“Drive I-95”, A Book Review

Periodically, I load up my car and head South on an 1,100-mile trip to Orlando, where I write guidebooks. I explain this odd behavior to myself in a number of ways: It’s a welcome break from the constant onslaught of the phone and email. It’s cheaper than flying and getting a rental car. It affords me a chance to be alone with my thoughts and mull things over. It gives me yet another chance to indulge myself at the Summerton Diner. But the real reason is probably that I’m just plain nuts.

I have plenty of company, if the license plates I glimpse along the way are anything to go by. The lure of the open road is as American as apple pie. And I am just enough of a Freudian to believe that when adults travel long distances by car they are trying to recapture long ago memories of family road trips to the beach or the mountains. Or anywhere.

But whatever the joys of these long-distance treks may be, there are the longeurs as well. That’s why I have become such a fan of the Drive I-95 series by Stan and Sandra Posner.

I’ve used several editions of this indispensable guide, but the latest is far and away the best.

I like to think that I’m an exhaustive and conscientious researcher of travel guides, but I can’t compete with the Posners’ obsessiveness. They have covered every inch of  I-95 from Boston to Miami and seem to have a photographic memory of everything they passed by. Actually, I understand that they have a video camera mounted on the dashboard, so their memories really are photographic!

Drive I-95 is a clever mix of guidebook and map. The map pages are schematic, almost abstract, recreations of 15- or 30-mile chunks of the highway, with every exit clearly indicated. For each exit, the Posners tell you every gas station, every restaurant, every motel, and every roadside attraction within easy striking distance. The sheer accumulation of detail is astounding. They even call out likely speed traps with little cop car symbols!

The other part of the book slows down to examine more closely some of the best reasons to pull off the highway. And they’ve really done their homework. I realized that when I noticed that they have discovered my favorite “undiscovered” restaurant in my own tiny hometown! There are a lot of residents of Branford who don’t know how terrific Grace’s Kitchen is. But the Posners do.

And so it goes, exit by exit, for the long drive South (or North!). Brief, wittily written capsule reviews call out beautiful b and bs, ethnic eats, chocolate shops (Sandra’s chocolate addiction makes her an especially valuable traveling companion!), and so much more. It’s all illustrated with photos of Stan and Sandra playing tourist, digging into a plate of ribs or posing by a cannon. It’s great fun while delivering the sort of solid tips that will leave the road-weary traveler eternally grateful. Thanks to the Posners, I was able to have a delicious and relaxing Sunday brunch at the charming Bistro Bethem in the historic center of Fredricksburg, Virginia, a place I would never have known about otherwise. Good prices, too!

And it was because of the Posners that I now know about a helpful service offered by the Cracker Barrel restaurants and gift shops that dot the route. You can purchase an audio book at any of them and then return it to another farther along the way and get most of your money refunded. It is, in effect, a rental system. Now that I’ve discovered this, I may yet develop a taste for the trashy novels that dominate the Cracker Barrel selection.

I could go on and on about the bells and whistles included in this book, but suffice it to say that if there’s any nugget of information that would be helpful to the long haul traveler, from the best local radio choices to which gas stations have mechanics on duty 24 hours a day to the 800 numbers of motel chains, the Posners have anticipated it.

If I’m a little nutty to drive all the way to Florida from Connecticut, what does that say about the Posners, who cover the 1,500 odd miles between Boston and Miami every year or so to keep this book updated? And remember, unlike you and me, they get off at every exit! There must be method in their madness, because I now get every edition, to learn what new discoveries they have to share.

Over the years, Stan and Sandra have become like family, which means that every trip I take with their book by my side becomes a fabulously fun family outing.

Drive I-95: Exit by Exit Info, Maps, History and Trivia by Stan Posner and Sandra Phillips-Posner is available at the Posner’s web site, where you will also find a newsletter with additional “trip tips.”