Wonderful Old Guidebooks

Who would take along a 1930s guidebook on a cross-country road trip across the United States?

John Steinbeck, for one!

Steinbeck makes reference to a set of depression-era guidebooks in his well-known travelogue Travels with Charley: In Search of America, which is about his 1960 road trip around the U.S. with his French standard poodle Charley:

“If there had been room in Rocinante I would have packed the W.P.A.Guides to the States, all forty-eight of them. I have all of them, and some are very rare . . . the complete set comprises the most comprehensive account of the United States ever got together, and nothing since it has ever approached it. It was compiled during the depression by the best writers in America, who were, if that is possible, more depressed than any other group while maintaining their inalienable instinct for eating.”

The books in the American Guide Series were produced by the Federal Writers Project (Works Progress Administration) as part of the New Deal during the Great Depression. Guides were written for the then 48 states and many regions, cities, and small towns across the United States in order to stimulate travel to bolster the economy and to foster pride in local histories and heritage. These guidebooks are packed with insights about the area’s social and cultural history, and they remain great reading about the lesser-known nooks and crannies of our country.

Today these guides are considered local treasures and are collectors’ items. Reading them can also give insight into the early writings of well-known authors Zora Neale Hurston, Studs Terkel, and Ralph Ellison.

Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State.Many of the guides have been reprinted with new introductions. In Washington State’s case, the original 1941 Washington guidebook was updated and turned into an interactive multimedia travel guide called Revisiting Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State. The guidebook’s driving tours have been updated with current field notations and digital navigational tools as well as images and graphics along with historic audio and video selections.

The Seattle Public Library is pleased to have a large number of the guidebooks and reprints in our collection, and they are on display on Level 9 until the end of May.

Get Lost (Part 5)

                         (Fifth in a series)

napa2Now I don’t know what I’ll find…

          Just want to get in the car and drive…

Been living too long this way…

                                              

It’s getting me down…

               I know what I need…

                                   What I need…  

          California sun…      It’s calling me…

Next stop Calistoga and Napa: 1 day, 1 night

About this time the winding roads have settled down a bit. Not completely, but enough to catch our breath. Although we pulled into Calistoga on an overcast day it was still awe-inspiring. We paid attention to all the little nooks and crannies. The old railroad car that was turned into a flower shop and a beautiful white walled complex, which we later found out, was a spa…sign us up!

California wines haven’t always been viewed in a spectacular light. Like all great things it takes awhile to fully appreciate and admire the toil that comes with working the land; like a fine art. Consider France and Italy known the world over for its wine making and bottled nectar of the vine.  No one in their right mind ever thought to compete with the regality of the European grape until the Paris wine Tasting of 1976.

bottle-shock-dvd-cover-731541In a wonderful depiction of this event Bottle Shock takes us to Chateau Montelena to meet Bo and Jim Barrett the son and father team working against debt and each other to cultivate the California vine. For Jim this is his life having left the corporate world to start anew, but he and his son don’t see eye to eye especially when it comes to Steven Spurier the man in charge of the Judgment of Paris. Bo sees an opportunity, while Jim sees it as a way to ruin. With Bo’s lackadaisical demeanor and privileged attitude that can seem immature it’s with his and his youthful generation’s hope that Montelena recovers. Continue reading “Get Lost (Part 5)”

Get Lost, (Part 4)

(Fourth in a series)

eureka

Low ebb, high tide…

 

                    The lowest ebb and highest tide…

      I guess we took us for a ride…

I guess it’s just a gesture…

      

      At the end of the continent…
 

                                    At the edge of the continent…

Get Lost enters California: First stop Eureka and Fort Bragg: 2 days, 1 night.

Eureka is a peaceful and beautiful Victorian town. We drove around a bit with our camera hanging out the window to document the sights of painted ladies and the mural at the Arkley Center for Performing Arts. We finally found a place to park and went on the adventure for food. We walked through a couple blocks of Old Town admiring the scenery and glancing at the Old Town Square water fountain, until  I decided to poke my head into a Continue reading “Get Lost, (Part 4)”

Get Lost (Part 2)

portlandpic1                             There are signs…

               Dividing in…

                              That I couldn’t abide…

 I wouldn’t miss it again…

         Burning every bridge that I cross…

              To find some beautiful place…        

                                   To get lost…

First stop was Portland: 2 nights, 2 days

We pulled on to Division Street around ten at night, parked the car, unloaded the bare necessities, and made our way up the steps to the Bluebird Guesthouse. A beautiful craftsman home with all the charm it can possibly possess. We made our way through the living room, through the kitchen, and down the stairs to our room: The Elliot Smith Room. Out of the seven rooms ours is the only one named after a music artist; the rest named after famous authors: Garcia-Marquez, Beverly Cleary, Sherman Alexie, Ken Kesey, Raymond Carver, and Gao Xingjian.

In our room was a full sized bed, two nights stands ( I got the one with the lamp so I could read at night), a small vanity, a small shelving unit with towels, and a little closet with hangers. In the vanity drawer was a biography of Elliot Smith, paper, two pens, and an extra key. Everything in our small welcoming room was used at some point in the two days we were Continue reading “Get Lost (Part 2)”

Get Lost (Part 1)

Road trippin’ with my two favorite allies…

Fully loaded we got snacks and supplies…

It’s time to leave this town…

It’s time to steal away…

Let’s go get lost…

Anywhere in the U.S.A.

Let’s go get lost…                                                                  Let’s go get lost…

As a teenager I couldn’t wait to go on a road trip, but with a job at sixteen, schoolwork, and socializing I never got around to it. As my friends and I graduated, with some heading out into the work force, some going to university, and others getting started on the mommy track, it would be years before we would get our chance. I’ve been able to have a couple small adventures, but my friend Michelle and I decided to make our great escape at twenty-five to California.

We were able to call upon her family to watch her two girls and we put in motion a weeklong trip that would take us from Seattle to Portland to Napa to Redding and make a loop ending at my mom’s home in rural Oregon. Michelle would proceed on to her home in Washington and I would take the train back up after spending a couple days with my mom.

I spent almost a month prior to our little adventure doing research… can you tell I work at a library!? I needed to know how far we would travel, what destinations we wanted to hit, and make sure we had activities planned every day.

I immediately headed to Google Maps to check on the travel time between cities. This helped me plot out what locations we could hit in one day. I was also able to check on hotels, motels, and campgrounds near-by and potential attractions. With Microsoft Excel I created a daily itinerary and left myself room for notes, such as, addresses of attractions, places for the night, miles traveled, emergency contact numbers, and food nearby. Two of my favorite helpful guidebooks that I got from the library were:mobilguide

Mobil Travel Guide: Northern California, which had maps and a mileage chart. With my mom living in Oregon I felt more comfortable traveling within the state, but California was a whole new adventure for the two of us so I was constantly looking at the map to make sure we were headed in the right direction and make myself aware of the exits ahead. It’s a great companion to any navigator in the passenger seat.

funnortherncaliIn Fun with the Family in Northern California, even though we did not have Michelle’s little ones with us, we were able to find affordable and free entertainment. This book is especially helpful when traveling on a budget. With it we discovered Glass Beach, in quiet Fort Bragg on the Northern coast of California and Moaning Cavern located in Vallecito, California near the Motherlode!  It makes you aware of the roads less traveled, such as, Highway 121 the Silverado Trail which offers more of a back road view between Calistoga and Napa.

With a good friend and some snacks and supplies we let the library be our guide! (The journey continues next week).