Drive I-95: Exit by Exit Info, Maps, History and Trivia, by Stan Posner & Sandra Phillips-Posner
The fourth edition of Drive I-95 by Stan Posner and Sandra Phillips-Posner is now available, and like good wine, this road guide series keeps getting better and better. For the first time, the guide extends its extraordinary coverage all the way to Miami, Florida. In past editions, the guide stopped at about mile marker 14 in the northern section of Florida. Since the 4th edition is about eight pages shorter than the 3rd and covers much more territory, I was very curious how they authors had managed to achieve such a feat. The answer is: pretty cleverly! They restructured the map portions so that a reader can use the book in either direction, thus eliminating the need for a separate set of pages for northbound maps. At the same time, they added 22 pages of new information about exits and attractions found at each off-ramp. Also new are 23 more pages of "stories of the road" which provide insider tips about places to eat and explore on the 1500-mile journey along Interstate 95 between Boston, Massachusetts and Miami, Florida.
I-95, which runs from Houlton, Maine, to Miami, Florida, is one of the most heavily traveled routes in the United States. At 1,920 miles, it's the longest north-south transcontinental route in the U.S. It has the shortest state segment (.11 mile through Washington, D.C.), it passes through more states (16) than any other interstate highway, it was the most expensive to build, and it passes through six of the top twenty U.S. metropolitan areas. Every year, the road trip enthusiasts, on the Great American RoadTrip Forum, respond to hundreds of queries from would-be travelers seeking alternative scenic routes to I-95. But with this book in hand, travel along Interstate 95 is easily transformed from a grueling car trip to an adventure in roadside Americana along one of the great highways in the United States.
In each new edition, the authors focus on a particular category of attractions found along the way. In 2006, they compiled what is arguably the best directory of pet-friendly lodging options now available in print along this popular route. This edition provides the means to enjoy an on-the-road "chocolate experience," with suggestions for stops along the entire route that will satisfy even the most extreme sweet tooth.
The constant evolution of modern highways and the businesses they attract means that a slew of roadside businesses have opened, closed or moved since last year. The authors continue their admirable practice of triple-checking every one of the 553 off-ramps to ensure that the description and location of the hundreds of restaurants, gas stations, rest areas and car washes are accurate. This year, the resource guide at the end of the book has been redesigned, making it incredibly easy to locate campgrounds, golf courses, auto mechanic repair centers, independent motels, and B&Bs that are located in close proximity to off ramps along the highway. Travelers seeking pet-friendly accommodations will see a small dog symbol to the right of the name of animal-accommodating motels. I also noticed that farm stands selling fresh produce are now shown on the map pages.
The map portion of the book is designed so that the locations of services, exit roads, attractions, and sign posts are positioned so they appear to be in the "correct" orientation -- in other words, how they would appear if the reader were to look up from the book page and look at the highway. To make things even easier, they have added the phrase "Drive Up/Down The Page" at the top and bottom of each page to help those of us who may be "map challenged." Another element that aids in relating the map pages to the real world is the addition of water tower symbols and other easily seen visual points of reference. One ingenious feature of the maps is that speed limits are indicated in different shades of gray: the darker the shade, the higher the limit on that section of the roadway. A liberal use of landmark icons aid in navigating unfamiliar roads, and the exit icons provide information about all the other highway connections available at that exit ramp. Each of the map pages covers either a fifteen- or thirty-mile section along the roadway. The fifteen-mile pages are used for places where the density of the information requires more room on the page. The book also identifies the known hiding spots of radar-equipped state police cruisers along the entire route.
The "white detail pages" in the center of the book provide information about quirky museums, appealing B&Bs, historical sites, and fun places to eat. These write-ups are well done and make interesting reading. Plenty of trivia and historical anecdotes are included. The big news this year is that just about all of the 128 photos are in color, and the pages have been redesigned to make them even easier to read when going down the road. By my count there are a whopping 162 new articles about places to explore and visit never before covered in this guide. It is really quite astonishing how many new attractions, lodging options and restaurants the authors discover each year. In addition, at the top of each page the authors have included useful Web links for each of the states.
A few intriguing examples of this year's additions include a discussion about the tree that "ate Roger Williams" at his burial spot on a farm in Rhode Island, and the Garbage Museum located near exit 30 in Connecticut, where visitors can see a transfer station in full operation. A fabulous eatery you'd probably never notice without this book is the Bay Gourmet near exit 100 in Maryland, where topnotch food is served behind a decidedly nondescript facade. In Florida, the Alligator Farm Zoological Park in St. Augustine is a standout with its twenty-three species of alligators and crocodiles.
Still in business and in the book are appealing roadside attractions like the spot to find yummy-sounding shrimp gorgonzola crab cakes in Connecticut. You'll find information about how to sleep overnight in sailor's bunks aboard the Battleship New Jersey, and the Roundhouse Railroad Museum near Macon, Georgia, lets you see a still-working turntable that was once used to repair train engines. Many more local landmarks, museums, eateries, and wonders are profiled, many of which you might miss without this book. It's also nice to know about the super-clean bathrooms on the New Jersey Turnpike, the stories behind the terms "hush puppies" and "New England," and that the most-requested recipe at the Lone Star Barbeque & Mercantile in Santee, South Carolina, is Tomato Pie.
If you are one of the millions of drivers who dread driving along I-95 each year, reading this book could be a life-altering experience. It can turn you into a highway expert with a seemingly uncanny ability to find fascinating but little-known attractions and fabulous road food known only to locals. With Drive-I-95, a seasonal chore might well become one of the best road trip experiences you've ever had.