REVIEW: Ridge Writers on Books

Going Places — Hwy 101 South, National Park roads and Mars


Just out this month, “An Artist and A Writer Travel Highway 1 South” (illus. Pat Hunter, by Janice Stevens, Craven Street Books, hardcover, 142 pgs., 2017, $26.95) completes the extraordinary “Artist/Writer” three-part series that began with Highway 1 North and Highway 1 Central. Each represents an exciting collaboration between watercolor brush strokes and a writer’s voice. Here Hunter provides more than 130 full-color interpretations of attractions, vistas and occasional departures off the beaten path. Stevens not only guides travelers to points of interest, but also shares impressions, discoveries and a sense of wonder. Hunter’s art renders charming even a long lineup of trucks in traffic. Stevens evocatively sweeps from Ventura, Port Hueneme, Malibu, Santa Monica, and Dana Point, from the Missile Park at Point Mugu to the U.S. Sand Castle Competition.

“National Park Roads: a Legacy in the American Landscape” (Timothy Davis, hundreds of full-color photos and maps, University of Virginia Press, hardcover coffee-table format, 331 pgs., 2016, $49.95) takes an extensively researched approach to the important influence of the why and where, design and development, of the paths chosen for each road. Historian Davis examines the personalities, controversies and challenges behind these identity-building achievements that, from the first, romanticized our history and scenic wonders. Don’t expect a typical tourist manual but, rather, an informed understanding of how “the national park experience embodies evolving ideas about the role of roads in managing our relationships with America’s natural and cultural heritage.”

Like “Highway 1 South,” “Mars: The Pristine Beauty of the Red Planet” (Alfred S. McEwen, Candice Hansen-Koharcheck, Ari Espinoza, coffee-table format hardcover, 436 pgs., $75, electronic edition available) reached bookstores this month. Amounting to nothing less than a marvel we would have considered impossible even when our planet began the space race, this never-before-published collection reveals full-color NASA HiRISE high-resolution 12- by 14-inch images on almost every page, among them two-page spreads. Explanatory captions in 24 languages add detail on an active NASA mission. From “mud volcanoes” to the moons of Mars to Mojave Crater’s “channels and alluvial fans that look remarkably similar to landforms in the Mojave Desert,” audible outbursts of jaw-dropping “Wow! That’s really Mars!” become inevitable.

Readers of “101 South,” “National Park Roads,” and “Mars” will likely succumb to wanderlust, fascination and awe.

This monthly column is written by members of Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Meetings are held the first Thursday of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church, and free programs are offered throughout the year. Ridge Writers’ book “Planet Mojave: Visions From a World Apart” is available at the Historic USO Building, Jawbone Canyon, Maturango Museum and Red Rock Books.

Story First Published: 2017-05-19