Sunday, October 11, 2015

Google Earth Makes Road Trip Books Come Alive

Marian, Alabama 
I absolutely love road trips that involve a week or two of rather aimless exploration of a state or region, and I try to make at least one or two of them a year.  But I love books about road trips almost as much as I enjoy being on them myself.  

During my own trips, I try to spend as little time as possible on interstate highways, always figuring that the real personality of a state or region can best be judged by driving its backroads and trails and talking to a bunch of the people who live there.  It takes a little longer that way, but the kind of trip I am talking about here is not really about getting from Point A to Point B.  It's everything that happens in between those two points that really matters, and Point B is usually little more than a turnaround spot for me based on how much more time I have left to spend on the road.

Anyway, I've been reading Paul Theroux's new road trip book Deep South for the last three days and much enjoying it.  But because I'm reading an e-book review copy of the book, I don't have access to any of the pictures included in the hard cover version.  Then it hit me last night...why not check out Google Earth's street view of the places referenced by Theroux in the book.  Well, let me tell you: it worked so beautifully that I'm sorely tempted to go back and read all the road trip books sitting on my shelves.

The picture I've posted here is the Google Earth look at tiny Marion, Alabama very near Lottie's diner where the author had lunch with 95-year-old short story writer Mary Ward Brown, who would die one month later at age 96, and Randall Curb the local historian he befriended on previous passes through Marion.  For me, having driven through so much of Alabama and Mississippi this past summer, looking at the picture is almost like being on that street myself.  Moving my cursor up and down that street and exploring the neighborhood around it while reading Theroux's description of the town puts me there with him and his new friends.

Now I'm off to explore more of South Carolina and Alabama via Google Earth and The Deep South.

Post #2,585


  1. That's a great idea! I've travelled a fair amount but I hate travelling now. I much prefer the classic armchair method of travelling and Google Earth will enhance that.

    1. I used it for the rest of the book, Joan, and loved the experience of finding things like the tiny, out-of-the-way diners that Theroux experienced. It is a real help when reading books like Deep South.