It’s an ambitious project: a road guide to the entire USA, so you know going in that it can’t cover every place you’ve ever been or would like to go.
Serious travelers thumb through a new guidebook not to see where to go next but to find places they’ve been. In my case I looked up Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, right away, to see how accurate the info was after being there for a sybaritic soak and a bargain browse a couple months ago. Though the book failed to mention my favorite bathhouse/motel, Marshall’s, a little fifties-cum-New-Age style joint right in the middle of town, it gave a fair assessment of the ambience. Similarly, there is adequate coverage of Las Vegas, New Mexico, another burg off the beaten path with plenty of good reasons for a visit.
If you can do these obscure locations and hit the hot ones, too – Santa Fe, Baltimore, the Big D, and the kicks of Route 66 - you can fairly call yourself a USA guidebook.
As a Southerner, however, I felt slightly miffed that the entire South is relegated to a coastal crawl, so that no-one who wasn’t from here would know about the grandeur of Seneca Rocks or the liberal charms of Chapel Hill, the beauty of Old Salem in spring, or the best East Coast mineral spa, the Jefferson Pool in Warm Springs, Virginia. One could suspect a Western bias.
The book’s strength is organization, where the Let’s Go series always scores high. Each destination has a “how to get there” and “how to leave” segment, always helpful for orienting to the big picture. Most eateries and accommodations suggested are well within a budget traveler’s range, and the comments are both useful and amusing: “What dining in Hamilton lacks in variety it makes up for in predictability.” There are the sidebars so beloved of the bored traveler for filling in a rainy day, highlighting such notable events as the UFO festival (in Roswell, of course) and bear sightings in the Rockies.
I can imagine this book being helpful for someone interested in its component parts, but for a visitor from abroad it gives a whiff but hardly the real flavor of travel stateside. As guidebooks go, it goes here and there but not everywhere. Ambitious undertaking, but inherently flawed by the scope of the project. The fact is, America is just too darned big.