The ninth edition of Jamie Jensen’s “Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America’s Two-Lane Highways” is a beautiful thing.
A high-quality, 900-plus page, full-color paperback that weighs in at 2 pounds even (according to my digital bathroom scale), this travel guide is the only thing you’ll need if you’re contemplating a road trip anywhere in the contiguous 48 states and southern Canada.
“You can use the book to keep in shape on the road, too,” jokes Jensen, a long-time travel writer, editor, grant writer, father of 22-year-old twins and road-tripper-to-the-core. He’s put more than a half-million miles on various vehicles over the last 35 years.
It’s hard to believe, but “there’s a lot that’s not in it,” Jensen continues during a phone call from his home in Davis. “It’s a challenge as to what to put in there. There are lots of places I’ve been that are not in the book.”
That’s hard to imagine as the pages of “Road Trip USA” seem to hold endless information on places both popular and unknown.
The book is compact and well organized into 11 color-coded routes that crisscross the country, but within each route are smaller trips with corresponding maps, plenty of details and full-color photos, including some of Jensen’s vintage postcard collection.
“I think it’s awesome that you don’t have to drive all the way across the country (to use the book),” says Jensen, who grew up in Santa Monica, not far from the terminus of Route 66. “You can do some of these trips in a nice long weekend.”
For locals who want to start right out of their driveways, there is the Pacific Coast route, no doubt familiar to many San Diego County residents. But chances are many haven’t visited Mission San Miguel Arcangel, just north of Paso Robles, established in 1797 and the only non-restored mission; or Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, “endless acres of windswept beaches, coastal sand dunes and boggy bird-friendly marshlands” south of Pismo Beach; or Garrapata State Park, a two-mile stretch of pristine beach just south of Point Lobos.
What are some of Jensen’s favorite spots?
“The drive along Big Sur,” he says without hesitation. “If I had all the time and money in the world, I’d stay there. And the old fishing village of Bandon on the Oregon Coast.”
What’s of interest in this town of 3,200?
The funky and fanciful Bandon Driftwood Museum, for one.
True to the ’60s, there is no website (that I can find), so enjoy the surprise when you discover the bizarre collection of objects constructed of driftwood which provides “a good sense of Bandon’s back-to-the-land hippie ethos,” Jensen writes.
For another, there is Washed Ashore, both a disturbing and amazing assemblage of sea-life sculptures fashioned from plastic garbage retrieved from Bandon’s beach. The artworks are meant to educate visitors about this worldwide pollution problem.
The focus in Jensen’s book is not on the interstates “with their soggy franchises and identical chains,” but on two-lane highways where you’ll find towns with names like Bemidji (Minnesota), Chincoteague (Virginia), and Winooski (Vermont); retro 1950s diners like Blueberry Hill in St. Louis; William Faulkner’s home in Oxford, Mississippi, just as he left it when he died in 1962; a 31-foot statue of Paul Bunyan in Bangor, Maine; and the annual March Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater, Texas.
“Road Trip USA” comes with a bonus: a two-sided, full-color, fold-out map — easy to put back together and ideal for spreading on the kitchen table and planning that next road trip.
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