The roads less traveled are receiving more publicity Shunpiking: Books and periodicals show the way for motorists who prefer to avoid the interstates.

December 15, 1996|By Christopher Reynolds | Christopher Reynolds,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Attention, shunpikers.

That probably means you. Shunpiker is an old term for a traveler who avoids main routes in favor of side roads, the sort of less-traveled routes that contemporary writer William Least Heat Moon calls "Blue Highways."

All evidence suggests there are millions of such people in America. After all, far more American vacations are conducted by car than by any other transportation. And the shunpiker population would be even higher, I'm sure, if time limitations didn't make so many travelers prisoners of the interstates.

Sensing that, several publishers and others in recent years have been taking aim at the road-tripper market. Here is a sampling of road-trip resources.

Books

America's bookshelves are crowded with travel guidebooks tTC these days, and many of them aim to cover long-distance drives.

One new volume, and notable success, is "Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America's Two-Lane Highways" (Moon Travel Publications, $22.50). The book, written by veteran guidebook author Jamie Jensen, is filled with maps and photos (color and black-and-white), and organized around 11 cross- country routes (six run north-south; the rest, including Route 66, run east-west). The book adroitly weaves sightseeing advice with history and restaurant and lodging recommendations.

The National Geographic Society's focus on road-trippers began with "National Geographic's Guide to Crossing America: The Interstates" (March 1995, $21.95) -- a colorful, map-filled paperback with the telltale Geo yellow border on its cover -- and "National Geographic's Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways" (March 1996, $21.95). The first book is organized by interstate (I-5 gets 20 pages). The second breaks the United States into 10 regions and employs more than 500 color photos and maps. Neither has the quirky character or in-depth information of the Moon book, but the visuals can't be beat.

Those two books marked a new focus for National Geographic books. Pleased by their reception, the society is now about halfway through publishing a series of 12 books, "National Geographic's Driving Guides to America," each one keyed to a different region and written in greater depth than the coast-to-coast volumes. The western United States will be covered in volumes on the Southwest (already out), and California and the Far West. Other volumes either published or scheduled include the Rockies, New England, and Washington, D.C., and environs.

Periodicals

These publications offer far folksier views of America, views that depend heavily on the personalities and experiences of their publishers:

Out West: The Newspaper That Roams (9792 Edmonds Way, Suite 265, Edmonds, Wash., 98020; [800] 274-9378). A quarterly, tabloid-size, on newsprint. Covers the 11 Western states, runs 24 to 28 pages, includes ads. Circulation: about 8,000. Publisher Chuck Woodbury, 49, started the publication in 1987 and has built it into a full-time occupation. For about three months of every year, he wanders the country in a 24-foot motor home. Subscriptions: $11.95 yearly.

Route 66 Magazine (P.O. Box 66, Laughlin, Nev., 89028-0066; [702] 298-5703). Quarterly. Magazine format, glossy cover, usually about 64 pages with ads. Publisher Paul Taylor, going into his fourth year with a circulation of about 35,000, says he sometimes strays from the Mother Road to national parks and other attractions within 100 miles of the route, but otherwise, 66 is the subject. The fall '96 issue includes pieces on the largest ketchup bottle in the world (a factory display in Collinsville, Ill.) and the multiple reroutings of 66 through St. Louis over the decades. Taylor drives the entire highway at least once a year. Subscriptions: $14 a year.

Pub Date: 12/15/96

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