Pros: A good place to start for arm-chair travelers. You will need more for real-world travels.
Cons: More discrimination of 'must see' vs 'OK trip' would have been nice.
The name conjures an icon of the American way of life: always on the road seeking the next grand vista ...the next travel adventure, breaking through all obstacles of geography, climate, and native populations unfortunate enough to stand in the way of manifest destiny.
As the Old West and the frontier vanished and the automobile became a fixture in American life, Route 66 became the 'Mother Road' of the American dream. "From Chicago to Santa Monica, Route 66 Backroads takes you on a tour of the Main Street of America and beyond."
There have been dozens of books written about the history of Route 66. Countless others chronicle intimate memories of the 'glory days' of the highway. Another shelf groans while holding all the photo books that document the visual wonders, natural and man-made, found along old Route 66.
Route 66 Backroads blends these approaches and others into a grand, sweeping tour of Route 66 and the lands it passes through. Unlike many other Route 66 books, Backroads uses various points along the route as jumping off points for far-ranging explorations of the lands and the history of Route 66 and its surrounding areas.
These 'backroads routes' or explorations are as short as 16 miles to explore Chicago's Lake Shore Drive at the beginning of Route 66. Or as long as nearly 200 miles deep into the wilds of the western states. Some are loop routes that bring you back to your starting point while others are one-way drives deep into the hinterlands. Do not forget to calculate time and miles to get you back near your starting point.
Route 66 Backroads wants to be many things: photo album, travelogue, chamber of commerce puff piece, coffee-table book, roadmap collection, scrapbook, history book, trivia book, and more.
The photos featured here range from 'touristy snapshots' to 'fine art' photographs. The photo of the fiery red-orange walls of the Alley Springs Mill reflected in its stream in the Ozarks is stunning. (Note this is far from the path of Route 66.)
Many of the descriptions of 'must see' things along the routes featured here have a feel of the author describing his own experiences.
The author also makes some of the site descriptions sound as if the local chamber of commerce wrote the sentence/paragraph: "The first of Ponca City's treats is a terrific array of art, from private as well as public collections, displayed in several museums and in almost every public building."
With the book divided into 'state chapters' each begins with a road map. The main path of Route 66 through the state is highlighted in yellow, the side 'backroads' routes are drawn in red. While the maps look official ...you probably want a real road map for real-world use.
Old postcards, photos, and trivia are sprinkled throughout the book. Did you know the first Boy Scout Troop in America was started in Pawhuska, OK..?? There ya go. Alex Trebek will be calling me soon.
Backroads also spends time exploring the history of Route 66. With cowboys and Indians (OK, 'native Americans'), explorers, soldiers, businessmen, and empire builders all prominent in the history of the West it is not surprising to find many of them noted here as well.
The Bottom Line
So how does Backroads work, as a total package..??
It succeeds adequately at touching most of the genres mentioned earlier. But it is really more than the sum of its parts. It will be a disappointment to the ‘Route 66 fanatic’ who wants to know more about only Route 66.
But for those looking for interesting, longer day-trips off the mother road, Route 66 Backroads will point you at some fascinating adventures into parts of the Midwest and Old West not seen by those who stick to the main highways, or worse ...clueless 'tourists' who speed right by the history and beauty of the Midwest/Old West at 75 mph on the Interstate.
Certified 'lean-n-mean' review.
Check out the 2009 write-off here: Lean-n-Mean VIII
This is also an entry in fellow user texas-swede's Texas+Sweden Write Off.
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