Reviewed by: BigAl
Genre: Travel Memoir
Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words
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The author of two novels and two prior non-fiction works, Caryn Rose is a Brooklyn-based writer and photographer. You’ll find her writing about baseball and music in various venues. I especially enjoy her musings on music and concert reports on her blog, JukeboxGraduate.
“LET’S GET LOST...as long as we're back at the office in two weeks.
Not all who wander... have more than the US-standard two weeks' vacation in which to do it. Caryn Rose is one of those people, who refused to let her vacation days get in the way of allowing her to realize her desire for a good old-fashioned road trip. Armed with an actual map and a list of always-wanted-to-visit destinations, come with Rose as she explores Route 66, the National Parks, and other classic destinations, and searches for a brief sliver of freedom on the road in the Great Southwest.
Gas, Food, Wifi is a meditation on wanderlust, white-line fever and purple mountain majesties.”
From reading three of Caryn Rose’s previous books I know that I share one of her obsessions (music) while her other major interest (baseball), I don’t so much. However, despite two of the three books I’ve read having travel as a major component (one fictional, the other not), I didn’t pick up on her interest in travel, that I also share, until now. Early in Gas, Food, Wifi and the trip it chronicles Rose shared this insight, which really struck home with me:
The last time I drove this route was over 10 years ago, and I am straining to find the familiar, the recognizable; for some reason I need to demonstrate that I know this part of the country, to remind myself that I am worldly and well-traveled, that I am larger than the day-to-day views of myself as a small person who goes to an office every day and does a small thing and then goes home. I am a person who has seen the world. Being able to say that and have it be true makes me feel less like a slave to the grind and more like a citizen of the planet.
When I read travel memoirs, what I get out of them varies. There is the vicarious experience or sometimes comparing notes. The vicarious might be something I’m unlikely to ever experience (a couple travel memoirs from Japan I recently read), or as a preview for the future (at least some of the areas Rose traveled are places I’ve never been, but are on my list for the future, Cadillac Ranch, and the fabricated, but musically famous corner in Winslow, AZ for two). Other parts of Rose’s route are places I’ve been. A couple standouts for me are the Grand Canyon (pretty impressive for a big ditch) and the remoteness of Boise City in Oklahoma’s panhandle, a place I’d venture few have been.
But more important than the itinerary, what makes or breaks a travel memoir is the personal. What did the traveler learn about himself or herself, the world, and their place in it? Without this, all you’d have is a travelogue, which I’d find boring. Gas, Food, Wifi is chock full of those, too, ranging from the paragraph I quoted above right up until the end when Rose summarizes what the trip meant to her and encourages her readers to “pick somewhere, rent a car, pick up a map, and start driving.” Her claim is that even without planning you’ll find things or “things will find you,” and even if that doesn’t happen, “the drive itself will bring you something.” From experience, I know she’s right.
No significant issues.
Rating: ***** Five Stars