New tour guide lists places to stop and go

October 31, 2005|By KEVIN COWHERD

If you're planning to hit the road anytime soon and have a certain condition, which we'll get into in a moment, you should know that the legendary Arthur Frommer has written another travel guide.

Big deal, you say. The guy's written more than 300 travel guides since his seminal Europe on $5 a Day was published in 1956.

So Frommer's coming out with a new travel guide is news only if you think "Cold Snap Expected This Winter" belongs in the headlines. But, see, this new book from the world's leading travel guide publisher is different.

For one thing, there's the snappy title Where to Stop, Where to Go: A Guide to Traveling with Overactive Bladder in the U.S.

And instead of listing the best museums, theaters and restaurants the way most travel guides do, this one tells you where the best restrooms are.

Then there's this: One of the chapters is all about Baltimore. Yep, all about where to stop when you have to, um, go in Charm City.

"This is a very serious condition," said Frommer, speaking on the phone from his New York office about over-active bladder (OAB). "Thirty-three million people have a frequent and insistent urge to go to the bathroom."

Did I mention it was 10 in the morning when I had this conversation with Frommer?

And I was still working on a bagel?

I should probably mention that.

Anyway, Frommer said he was unaware of how people suffer from OAB until representatives of Novartis, a pharmaceutical company that makes a medication for the condition, approached him about writing a book.

He learned that people with OAB are often afraid to travel, and when they do, they tend to spend more time scouting out restrooms than seeing the sights.

And while a sign in a store or restaurant that says "Restrooms are for customers only" is a mild nuisance for most of us, it's a crisis for someone with OAB.

Because living with OAB often means this: When you gotta go, you gotta go now.

So Frommer, who is in his 70s and says he himself doesn't suffer from the condition, wrote a book -- it's free -- that lists the restroom facilities in the areas of 19 cities and four national parks that attract large volumes of tourists.

So let's see what he says about Baltimore, shall we?

But before we do, you may recall that last spring, the From- mer's travel guide empire stunned many of us by listing this town as one of the top 10 up-and-coming travel destinations in the world.

It gushed about the city's cultural renaissance, the diversity of its neighborhoods, the restaurants, museums and other attractions.

All in all, it made us sound like Paris-by-the-Chesapeake. To which a lot of us responded: "Huh? Baltimore?"

So how does the city measure up in terms of the number of restroom facilities in tourist hotspots, ease of finding same for the OAB-stricken, etc?

"I think the Baltimore situation is an average one," Frommer said. "I don't find it stands out one way or the other."

Oh.

Well, that sort of takes away from the whole Paris-by-the-Whatever thing, doesn't it? Actually, Frommer's thin 76-page guide is effusive in its praise of the Inner Harbor, and particularly its Visitors Center, because "the glass front offers a magnificent view of the harbor area" and "the center provides large, free-of-charge restrooms."

Frommer laments that restrooms are inside the ticket gates at the National Aquarium and American Visionary Art Museum, but is heartened that the Maryland Science Center and Port Discovery have restrooms outside the ticket gates, which therefore can be used for free.

As for the attractions of the Baltimore Maritime Museum -- the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Taney, the World War II sub USS Torsk and the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse -- they're an OAB sufferer's nightmare come to life, with not a potty among them.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards is mentioned, but not listed for restrooms, maybe because watching the Orioles tends to exacerbate migraine and nausea problems, not bladder issues.

But Fort McHenry, the Babe Ruth Museum and the B&O Railroad Museum are all listed, as are Lexington Market, the Walters Art Museum and the Peabody Institute Library.

Obviously, this is more about restrooms than most people will ever want to know, which will limit it from shooting up any best-seller lists.

But for the traveling OAB crowd, Arthur Frommer has performed a valuable service.

And he sure didn't do it for the money.

For a free copy of the book, call toll-free 1-877-STOP-GO-5 or log onto WheretoStopWheretoGo.com.

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