Road trips with Chris Epting

REVIEW: Ridge Writers on Books


COVID-19 days, when we can’t go to places we once enjoyed, have given us new reason to immerse ourselves in armchair travel. But thanks to Chris Epting, we can explore a further option. In his many books about hundreds and hundreds of popular culture landmarks and artifacts (“James Dean Died Here,” “Marilyn Monroe Dyed Here,” “Elvis Presley Passed Here,” and “The Ruby Slippers, Madonna’s Bra, and Einstein’s Brain,” all photo-illustrated trade paperbacks over 300 pages long, Santa Monica Press, $16.95), he looks at the various sites where favorite, famous, and often infamous, events occurred, many of them outdoors and even fairly remote. This means you can drive to them, stand there, and snap a picture of yourself by them, distant from crowds and unencumbered. Another Epting title, “Teddy Roosevelt in California: The Whistle Stop Tour That Changed America” (photos, 144 pgs., Arcadia Publishing, 2015, $21.99) traces TR’s three-days in the Yosemite wilderness

accompanied by John Muir.

Imagine a shot of yourself captioned, “Here I am where Norma Jean Baker stepped into a Hollywood beauty parlor, turned her hair from brunette to blonde, and emerged as Marilyn Monroe,” “That’s me in the Los Angeles park where Elvis Presley’s entourage played touch football against other celebrities,” “I’m in front of Blair House Inn in Mendocino, California, the exterior for Jessica Fletcher’s Victorian home in “Murder, She Wrote,” or “I’m skipping a rock where Opie did, too.”

For example, “Can you hear the song being whistled? In the opening credit of ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ Andy Griffith and Ron Howard are seen walking with their fishing gear toward an idyllic lake…near Mount Pilot or Mayberry, North Carolina. However, it’s Franklin Canyon Lake in Los Angeles.” Epting explains where to find it.

He ranges far and wide, telling us how to put ourselves if not always into, at least outside of, terrain immortalized by movies, TV, sports, politics, history, science, technology, and crime.

For tips close to home, call the Ridgecrest Area Convention & Visitors Bureau about notable moments for the Alabama Hills, Red Rock Canyon, and Trona Pinnacles. Or, for a cheater selfie, capture yourself posing at the corner of Norma and Jean in Ridgecrest.

This monthly column is written by members of Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Other than during the Covid-19 crisis, meetings are held the first Thursday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church and free programs are offered throughout the year. Ridge Writers’ books “Scenes from Lives of Service: High Desert Veterans of WWI through Desert Storm” and “Planet Mojave: Visions from a World Apart” are available at the Historic USO Building, Jawbone Canyon, Maturango Museum, and Red Rock Books.

Story First Published: 2020-10-16