Wednesday, September 12, 2007


The backpacks have been rarely empty over the last several months. After Bowden and I returned from Italia, we were on Hoosier ground for barely a week before we piled the re-filled packs into the car and headed toward California.

Given the time, we did little preparation for the trip. At AAA, we bought a new road atlas, and I borrowed four guidebooks from the library (Rough Guide to the USA, Let's Go USA, National Geographic's Guide to the National Parks, and Jane and Michael Stern's Roadfood.)

Three of the four served us quite well. The Rough Guide's place descriptions were rich in history and perspective. The Let's Go USA guide made to-the-point suggestions for cheap accommodations and go-to eateries. National Geographic's National Parks guidebook was concise with neat summaries of the details. I was hungrily disappointed in Roadfood, though. Sure, I had high expectations, but nothing beyond what was promised from the book's own cover.

We tried to eat at two of the places recommended in the book. One was closed for business and the other had changed names and affiliations. Completely excusable occurrences...things change.
That the recommendations focused almost exclusively on barbecue, hamburgers, and colossal portions, we could forgive. It wasn't exciting reading -- seeing the same adjectives used over and over and over -- but descriptions of the same foods can only be so diverse. And it was only a little annoying (and unfortunate) that quantity seemed to represent quality when grand portion sizes became the feature of many reviews.

The most frustrating aspect of the Roadfood guide was that its recommendations weren't particularly helpful for travelers actually On The Road. Pages and pages of eatery advice are allotted to the major cities between here and there. Allora, aspetta! It's the major cities (along the major highways) that almost any hungry traveler could navigate easily. I thought a road food guide would offer insider tips to the places along the roads between the big cities.

For just one hungry example, as a appetite-aware traveler, I already know that Kansas City has great barbecue. There are tons of books that recommend the best bbq places in Kansas City. Sitting in the passenger seat, I was hopelessly turning the pages looking for a recommendation of the best bbq place in the southwest corner of Colorado, where we were driving through fields and fields of tasty-looking, happily grazing beef cattle. We were On The Road -- not meandering through city streets -- and were left unfulfilled by the Roadfood guidebook.

So, I didn't spend any pre-travel time on the Stern's Roadfood web site, and a new edition of Roadfood might clear up some of my frustrations, but overall, I'd be inclined not to use up valuable luggage space with the Roadfood guide again.

Instead, Bowden and I started accumulating our own recommendations for grub along the way. I'd like to write soon about CK's Homestyle Restaurant in Horse Cave, Kentucky, and The Mad Greek in Baker, California -- two fine establishments that are on the road but not in Roadfood.

~ Corrie


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