U.S. Route 99 by Michael R Newlon is yet another coffee table, travel book in his series—this one just as stunning and interesting as the rest. As always, Newlon uses photographs to set the mood of his trip and get the reader excited to begin. He begins this time with a photo of Cadillac Jacks in Sun Valley, California. Seeing the historic building puts the reader in a nostalgic mood and indicates that this trip will be one full of beauty and historical significance. And, as is his usual, he provides a photo of the vehicle that makes it all possible…this time parked beside a Historic Route 99 sign, putting the reader in the mood for a drive.
Before getting on the road, Newlon gives the reader a little backstory and some pertinent information. He starts with the Porsche. As the original owner of the 1969 Porsche 912, Newlon drove the car for a decade before storing it for almost three decades. When retirement rolled around, he decided to get the car a complete rebuild and chassis overhaul, perfect for long-distance highway cruising. Newlon then takes the time to explain highway terminology and signage. For those readers who do not know much about highways or traveling, this is a welcome little detour. A final interesting tidbit is about the maps he uses throughout the book. He explains that they are from a 1959 atlas. The reader will enjoy Newlon’s use of maps because they are augmented with information bubbles. These bubbles contain not only pertinent trip information, but also point out how the current alignment is different from the one the reader would see today. This is helpful to the reader who needs a visual aid to understand the twists, turns, and changes the highway takes.
The body of the work details Newlon’s terminus to terminus trip, starting at the Mexican border in Calexico, California and ending at the Canadian border in Blaine, Washington. U.S. Route 99 was actually decommissioned in the 1970s for reasons such as signage confusion and safety issues, but Newlon drives the “full surviving length,” which is now made up by mostly state highways. Despite this change, he finds the original 1926 alignment still mostly intact. Along the way, he reports such historic sites as former location of ancient Lake Cahuilla, Cadillac Jacks and the Pink Motel, and the town of Yreka. As can happen on any trip, alongside beautiful scenery, Newlon also runs into less than favorable weather and requires an unexpected pit stop before reaching his destination…only to turn around and begin another journey.
Once again, being a passenger in Newlon’s Porsche is an absolute pleasure. His book is both intellectually and aesthetically pleasing. Being photo-heavy and text-light, Newlon conveys a large amount of information in a small space. The reader will learn a lot about U.S. Route 99 and highways in general. The photographs are both beautiful and informative. Newlon writes an interesting travel book that is peppered with his humorous point of view about the things he sees. Because Route 99 was decommissioned, Newlon becomes a detective of sorts, searching for signs of the old route and noting how the highway and towns evolved side-by-side. This is not just a travel book, it is also a work of art, a history, and a practical guide rolled into one interesting and humorous package.
U.S. Route 99
Travel America’s “Pacific Highway” in a Classic 1969 Porsche 912
Michael R Newlon