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2.0 out of 5 starsSomewhat interesting at first, drug on toward the end
Reviewed in the United States on November 20, 2020
I used to enjoy the works of Charles Kuralt and, although never saw Bill Geist on a network broadcast, thought I'd try another life on the road story. I never did get a feeling of what it's like in the communities visited or enough information on the people covered to be interested. Bill, it's not all about you.
4.0 out of 5 starsDelightful Escape to Small Towns and Interesting 'Do Ins"
Reviewed in the United States on November 1, 2009
Geist is not exactly Charles Kuralt but he is on the road to interesting towns and places with a dryer and lighter wit while he discovers unique stories across the country. Generally composed of half a dozen pages per adventure, he writes about his interactions with folk that reflect his on air episodes of the same. These are so off the beaten path that the book provides an excellent escape from any daily conflict or a wonderful travel book to read on flights (or waiting for ones in-between). The stories are unique with lots of humor and often fascinating. My favorite in the book is the fellow who comes up with an idea on how to handle over grown prairie dog populations that inundate farms to soccer fields out west. From a dream, he comes up with a truck with a high-powered vacuum. In addition, you probably guessed it; he puts a huge vacuum hose into Prairie Dog holes and sucks the little varmints into a padded safe chamber inside the truck. He even has a translucent window in the hose so he can see what he is sucking though the hose. By the amount of resistance, he can tell what he has gotten and he adjusts pressure accordingly. As Geist aptly describes, the dogs are generally unharmed although slightly dazed from their interrupted sleep. A book I like to read in bursts, having time to savor the best parts. Not everything is such fun such as the town that celebrates their unfortunate "frozen man" (shades of Ted Williams) but for the most part, they are entertaining.
5.0 out of 5 starsGetting your windshield cleaned by three hookers
Reviewed in the United States on July 4, 2008
Author Bill Geist is a traveling correspondent for "CBS News Sunday Morning". I haven't watched the show in ages. Perhaps I should as we tend to lose sight of how charming and beguiling Americana can be in the face of strident criticism by those, some home-grown, who tear the country down.
WAY OFF THE ROAD is a compendium of twenty-eight profiles of small town oddities originally offered by Geist on the TV broadcast over the period 1996-2005. Of course, getting there spawns its own set of stories, which are interspersed among the others in four chapters: "Flying There", "Staying There", "Eating There", and "Driving There."
For a retired couple with an RV and time to kill, this book might provide a roadmap for whiling away a year or two on the open road visiting the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church Barbecue (Huntsville, TX), the Watermelon-Seed Spit World Championship (Luling, TX), the Tow Truck Museum and Hall of Fame (Chattanooga, TN), the Boat-In Worship (Syracuse, IN), the Paskowitz Surf Camp (San Onofre, CA), the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival (Nederland, CO), the Sundown Days festival (Hanlontown, IA), or the Figure 8 School Bus Races (Bithlo, FL). Of course, America is also its individual citizens, like cow photographer Kathy DeBruin (New Glarus, WI), Mayor Elsie Eiler (Minowi, NE, population 1), Moonburger chef Helen Tuttle (Moonshine, IL, population 2), or the UFO aficionados Pat and Joe Travis (Rachel, NV).
It almost makes me want to give up the old 9 to 5 right now, load up the wife and unread books in a Winnebago, and set out to see it all. Well, I might have to leave the wife off to do the shopping while getting the windshield windexed by three hookers at Sheri's Ranch (Pahrump, NV).
My only picky-picky quarrel with Geist is the barely adequate photo section, which is four half-pages of snaps not much larger than oversized postage stamps.
For me, the litmus test for any travel essay is its ability to compel me, out of curiosity, to go onto the Web to further research the places written about. In the case of WAY OFF THE ROAD, I remained on-line throughout.
And the gist would be laughter, amusement and enjoyment.
Humorist author Bill Geist takes us on a carefree, frolicking ride through modern day America to places many of us have never heard of before. The standing still parade in Whalen, Minnesota; Syracuse, Indiana's boat church; Mike the headless chicken in Fruita, Colorado; prairie dog sucker uppers of Cortez, Colorado; the land of lost luggage in Scottsboro, Alabama; Wilson, North Carolina's illegal porch furniture; the World Championships of cow chip tossing in Beaver, Oklahoma...on and on.
5.0 out of 5 starsWay Off the Road, the funny side of life
Reviewed in the United States on December 24, 2008
If you are a fan of Bill Geist's humor on CBS's Sunday Morning TV show, you will enjoy his trip down memory lane. Not only has Bill found people and events documenting off-beat human creativity (ie, the tiny town 2 blocks long where the "parade" stands still and the spectators circle around it), he has rewarded us with his keen observations of human behavior. Many of these small towns survive only because they are known for a certain wacky celebration. He also gives us insights of the frantic schedule and crummy meals he endures to reward us with those relaxed, funny Sunday Morning reports.
Way Off the Road: Discovering the Peculiar Charms of Small Town America
5.0 out of 5 starsAnimiert zum Kofferpacken: Ich bin dann mal weg!
Reviewed in Germany on February 6, 2011
Der Autor schafft mit seinem Buch, was viele Reiseführer so nicht schaffen: Er weckt die spontane Lust auf eine Reise in die Staaten, um dort jedes der genannen Städtchen (oder weniger charmant: Käffer) zu besuchen und mit den liebenswerten Einwohnern einen Hotdog zu essen oder Kaffee zu trinken. Egal, ob es sich um die Wahl der Melonenkönigin handelt oder um eine "Standstill-Parade", die Geschichten sind echt, zum Schreien komisch, skurril, manchmal makaber, aber nie verletzend oder herablassend. Bill Geist kommentiert sie sachlich, wenn auch mit einem Augenzwinkern - und man spürt, dass ihm die vorgestellten Einwohner dieser kleinen Orte am Herzen liegen. Fazit: Der etwas andere Einblick in den American Way of Life - witzig, berührend, zum Urlaub animierend!
I am a fan of Bill Bryson and his style of writing. Although I have only read some chapters of this book I can really recommend it to everyone who is curious about the peculiarities of foreign people or familiar? communities (I myself am German) and loves to dig into the way of life and thinking of others.The cover of this book really depicts Bill Geist's way of writing: never deprecating ever humorous. So even if some of the stories tell you about very strange customs/things you may be bursting out laughing - not at the people but about the facts.