Reviewed by Richard Truesdell
If there ever was a book that epitomizes what we stand for here at Automotive Traveler, it would have to be Drives of a Lifetime from the National Geographic Society--our editors' pick as the top book of the year.
This spectacular 318-page volume profiles 500 different drives in every corner of the world. I recently spent an evening poring over this special book, and discovering that I've driven all or part of 75 of the trips described, mostly in North America and Europe. After putting the book down, I realized it represents a scrapbook of places I've toured during the four decades I've been driving--and of the places I've dreamed of going.
And, I started pondering which car would be perfect for each journey.
My reminiscing began with the cover photo, the ribbon of concrete that literally flies over Lake Sylvenstein, south of Munich on the way to the ski resort of Garmish-Partenkirchen in Germany. It is one of my favorite drives--preferably in an early 911.
If the bridge over Lake Sylvenstein looks familiar, it should. Countless exotics and vintage cars have been photographed by the British shooters of Car, evo, Octane, and many other automotive publications.
Driving a rare or exotic car can certainly enrich the road-trip experience, but it's certainly not necessary. I've driven the English Lake District, profiled on Page 95, and some of the world's best driving roads in Scotland, outlined on Page 295. But my chariot on that Highland Fling adventure was a Ford Focus Coupe-Cabriolet (we featured the trip in the third issue of Automotive Traveler).
And when I lived Albuquerque, I frequently drove the Turquoise Trail, also known as NM 14 (Page 237). The Turquoise Trail was the scenic drive to Santa Fe, as opposed to the quick route up Interstate 25. At the time, my daily driver was a 1986 Fiero GT Coupe.
The book is divided into eight chapters: Over Hills & Mountains; By Sea and Shore; Rivers, Valleys, and Canyons; The Road Less Traveled; Village Byways; Urban Excursions; Driving Through History; and Gourmet Road Trips.
If I had a quibble with any of the choices, it was the absence of two from the Driving Through History chapter: touring the D-Day beaches in Normandy and taking the Road to Liberty from Utah Beach to Bastogne--literally driving in the tank tracks of Patton's Third Army.
Among the other roads from Drives of a Lifetime that I've driven is the drive on CA 190 from Olancha to Death Valley Junction (Page 152). Every summer, I work out my inner spy by shooting future prototypes. Other drives include Germany's Baltic Coast (Pages 97), where I visited the museum dedicated to Germany's World War Two rocket innovations, and the Stelvio Pass (Page 30) just this past Fall.
Few things in life are better than a responsive car on a mountain road replete with challenging switchbacks. This book has given me a blueprint for at least three drives I hope to take: the Julian Alps in Slovenia (Page 268), Germany's Romantic Road from Würzburg to Füssen on the Austrian border (Page 273), and the drive from Toyota to Kyoto (Page 131).
The question for the last trip is: Which car? I can think of one... a vintage Toyota 2000GT.
Other future drives will surely include Norway's Coastal Route, a challenge shown on Page 98. And what could be finer than the Mississippi Blues Highway, U.S. 61 and U.S. 49, with B.B. King and Howlin' Wolf playing through the speaker of a 1959 Caddy convertible? It's described on Page 114.
Like Classic Motorsports Routes that came before it, National Geographic's Drives of a Lifetime should be on the bookshelf of every avid road tripper. It is sure to inspire automotive travelers of every sort to find their own roads less traveled.
We wish to thank the Book Division of the National Geographic Society for providing the photographs for this gallery.