RoadTrip America

Routes, Planning, & Inspiration for Your North American Road Trip

Classic Motorsport Routes: 30 Legendary Routes You Can Drive Today, by Richard Meaden

Ya gotta love a book that has a line like this: "…At 8 am sharp the first of 230 competitors is lagged away from the start line in what has to rank as the greatest single example of organized anarchy in America…" Actually, I suppose one could make the same comment about the current-day American political system, but this new book by Richard Meaden is far more entertaining than the Presidential election follies now gripping the nation. To put it simply, I LOVED this book. Classic Motorsport Routes: 30 Legendary Routes You Can Drive Today will be in my collection of favorite road trip books for a long, long time. Although our editorial focus is primarily about road trip travel in North America, and most of the routes described in this book are in Europe and other exotic locations, this is still a book that every fan of road trips will love. The line quoted above describes the start of Nevada's Silver State Challenge, a semiannual road race where motorists are allowed to drive flat-out on a closed 90-mile section of Nevada State Highway 318.

The author's premise was simple: choose and describe 30 historic routes that have been used for road races dating as far back as the late 1800s and can still be driven today. The selected routes are in Mexico, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe. But it's not the routes themselves that are compelling -- it's the author's storytelling that left me breathless. Meaden weaves historical fact, local legend, awesome photography, and his own personal driving experiences into his descriptions. He provides tips for finding and following each of these world-famous routes, and he also suggests places to stop and dine or enjoy the surrounding areas.

I'll probably never get to all thirty of Meaden's routes, but one event I'd particularly like to see after reading this book is the Targa Tasmania, a 1,336-mile race that has been challenging competitors since the early 1990s. Superstar road rally driver Sir Stirling Moss describes it as "…one of the greatest driving experiences of my life." A standout photograph in the book -- one of many -- shows the intense look of concentration on the face of motorcyclist Davy Morgan as he drove around a corner in the 2006 running of the "Isle of Man TT" race. Another route that would be fun to experience is the Jim Clark Rally course that winds around the countryside of Scotland.

I was fortunate to be at the El Mirage course in California's Mojave Desert for the first "Muroc Reunion" back in 1996. Reading Meaden's description of a subsequent event makes me want to return this year to watch vintage racecars compete on the dry lakebed. But the route that really calls out to me -- especially before it is rendered extinct by environmental protection efforts -- is the Pikes Peak toll road in Colorado. Most of it is still dirt, and although it is only 19 miles long, it is known to fans and drivers alike as "The Race to the Clouds." Race drivers like Mario Andretti, Al & Bobby Unser, and Ari Vatanen have all tested their mettle on the Pikes Peak route. The road features 156 corners as it winds up the mountain to the 14,001-foot summit. All driving fans will appreciate the wry humor of the names of some of the stomach-churning drop-offs, and Meaden has illustrated them with spectacular photos.

This is a beautiful, inspiring, riveting book. It's crammed with insider tips, colorful and useful maps, and simply gorgeous photography. If you are a motoring enthusiast or you know someone who is, this is one book you'll want to get your hands on immediately.

Mark Sedenquist

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