortune to pull up at a motel at the same time as a group of Indian-Americans at around midnight and you could tell they were pissed off at us for pushing the number of darkies at the innkeeper's door above the acceptable minimum.
So it wasn't just us who were freaked. But then we did meet the loveliest midwestern couple who wanted to shake our hands when they heard we were from London -"just the loveliest people" - and tell us a story about their run in with some "charming young men who were carrying - well it must've been beer - and were ever so high spirited and courteous.
I think they were on their way back from some kind of sporting event. Weren't they dear.
So maybe everybody's just nicer to strangers. At one diner we went to we were'nt allowed to pay for our meal because we were 'visiting'.
Although I maintain that within the parameters of their politeness there were varying degrees of hostility - like a Japanese bow. I walked in to a 'gas station'; and the two least clean gentleman I've ever seen in my life did a double-take.
They did return my greeting but the intake of his friend's breath during the length of time it took for one of them to exhale a drawn out, flat, 'howdy' made me realise I'd been subtly insulted.
And you should've seen their faces when Girish left the car and joined in the fun. I still asked for directions though. By the time we left the rural backroads Girish sounded like the Queen.
I think it was his anxiety to truly not sound local - and therefore duff-uppable. Saying all this it really was an amazing trip. The extent of the poverty was breathtaking but the extent of the awareness and the anger felt by people - who were proud to describe themselves as simple - over what the saw as the hijacking of their country by "them up in Washington" was eye opening.
That's not say that they'll all vote blue come election day. Ohio has suffered huge job losses and it's steel mills and farms are bearing the brunt of an ailling economy.
They seemed as angry at the Democrats as they were the Republicans. Whatever the outcome of these elections I think the one blow for the "average American" will be that no one will dare to take them or their vote for granted.
Or presume that their concerns are as simple as "pro-life, anti-gay. I wanna be able to keep my gun" and tie them up in a little box. And that is probably a big blow for democracy - and the human soul.