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Route 66 News

Book review: “Drive the Broadway of America”

It’s not about Route 66. It’s not a book in the traditional sense. But Jeff Jensen’s “Drive the Broadway of America” (self-published, 223 pages, $30, including shipping) should greatly please Route 66ers and entice roadies to new two-lane adventures.

Jensen’s book, subtitled “The U.S. 80 and the Bankhead Highways Across the American Southwest,” is the product of years of meticulous research of a road also known as the Dixie Overland Highway, Old Spanish Trail, Lee Highway and the Ocean to Ocean Highway.

Jensen’s U.S. 80 book covers only the states of California, Arizona and New Mexico. So those wishing for a more comprehensive, coast-to-coast volume will have to wait. But there are enough material and attractions to keep roadies busy for weeks.

“Broadway of America” is a book in an Adobe Acrobat form on a CD. Jensen has declined for now to have the book in print form because it would be too cost prohibitive, especially in color. However, its format does allow a user to print it.

If 223 pages sound daunting for a three-state travelogue, one should realize that Jensen liberally sprinkles maps, color photos and side stories throughout its pages. Also, about a third of the book is devoted to west-to-east directions, in addition to the traditional east-to-west.

Jensen’s book provides helpful guides to older U.S. 80 alignments, including those that are so degraded or primitive that it would be difficult for even four-wheel drive vehicles to traverse. (One old alignment is not recommended for exploration because it’s heavily traveled by illegal aliens and drug smugglers.)

The book is sliced into a series of “tours” so travelers can experience U.S. 80 in bits and pieces. He also includes “bail points,” where travelers can return to the interstate or a major highway.

U.S. 80 goes from isolated areas where you may be the only traveler for miles around, to congested urban settings in Phoenix, Tucson and San Diego. The book lists “must stops, ” including the 1929 Gadsden Hotel in Douglas, Ariz.; the Shady Dell in Bisbee, Ariz., featuring old Airstream trailers available for a night’s stay and an operating Valentine diner; a 1916 arch bridge near Quatay, Calif.; and the Desert View Watchtower near Boulder Park, Calif.

Jensen points out vintage motels and buildings along the way, and side trips that probably shouldn’t be missed, such as the famed Saguaro National Park near Phoenix.

What’s enticing about the book is that you almost feel as if you’re traveling with Jensen. Here’s a description of the highway winding through the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico:

“Indeed, a quick whiff might bring one the smell of freshly mowed hay, perhaps scallions, or if you’re really unlucky, fresh fertilizer. Small pecan groves dot the landscape and keep you company as you pass through the small towns of Berino (or more properly, Berino Siding) Vado (once known as Herron, Earlham, Center Valley and finally Vado around 1920 or so), and Mesquite prior to entering Mesilla Park and the south side of Las Cruces.”

Or this one, on New Mexico Highway 418 west of Deming:

“The smell of onions in bloom was heavy in the air when I passed through in 2006, while the next time around the faint smell of alfalfa wafted through my open window. Regardless, the pastoral fields and mountain backdrop make for a relaxing scene.”

The book begins in an easygoing pace, then the old road seemingly becomes more fascinating as one moves west. I found myself being seduced by the charms of U.S. 80 and wanted to experience it myself.

I hope that Jensen can eventually find a publisher for this book; more people need to know about this highway.

Highly recommended.

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One thought on “Book review: “Drive the Broadway of America”

  1. Gerry Mantel

    On the topic of “Other Roads,” I just talked to John Murphey who is a honcho at the OST (i.e., the Old Spanish Trail, the precursor of US 80/90) website (www.drivetheost.com) who says that although they have been “locked out” of access to their site for some time and have consequently not updated that there’s no need to worry, as the plan is to soon find a new e-host and thus resume operations.

    He adds that, in the meantime, the San Antonio-based folks at http://www.oldspanishtrailcentennial.com have more-or-less assumed responsiblities and also that John himself has a regular column about the OST in American Road magazine.

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