RoadTrip America

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

Sacred Places North America, by Brad Olsen

Sacred Places

This is a refreshingly different kind of guidebook. You won't find any battlefields between its covers, but rather an eclectic selection of destinations across the continent that are, for a wide variety of reasons, held sacred by human beings. Brad Olsen, who has written a number of travel guides, is generous in his definition of "sacred," including not only the Native American sites you might expect, but also places like Graceland and Salt Lake City's Mormon Temple. In addition, he includes areas of archaeological interest because of the "OOPAS" found there. "OOPAS," as Olsen explains in his introduction and conclusion, are "out of place artifacts," many of which remain unexplained or ignored by historians and archaeologists. What, for example, is an inscription with runes characteristic of the middle Viking Age doing in central Oklahoma? Olsen also includes plenty of sites associated with UFOs and alien sightings.

Sacred Places North America made me want to hit the road immediately, especially as I read about fascinating places in my own region that I had never heard of before. One such destination is Arcosanti, an "urban experiment" in Arizona built according to concepts of "arcology," a blend of architecture and ecology. And I can't help wanting to head to Florida to check out the ancient remains at Bimini that might tie in with the legend of the lost continent of Atlantis.

In addition to providing detailed descriptions and clear directions and instructions for visiting each of the 108 destinations he profiles, Olsen has included hand-drawn maps for each area. At first glance, these might seems inferior to the slick, computer-generated maps we've all become so accustomed to, but they are definitely worth a closer look. Without sacrificing accuracy, Olsen's maps read like treasure maps, and they enhance the sense of mystery and wonder he creates with his prose.

Olsen has criss-crossed the continent numerous times, and he has left no region unrepresented in this book. In Rhode Island, you can visit Newport Tower, "the most hotly disputed structure in New England." In the South, check out ancient "temple mounds" in Alabama, Arkansas, and Florida. In Canada, discover the Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel, a 2,000-year-old astronomical observatory, and take a tour of California's historic missions. Find the best spots for UFO-sightings in Nevada and New Mexico, and take the waters at Indian Hot Springs in southern Texas. Sacred Places North America is an extraordinary collection of unique road trip destinations, and reading it is a great armchair adventure, too.

Megan Edwards

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