RoadTrip America

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


United States: On the Road, by Insight Guides


United States: On the Road

Producing a book that claims to be a road trip guide to the entire United States might be considered an act of extreme chutzpah. Is it really possible to cram enough useful information into a volume and still keep it smaller than an unabridged dictionary? Amazingly, the creators of Insight Guides' new United States: On the Road have done precisely that. With articles about history and culture, maps, routes, recommended attractions, and loads of travel tips, On the Road is an excellent tool for planning a trip, taking a trip, and reminiscing about it afterwards.

The pictures are the first thing you notice about the book, starting with the one on the cover. While travel guides tend to feature scenery, this one grabs you with two classic "Easy Rider" dudes. A few pages inside, surfers are unloading their boards from a vintage station wagon on a Southern California beach. The "people-and-vehicles" theme continues throughout the book, making it impossible for any road trip lover not to want to hit the highway immediately, preferably on a Harley or in a convertible.

The images in On the Road aren't limited to people in photogenic vehicles. There are plenty of scenic vistas, capturing the feel of places like Big Bend National Park in Texas, the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, Stone Mountain in Georgia, and the giant redwood groves of California. The Alamo, autumn leaves in New England, coastal lighthouses, Southern plantations, national parks -- they're all here, captured in images worthy of a coffee table book.

Remarkably, there is still room in On the Road's 471 pages for plenty of useful trip planning information. The middle section of the book outlines five routes: New York City to Miami, Boston to Seattle, Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, Atlanta to New Orleans, and San Diego to San Francisco. A detailed schematic map of each route makes it easy to identify attractions and distances, and the text gives an overview of what to do and see. The "travel tips" section in the back of the book has recommendations for food and lodging. While hardly exhaustive, the listings are nonetheless a good place to start.

Also profiled are nine scenic routes including the Rim of the World drive in California, the Going-to-the-Sun-Road in Glacier National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. Big cities get two-page spreads with a description of major attractions and a map. Attractions and destinations near the routes are mentioned, too, which helps guarantee you won't miss something memorable. Las Vegas, for example, isn't on Route 66, but it's close enough to merit a half-page writeup as a "Detour," with tips for getting further information.

Overall, On the Road comes the closest I've ever seen to being a film documentary in book form. The truly outstanding photographs, combined with the well-organized text and maps, provide more than mere description of the routes they cover. The authors, contributors, and photographers -- more than a dozen of them -- have captured the ambience, flavor, and feel of the different roads and regions and the people who inhabit them. While it remains impossible to squeeze the United States in between two covers, On the Road does a very good job of catching the juice and serving it up in tantalizingly accessible form for anyone who ever dreamed of taking a great American road trip.

Megan Edwards
11/20/05

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