Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wow, It's been a bit. Been busy. 
OK, it’s nearing December and time to start thinking about making a list and checking it twice. I hope you’ve not been too naughty, nor too nice! That wouldn’t be much fun now, would it? Since the election noise has finally subsided, we can finally get down to serious business: Holiday Shopping! To that end, I’ve got a few ideas for all you intrepid Road Trippers out there.
I cruised the shelves of our favorite bookstore (gosh, what might THAT be?) and came up with some gems. Tina has stocked a whole bunch of goodies but these were standouts to me. First, I’m going to indulge in some shameless self promotion. Road Trippin’ ($22.95) by me is not a bad book! It’s a compilation of a lot of these columns, all cleaned up with purty pictures and more consistent directions. In addition are some of my columns that dealt with my outlook on Road Trips. If you haven’t picked up a copy for you and several for friends, you should. Who doesn’t need the allure of the open road during the dark days of winter? I also want to thank those who have bought a copy. I really appreciate your support. It makes me feel like I’ve actually made an impression and that I’m not writing to a blank wall! So enough of ME, what else is there?
Route 66 is the obvious area of Road Trips that EVERYONE does. And it seems that everyone writes about it too. Autobooks has most of these if they are in print. There seem to be three categories of Route 66 books. The first is the all encompassing Ode to the Mother Road. these wax nostalgic about the alleged good old days and how “wonderful” travel was back then. they also ignore the fact that travel back then was downright dangerous! Two thousand plus miles of two lane highway in a car with drum brakes and nominal radiators? Seriously? It was a pretty grueling trek. Still, these are good books and give us a look (albeit rosy tinted) at an important part of our history. 
The second type focusses on all the weird and funky stuff on 66, extant or vanished. Again, these books play on the nostalgia for the Mother Road. And again, they give us a terrific look at American Culture and the lives of everyday people. These two types of books focus not on the Great Leaders and Big Issues, but on what the everyday people who really make up this nation, and how they lived and traveled. Their hopes and dreams, successes and failures. 
The third type is the useful guide book. Of these, we looked carefully at two. Finding the End of the Mother Road-Route 66 in Los Angeles County, by Scott R. Piotrwski ($19.95) and EZ66-Route 66 Guide for Travelers, by Jerry McClanahan ($15.95). Get them both. There that was easy! Why? You had to ask. Each of these books are meant to be used in a car. They are spiral bound for easy reference and of a convenient size. Piotrwski’s book on LA county has more detail on the wonders of Route 66 in our own back yard. The maps and directions are easy to follow and accurate. Most of the focus is on what is still here and how to find these gems that are buried in the vastness of our urban sprawl. 
McClanahan’s book takes on the whole enchilada. It does not have really detailed information, but makes up for that in the sheer abundance of great stuff. Each town along 66 is detailed, in order, giving you an idea of what is there, or in too many sad cases, what WAS there. One of the more amusing features is the Giant Alert. Every one of those HUGE advertising statues (like the giant guy holding tires, or the giant boot, or the giant doughnut) is chronicled and you are alerted to their presence. Pretty cool idea. another great feature about this book is that you can use it front to back (if you are traveling from Chicago to LA) or for us going eastward, simply flip the book back to front and it’s equally useful! What a GENIUS idea! 
Marianne and I had a hard time picking which was the better book. The Finding the End of the Mother Road  is terrific for it’s detail, but is limited to LA country. The EZ66 guide may not have the narrative, but has all the detail anyone needs to make a real trek of discovery. I seriously recommend both PLUS at least one form the other two categories. 
Another book that caught my eye is more unusual. Constant readers will know how much I love Highway 395. It’s maybe the last of the “real” highways. Pretty much all two lanes and it still goes through the center of every town, including Carson City, NV, right past the state capitol building. I was delighted (and a bit disappointed, I want to do a 395 book myself-who needs the competition?) to find U/S. Route 395-Travel America’s “Three Flags Highway” in a Classic 1969 Porsche 912, by Michael Newlon ($24.95). In his often amusing narrative, Newton describes his epic 1300 mile journey in his beloved 912, describing his joys and tribulations and giving the reader a great sense of what is out there. He also has plenty of tips about preparing for such a journey in an older car. The book is loaded with pictures of his little white chariot at a huge variety of neat and often funky places along the way. My only problem is that he seems to over-emphasize that he did all of the “at legal cruising speed.” Really? You never gave in to the temptation to open it up somewhere between Wagon Tire and Alturas? Well, OK, his book is about cruising, not racing. I was going to insert a dig about it only being a 912 and something about how legal speed limits are about all it will do, but I won’t. Seriously, get this book. It may help you decide that taking an epic journey in your Auld Crate is not only doable, but highly advisable. 
The last book is maybe the ‘Must Have” book for any true Road Tripper. The Lincoln Highway-The Great American Road Trip, by Michael Wallis with photography from Pulitzer Prize winning Michael S. Williamson ($39.95). Route 66 gets all the press. First the hit song by Bobby Troup, then the TV series that seldom featured that highway, plus the 50s nostalgia craze and great marketing have all propelled Route 66 into the public conscience as The Road. Now I LOVE Route 66. It does embody much of what our culture is all about. but it’s not the only highway, and in fact, was not the first transcontinental road. That honor falls to the Lincoln Highway. 
The Lincoln Highway, begun in 1913 connected two of the most iconic and polar opposite sights in America. the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge. That’s right, New York to Frisco. The Big Apple to the Big Kiwi with a Lime Cranberry Sauce and Shaved Cumquat or what ever Friscoians call them selves. This road goes right smackdab through the center of America. The Heartland. What Both-Coasters call sneeringly, “Fly Over States.”  Thirteen States (is that a coincidence or was it planned?) and 3,389 miles. New York, Chicago, Omaha, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Reno, San Francisco. And what must be hundreds of little wide spots in the road that make up the Real America. 
Much of the western half parallels the first Transcontinental Railroad and there is more of the Lincoln Highway intact than there is of Route 66! This is a journey that all serious Road Tripper MUST take! 
This coffee table book has it all. A great mix of new and historic photos, postcards, shots of the weird and funky, the iconic and mundane fill this book. It’s gone to the top of my Christmas List. Santa, are you reading Ace? Can we send a copy to the north Pole? 
So, some goodies for under the tree. Treat yourself or someone else, these are essential for any Roadt Trippin’ library. 

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