Summer travel tales by plane, train, automobile and Airstream trailer

By Chris Wright

Summer is upon us, and as June progresses, many local schools are closing down for the remainder of the season. That means it’s time for a vacation and perhaps a road trip.

Books are a great way to prepare for a travel experience. There are the detailed guide books full of pictures and facts and then there are books about travel period—the whole experience of being in the now and on the go. However, books can only go so far. Sometimes, you have to get up and go do it. But when time and money limit our ability to travel there’s always the written word to fall back on.

Here are some classics and authors that will motivate readers to keep traveling down the road and prompt them to not look back.

Tim Cahill lives in Montana and is an emeritus editor of Outside magazine. His travel writing will leave you in pain from laughing. Road Fever is about the mother of all road trips: from the tip of South America to the Arctic Ocean—in just over three weeks. Other titles like Jaguars Ripped My Flesh, Pecked to Death by Ducks and A Wolverine is Eating My Leg cry out to be read and chuckled at.

Paul Theroux must have written about traveling across every continent by train but he also writes fiction. Here are some of the train travel books: Riding the Iron Rooster, The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas, The Great Railway Bazaar. His most recent book is perhaps his best. It’s about traveling in Africa by bus and car from Capetown, South Africa north as far as Angola. He’s no longer a young man, but he has a great combination of experience and enthusiasm and he’s a master of judgment when it comes to departing from the itinerary and going with the flow.

This book, The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari was not the book he intended to write. He’s been there, done that, but still has the passion for the next town and the desire to explore. He’s frank and candid as well as disparaging of himself. However, real world events forced him to focus on personal safety and halted the journey, as three people he meets and befriends are killed during the course of writing the book.

John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley is an absolute must for traveling across the United States. Complement it with William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highwaysand you’ve read about America the way it was meant to be. You will never want to take an interstate again.

A modern version of Steinbeck’s journey is Philip Caputo’s The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America, from Key West to the Arctic Ocean. Caputo, alarmed by all the negativity in the media, embarks on a journey across the country to see if the fabric of America is unraveling. He takes his wife (the third), two bird dogs and an Airstream trailer along. Driving a trailer is stressful enough. His friends joked that the trip would be the end of the marriage. Read it and find out what happened.

Chris Wright is not sure if he lives to read or if he reads to live. He has been a public librarian with the OC Public Libraries since 2006.

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