Ramble Colorado: A Wanderer's Guide to the Offbeat, Overlooked, and Outrageous, by Eric Peterson
This is the third book by Eric Peterson that I have reviewed in the last four years. The first was Roadside Americana in 2004, followed by Ramble: A Field Guide to the USA in 2006. Peterson's books are quirky, entertaining and excellent resources for planning road trips. He discovers fascinating attractions and people in places that most of us wouldn't even begin to know how to look for. Paraphrasing one of his descriptions about the "Ultimate Taxi" in Aspen, I think the highest and best use of this totally engrossing epic is that Ramble Colorado: A Wanderer's Guide to the Offbeat, Overlooked, and Outrageous is the best book to carry with you if you don't have a destination in mind and are in no hurry to get there.
When you pick up Ramble Colorado for the first time, you'll be tempted to flip through it immediately. The gorgeous color photos are instantly arresting, as are the author's candid and original remarks. Peterson's light-hearted Kerouac style is funny, engaging, and ultimately full of very astute observations. His voice is decidedly different from the tone you are likely to find in a Frommer guidebook (although, ironically, Peterson also writes for Frommer's). But even though these features will hold your attention, the first thing you really ought to do is to turn to the last page and read the "Ramble Manifesto." Peterson captures the mystical romance of the road trip better than just about anyone I know. Take a moment to soak up some that good stuff before diving into the meat of this book.
Ramble Colorado is a fabulous book for "random paging." Open the book to any page and you'll immediately find something humorous or captivating. The book opens with a look at attractions in the Denver area and then follows a more-or-less northwesterly route to the extreme western edge of the state, swinging around to the south and finishing on plains on the eastern side of Colorado. Lists of interesting places to visit are interspersed with his signature travel narratives. Attraction categories, including such topics as "Big Things," "Road Art," "R.I.P," "Vice," "Star Maps," and "Grub," introduce write-ups of a wide variety of off-beat sites. You'll learn where to find the graves of famous dogs and that the current record at the Great Fruitcake Toss in Manitou Springs is 1420 feet. The Bishop Castle near Beulah, the Colorado Alligator Farm near Mosca, and the Clown Museum in Arriba are other one-of-a-kind attraction profiled in this collection. (Yes, there really is an alligator farm in the Rocky Mountain State.) You'll also find out about a whole of great places to drink good beer.
I've heard rumors that Peterson plans to create a "Ramble" for every one of the fifty states. While I wonder how he'll survive that much micro-brewery research, I hope the buzz is accurate. It would be great to enjoy Peterson's unique style of research and evocative commentary about locales from coast to coast.