Roadside Americana, by Eric Peterson
Eric Peterson's new Roadside Americana is delight for anyone who loves roadside attractions. I have been fortunate enough to visit at least half of the tourist attractions he profiles, but this collection of photographs is the best assemblage of the truly amazing oft-called "tourist traps" I have ever seen. Since I have been to so many of the places the author visited and thought I knew everything there was to know about them, I was quite surprised to learn some of the interesting factoids that he presents in the accompanying text descriptions. Until I read this book, I never knew that the Hollywood sign in the hills above Los Angeles was originally spelled Hollywoodland and was used as a real estate promotion.
Peterson presents his study of over 40 roadside icons in 48 states and provinces into six classifications. "Roadside Landmarks" includes places like Wall Drug in South Dakota, Cadillac Ranch in New Mexico and the London Bridge in Arizona. "Roadside Statues" includes a really good photo of the famous Cabazon dinosaur in California, Superman in Illinois, and the third-tallest freestanding sculpture in the United States, the Iron Man in Minnesota. In the "Architectural Digest" section, you'll find the incredible Prabhupada's Palace of Gold in West Virginia and my personal favorite, the Longaberger building in Newark, Ohio which is an exact replica of one of the company's baskets except that it's 180 times larger. The "World's Largest" collection includes everything from the biggest roadrunner in Texas to a big bull in Iowa. "Gas, Food & Lodging" features a huge orange Julep in Montreal, Randy's Donut shop in Los Angeles, and the famous Wigwam Motel in Arizona. The eclectic grouping Peterson identifies as "Weird and Paranormal" spotlights the Little A'le'Inn on the Extraterrestrial Highway in Nevada and "The Thing?" on Interstate 10 near Benson, Arizona.
Through the excellent photography of this book, I was able to experience some of the roadside attractions that folks have been inviting me to visit for over a decade, but that I have yet to see in real life. The Tin Family along the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota is one such landmark, as is John Preble's UCM Museum in Abita Springs, Louisiana. As a general rule, I don't buy coffee table books, mostly because I don't even own a coffee table. This book makes me wish almost wish I did, and I look forward to sharing it with friends for years to come.
December 5, 2004