Way Off the Road

Bill Geist

Way Off the Road.

In honor of the road trip by relatives mentioned in the first column of this month's edition, the book under consideration for June is Bill Geist's extremely amusing take on travel titled Way Off the Road. Geist, a roving correspondent for CBS News Sunday Morning, writes in a deadpan style about subjects ranging from the man who uses a sewer vacuum to rid Western ranchers of pesky prairie dogs, to Mike the Headless Chicken, to the joys of seeing the Butter Cow at the Iowa State Fair. With the subtitle Discovering the Peculiar Charms of Small-Town America, how can you go wrong?

“Millions of bags are checked at airports every day, thousands of which are never to be seen again.

But where do they go? Oddly enough, almost all flock to the same destination: a remote village in the Appalachian foothills where indigenous peoples celebrate the misfortunes of air travelers, enjoying deep discounts on their losses in....the Land of Lost Luggage!

I'd heard tales of this mysterious locale, but figured it for folklore, until I saw it with my own eyes: the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, an orphanage of sorts for virtually all lost bags. But despair not. Here, your luggage and its contents will find good homes.”

Later in this same essay, Geist continues:

“You hope the musician who lost the trumpet wasn't on his way to a gig. You hope the tuba being tested by a customer to the delight of fellow shoppers wasn't lost on the way to wherever tuba players go....You hope the woman (presumably) who lost her Las Vegas showgirl outfit – bra, bikini bottoms, headpiece, all encrusted with hundreds of multicolored glass jewels – was able to run out to a local department store and replace it.”

Occasionally, Geist, by his own admission, stops in a larger place:

“In Chattanooga, Tennessee – OK, sometimes I do go to the big city – there are some must-see attractions, like the famous Chattanooga Choo-Choo and the legendary Rock City that we used to see advertised (SEE ROCK CITY) on barn roofs all over America.

But they're not why we're here.

We venture into Chattanooga, the big, but not all that big, city because sometimes a story speaks to you, calls out to you upon hearing but a few words: Tow Truck Museum.”

Thus begins an essay on the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum, a relatively little-known offering in the Scenic City of the South.

Then there's the time the author wanted something to eat:

“Stopping for the night in rural Kansas, I ask the motel desk clerk if he can recommend the best place in town for dinner. He scratches his head and thinks about it for a while, and says slowly, 'Well...I'd have to say the Texaco,'cuz the Shell don't have no microwave.'”

Hopefully, the next time you're on a road trip, you won't be faced with such a choice. But do choose to check out Way Off the Road – and be sure to read all about it!

Copyright 2007, S. Halversen.
All Rights Reserved.